By Linda Bassett
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The calendar has officially announced summer’s end. Indian summer may still be waiting to tease just before cold weather, but as cooks, we need to follow the squirrels and save up for winter. Some avid cooks like canning vegetables. Not me! I watched my grandmother do that time-consuming, backbreaking work, and would rather spend these lush autumn days enjoying the outdoors.

Instead, I turn to the freezer. I prep and freeze tomatoes (whole or roasted) when I know we can’t possibly eat any more, basil just before the leaves go brown — and corn. It’s a new one for me, one that revives a little summer when winter blues set in, not as much fun as getting all messy when twirling the buttery treats through teeth at a cookout, but close enough for winter.

To preserve corn, you first need to get the kernels off the cobs. That’s the most difficult part of the job. No drying, grinding or pickling in brine like our ancestors did. Not even any cooking!

First I husk, then trim the thick end of the cob, so it will stand on end without wobbling. Then hold it upright firmly with one hand in a large bowl or on a large plate and run the blade of a paring knife along the length, so the kernels loosen and fall into the bowl or plate. Pack them into freezer bags so that they lie flat on the freezer shelves. And that’s it.

When finished, you will be looking at a small mountain of bare corn cobs and might want to try a restaurant kitchen trick. (Or you may want to just throw them out.) A lot of chefs are simmering corn cobs, alone or with the fixings of a basic vegetable stock — onion, celery tops and carrots — for about 20 minutes into a “corn stock.” The new stock adds an interesting new twist to soups or chowders. Use it within two days.

CORN FRITTERS

4 to 6 servings

Popular in Pennsylvania Dutch country, these traditional fritters serve as a side dish with apple butter. Pals with country ham or fried chicken, the fritters take nicely to cooking in a small amount of bacon drippings added to the oil, although it shouldn’t be an everyday occurrence.

As a contemporary update, make them as one-bite appetizers and dollop with a little Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of snipped chives. Serve hot for best flavor, keeping them warm in a 200 F oven for up to 30 minutes.

3 ears corn, raw, husks and silk removed
1/3 cup milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch cayenne (ground red pepper)
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup flour
Vegetable or canola oil, for cooking

1. Whisk together milk, egg, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cayenne. Stir in corn kernels. Let rest, 10 minutes.

2. Heat oven only to 200 F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels; place in the oven.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Drop in the batter by the tablespoon, cooking in batches until golden, 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to the baking sheet; sprinkle with salt.

CORN RISOTTO

Makes 4 servings
Risotto is a rice dish from the northern parts of Italy, soft and comforting, stopping just short of a soup. The traditional recipe blends the rice with chicken stock, white wine, Parmesan cheese and beef marrow. Over centuries, it has become a playground for lots of vegetables, cheeses and wines. Here, American corn shows off its stuff.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1-1/2 cups raw corn kernels (2 large ears corn)
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/3 cup half-and-half
Salt, pepper, to taste
A large handful of chopped chives

1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter with the oil in a small heavy pot over low heat. Add the onion; cook, stirring until tender, about 5 minutes. Pour in the wine, and cook, stirring, until it is absorbed into the rice, 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Add the rice, and cooking stirring, a minute or two until the grains of rice become slightly translucent with a dot of white appearing at their centers.

3. Adding a 1 cup ladle of stock to the pot. Continue stirring until the stock is absorbed into the rice. Add another ladle of stock, cooking and stirring until absorbed, keeping it on medium-low heat. Continue this until all the stock has been used. The rice will be tender and creamy and the corn cooked, about 30 minutes total.

4. Take the pot off the heat. Immediately, stir in the cheese, the half-and-half, and the remaining butter. Taste for seasoning and add salt, pepper, and a handful of finely chopped chives. Serve in warmed, deep bowls.

GOLDEN CORN PUDDING

Makes 6 servings

This is a genteel Southern treat that easily makes friends with fried or roast chicken, pork chops, or a broiled fish fillet.

3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups fresh leftover, cooked, or frozen corn kernels
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions; cook, stirring, until tender, 5 minutes. Sprinkle on flour and mustard; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; whisking until sauce comes to a boil. Add sugar, salt, cayenne.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a baking dish.

3. Lightly beat the eggs, and gradually whisk them into the hot milk mixture; set aside. Combine the corn and cheese in the baking dish, tossing to mix. Pour egg-milk mixture over it and stir gently.

4. Melt the remaining tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat; add breadcrumbs; cook, stirring, until crumbs color lightly; sprinkle over the top of the casserole.

5. Bake, uncovered, until custard sets and top is golden, 25 to 35 minutes. Serve directly from baking dish.

Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by email at KitchenCall@aol.com. Read Linda’s blog at LindABCooks.wordpress.com. Follow Linda for quick recipes on Twitter at @Kitchencall.