Summer and fall play host to a perpetual string of harvest seasons. Most of these crops are building blocks for the human food supply.
I’ve read time and again that farmers don’t eat the corn and beans they grow. The implication is that we’re scared of the food we raise.
A little bit of mystery can cause a lot of misunderstanding, but the simple fact is that humans in general prefer corn and beans once they’re converted to beef, pork, lamb or chicken.
There are exceptions, though: You can easily make your own soynuts or corn nuts using commodities right off the combine.
Dark-roasted soybeans are so good. It’s time-consuming, but not difficult.
You’ll need about a quart of soybeans, salt, ½ cup butter, a slow cooker, a strainer, a large roasting pan, an oven and some smooth-surfaced tea towels.
Sort all the foreign material out of the beans. Broken beans are OK; pods, stems and rocks are not.
Rinse and strain the beans, then put them in the slow cooker with 1 tsp salt. Cover with water to about an inch above the surface of the beans, and cook on low for about 12 hours, or until the beans are soft all the way through.
Strain off the liquid, rinse the beans, and strain again.
Before oven-roasting, make sure the beans are fairly dry. The wetter they are, the longer it takes. Pat them dry with a tea towel while the oven preheats to 400°F.
Melt the butter in the roasting pan while the oven is preheating. Add the beans and sprinkle with about 2 tsp salt. Stir thoroughly. Put the pan in the oven. Stir every 15 minutes for the first 1½ hours and check and/or stir every 5 to 10 minutes after that. Depending on how wet the beans were, this process will take 2 to 3 hours.
Take the beans out of the oven when almost all the beans are the color of roasted coffee beans and most beans are crisp. Let them rest in the pan for about 5 minutes, then dump them out on a tea towel to finish cooling.
Any beans that are slightly soft will finish getting crisp while they cool. If you keep them in the oven until all the beans are crisp, some of the beans will burn.
A quart of raw beans will yield about a quart plus a cup of roasted beans.
Making your own corn nuts from field corn is almost ridiculously easy. These corn nuts are not identical to the ones in the convenience store snack aisle unless you’ve got access to No. 1 white (food-grade) corn.
I grabbed a gallon bag of No. 2 yellow corn out of the grain truck during harvest in 2015, and it’s been sitting in my cupboard for the last year waiting for an excuse to become people food.
To do this, you’ll need corn, water, oil and salt; a method of deep frying and a spatter screen; and a baking sheet lined with paper towels.
First, soak the corn in cold water in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours, up to three days. My husband’s long-refined bite test told him my soaked corn was about 45 percent moisture content.
Drain the corn and pat dry thoroughly with a tea towel. Heat the oil to 350°F. Fry in small batches, using the spatter screen because any leftover water will explode, until some kernels of corn are a dark brown color.
Spread the hot corn on the paper towel-lined baking sheet and immediately sprinkle with salt.
Good luck keeping them around more than a day! They seem to magically disappear. But if for some reason they do last, it probably would be best to keep them in the fridge in a sealed container to keep the oil from starting to taste off.
This Soils and Streams column first appeared in the Sept. 10, 2016, issue of the Kearney Hub.