Long before ice cream socials became all the rage, folks in Westminster, Md., were coming together for annual corn and watermelon "frolics." Local millers Andrew and David Shriver began the family tradition in the early 1800s to celebrate good harvests, and 15 years ago their descendants revived the event, now a public affair held the first Saturday of August, rain or shine, on the grounds of the Union Mills Homestead.
No one gets his corn fresher than guests of the "Old Fashion Corn Roast Festival" -- the ears are picked from a nearby field the morning of the feast, prepared as they were almost six generations ago (wrapped in damp burlap bags, husks and all) and then roasted atop large iron stoves. "Barbecue" chicken (the chicken is actually dipped in a vinegar solution to prevent the meat from burning), locally grown sliced tomatoes, applesauce, iced tea and watermelon round out the menu.
An old-fashioned home-style meal won't be the only draw, however: the estate's historic buildings, situated on a popular political and military site, will be open for touring from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the Brick Grist Mill will be grinding cornmeal, which can be purchased, along with buckwheat and whole wheat flours and homemade bread.
The Union Mills Homestead is located on Route 97, seven miles north of Westminster and 15 miles south of Gettysburg on Route 97. Admission to the corn roast, from 2-6 p.m. Aug. 3, will be $6 for adults and $3.50 for children under 12. Call (301) 848-2288 or 848-6536 for further information.
Even if you can't make it to the corn roast, you can still enjoy the Homestead's gustatory offerings with an Express Lane adaptation of the menu. A grill has been substituted for a wood-burning stove, and foil replaces water-soaked burlap bags as wrapping for the corn. A grill, butter, salt and pepper will be needed at home to make this outdoor summertime spread.
Express Lane list: tea, sugar, lemon juice, sweet corn, vinegar, chicken, watermelon (if desired) ICED TEA SYRUP
Once you've tried the Homestead's version of iced tea, "you'll never go back to instant," insists Esther Shriver, the foundation's executive director.
2 ounces loose tea
1 quart water
2 1/2 pounds sugar
1/8 cup lemon juice
Boil loose tea in water 2 minutes; strain and add sugar and lemon juice to the tea water. Stir until sugar dissolves. (This makes a syrup, which can be refrigerated and kept as needed as long as two weeks.) To serve iced tea, add 1 cup tea syrup to 4 cups water and mix well. ROASTED CORN IN HUSKS (4 servings)
4 ears sweet corn, including husks
Melted butter for brushing
Salt and pepper to taste
Soak corn in cold water 30 minutes; drain, wrap pieces separately in foil and place on a hot charcoal grill for 20 to 25 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove from grill, unwrap corn from foil, and carefully strip husks from corn. Brush corn with melted butter. Season to taste and serve immediately. "BARBECUE" CHICKEN (4 servings)
1 cup vinegar
2 cups water
Salt and pepper
3 1/2 pound chicken, cleaned and cut up
Combine vinegar and water. Add salt and pepper. Dip chicken pieces in the mixture (or marinate 5 to 10 minutes). Cook chicken pieces slowly over a hot charcoal grill, turning often and basting with the vinegar-water mixture. Depending upon the thickness, pieces will have different cooking times; chicken is done when meat is no longer pink and juices run clear when meat is pricked.