All about cornPosted: Updated:
Knee high by Fourth of July. My dad used to say it all the time in the Midwest when I was growing up. But these days I heard that hardworking farmers hope for "shoulder high" by the magical date. The prime harvesting season for corn on the cob, sweet, delicious falls precisely at the end of summer, somehow celebrating and concluding the warm, wonderful days almost like the melted butter that accompanies it so beautifully.
This year is a bit different however. Terrible, horrible floods in the Midwest have left many of America's corn crops under water and realistically, not producing as much of the desired corn crop that we're used to. And, as supply dwindles, desire will continue and prices will go up. So why not grab the golden nuggets that are available now and learn, like our grandmothers and great grandmothers, to preserve what may not be there next month. There's something profound to be said for lack. It teaches you to appreciate, save and savor the things that we often take for granted.
Fresh Corn is King
This truly happened. I was having a fun evening out with a friend of mine, Tracey from Canada. We're having a laid-back girl's night out and she asks me what topics I've been working on. As tempted as I was to make up something more profound or intriguing I, honestly but hesitantly, say "Corn" thinking that would quickly change the subject - when her face lights up like a beacon.
"I've never purchased corn from a supermarket," she confesses.
What? The woman is a die-hard vegetarian, she must have eaten all types of corn, I'm thinking. And, it comes from a supermarket, doesn't it?
But she goes on to explain that she grew up in the corn country of Canada and her father was a purest. He would never purchase corn, except from a roadside stand, and never corn that had been off the stalk longer than 15 hours. He would always ask when it was harvested. 15 hours or less. No exception.
This is EXACTLY what makes Live and Learn so fascinating to me. I find experts in the most unlikely places. Over a martini. Or. right next to me on the set of the show.
Chuck Wiley, Chef extraordinaire from Caf ZuZu at the Hotel Valley Ho, shared with me the day I was doing this segment, that while growing up he always heard, "walk to the corn field, but run back!
Again emphasizing the importance of freshness to the bounty of corn. Fresh. Eat it fresh.
As soon as you get your hands on some corn, whether it's from a farmer's market, a roadside stand or your local supermarket, eat it or preserve it.
And this year when supply dwindles and costs go up. Why not learn how to preserve it in the easiest way. Freeze It!
This is the best way to preserve the goodness. And, it's quite easy. But you have to know that it is essential to blanche your corn before tucking it away until winter. Blanching means to quickly boil the corn for a couple of minutes. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, drop in your cobs of corn and let them boil for about 2-3 minutes. This is critical. As soon as the corn is plucked from the stalk, the enzymes start changing. The proteins begin converting to starch and the texture and sweetness begin to change.
Now take a knife and cut off that cob if you want to save space in your freezer. Spread it out on a small cookie sheet and put it in the freezer for about 20- 30 minutes. That will solidify it enough for you to take it and put it into a self-closing plastic bag and not end up with a frozen block of corn. You'll have a bag of frozen kernels, instead.
If you want to freeze the corn ON the cob, just wrap them in plastic wrap and then put them in a plastic bag and freeze.
My mom always, absolutely always, boiled our corn on the cob. Here's the secret. Get a big pot with water in a rolling boil. No salt. It will toughen your corn so wait to season the corn not the water. Drop in the corn and boil it for 7-11 minutes. Seven if it has been blanched and frozen. Eleven if it's fresh. Drain it, season it and EAT!
Lately, many people love to grill corn. This can be done on the newer indoor grills or on a traditional outdoor grill. It is delicious but the corn will taste different than boiled corn. It's more smoky, a roasted taste. You can grill it without any husks with a bit of olive oil rubbed on or, with the inner most layer of husk left on to steam the cob a little more. Either way, it's a heartier taste and delicious and easy.
Toppings for your Corn
Treat your corn like the gourmet vegetable that it is. And as prices rise, it will be. Many of us have been at local county fairs where we're willing to plop down $4 for a delightfully roasted cob topped with decadent toppings. Do it at home. Roast it on a grill or boil it, and then set out a topping bar or pick your favorite and put it on top. Delicious.
Try these as a starter and I'll bet you can come up with even more!
Butter, Parmesan and cayenne Olive Oil and your favorite herb. Try dill, basil or Italian spices, Sour cream and chives Pesto. Pick up a small container at any grocery.
Or, The classic butter, salt and pepper. Yum!
Corn has a rich history. Brought to the United States by the Native Americans, it represented sustainability and a New World. I don't think many of us can think of a childhood meal without at least one that included it. Come on - a vegetable that tastes as sweet as candy! What could possibly be better than that?