Friday, August 26, 2011

Got Corn?

Parcelling out the year into meaningful seasons can sometimes require keen observations of subtle natural signs--the buds breaking on apple trees, hen of the woods beginning to emerge on oak stumps, the slight shrinkage of the leaves that occurs after dog days' swelter breaks. 

Or, it may simply require that you keep your eyes open while you're driving country roads, where, this time of year, the signs of a much anticipated confluence of culture and agriculture spring up in glorious, homespun exuberance:  Get your sweet corn here!

Corn season was slow to arrive this year--a cool, wet spring kept a lot of farmers out of the fields, and slowed growth once they were able to plant.  The steamy July helped the crop to catch up.  It was
astounding to see how quickly the stalks ascended along the road to Bide-A-Wee once the hot weather hit.  We shook our heads in sympathetic dismay at the spindly sprouts of late June, which by the end of July were miraculously over our heads.

We haven't done much fancy with the sweet corn this year.  Boil it briefly or, preferably, put it on the grill, those have been our main method.  I've used it in a stir-fry or two, and yesterday I put up a couple of pints of a corn relish with eggplant, tomatoes, and cherry
peppers.  To grill corn, I've learned that the simplest method is the best.  I used to peel back the husks and pull out as much of the silk as I could, wrap it back up and then put it over the coals.  At a
cookout with the Bartz family last summer (they run the Bolen-Vale dairy and cheese shop on highway 64 in Connorsville, and grow sweet corn), I learned that the de-silking is unnecessary.  Renee just put whole ears in the husks, previously soaked in water, right on the grill.  Now I dispense with the soaking, too.  In the process of cooking, the delicate silk basically disappears, or is easily removed along with the husks, post-cooking, and there's plenty of moisture in the husks of really fresh corn to keep it from burning up.  I turn the corn until the husk is black all around, and it's perfectly done.

That's all the cooking advice I'm going to offer here.  Instead, I'd like to know how you best enjoy high summer's sweet corn bounty, and how you like to preserve it for the colder months, if you do.  Freeze, dry, pickle?  On the cob, or off?  In return for your kind suggestions, I'm going to dig around in the recipe books for a really good sweet corn spoon bread I came up with a few years ago.  Mary remembers it very fondly.  I'm hoping she can also remember where I put it....

Text and photos copyright 2011 by Brett Laidlaw


el said...

I can my sweetcorn (pressure canner). I love to make a corn chowder in the dark of winter...especially with seafood. Also I put up a ton of jars of black bean/corn salsa. And my usual "summer sauce" (quarts filled with tomatoes and whatever else is handy like okra, eggplant, peppers, summer squash) often has corn in it if I am feeling flush with the stuff.

Huge price hike in sweet corn though. Huge. There's only one place I know of that sells it for $3/dz and that stuff isn't even worth the rigors of canning. So I am paying 50c/ear for the good stuff.

Fred said...

I've been doing it your way for a number of years. I take those ears of corn, unhusked, unde-silked (my word, not the queen's – I do like the sound of it), unsoaked and put them on the grill. Yep, I get them nice and brown with semi-blackness hitting some of the outer edges. That's all. On the table, all that's required is fresh butter, salt and pepper.

sylvie in Rappahannock said...

I insist on growing our own, and there is a lot I need to learn still about growing sweet corn. I also need to plant a lot more of it to get enough to preserve (which I cook, slice the kernels off and freeze). Anyway, harvested our first in mid July and our last ear last week (not continuously though...)