Corn etiquette: how to pick it, store it, and fix a bad choice.
I look forward to summer every year for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the fantastic produce that’s perfect and in season for these few months. There are so many to choose from but one of my absolute favorites is corn! Some of my best food memories are from BBQs that either I attended or threw and there was always fresh corn in one form or another on the menu. In fact, I’m usually teased about how neatly I eat corn off the cob– one row at a time – I can’t help it – it just tastes better that way!
The sweetest and freshest corn (no matter the color – white, yellow or bicolor – color is not an indicator of sweetness) is found at your local stand or farmer’s market. But, even if you must go to your local grocer for fresh corn know that peeling back the husk will dry out the cob for the other shoppers no matter where you are buying the ears. A serious etiquette No-No. Just look for full, heavy ears with tight, green husks and shiny silk at the ends.
Unfortunately, corn will start to lose it sweetness as soon as it is picked which is why I recommend buying local. But, it’s also the best reason to eat it as quickly as you buy it – eating it the same day as you purchase it would be ideal. If you must, keep unhusked ears in a plastic bag in your refrigerator for no more than 3 days. If you can’t use them all up then blanch the cobs (peeled and without silk) in boiling water, cut off the kernels and store in plastic bags in your freezer. They’ll last up to one year and you’ll have fresh corn available no matter the season! Just lay a shucked ear on the cutting board and (with a sharp knife) slice off a strip of corn. Continue turning the cob until all kernels are removed.
A question that is always asked – boil or grill? Here’s the answer – for the sweetest more ‘corny’ tasting corn – boil. If your corn is fresh from a local stand or the farmer’s market simply place shucked ears into a pot of boiling water for 1-3 minutes. Corn that’s purchased at the market is, more than likely older, a bit less sweet and tender and will require a few more minutes of cook time – maybe 5-8 minutes. But, if you are looking for the charred smokiness that can only come from the grill then by all means – grill! Leave the ears in the husks – you don’t need to soak them in water prior to placing them on the grill – and set them on a medium high pre-heated grill. Turn them occasionally until the outside of the husks are charred evenly – maybe 15-20 minutes. If you want a bit more color on the kernels loosen the husks slightly before grilling.
The trick to having sweet corn that may be a bit past its prime? Add ¼ cup sugar for every 4 quarts of boiling water. It’s nobody’s business if the sweetness is from the corn itself or a little extra ‘help’!