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’!
How to keep your fruits and vegetables tasting as they should.
In a perfect world we’d shop daily and prepare what we purchased for that evening’s meal. But, we all know it’s just not that easy to get to the market every day. So, you go to the market and buy everything on your list making sure that you pick the freshest fruits and vegetables possible.
But, then you get home and the indecision sets in. You begin to ask yourself – does this belong in the refrigerator or should it stay on the counter? Will this spoil quicker if I leave it out? Will it taste the same if I refrigerate it as it would if I just left it on the counter?
The answer is: some produce needs to be stored in the refrigerator but some do significantly better if left out on the counter! Here are the 8 fruits and vegetables that you should just leave out.
- Tomatoes – in season or out they will ripen perfectly if left on the counter. When you put them in the refrigerator their texture becomes mealy and really not very appealing. If you’ve waited until tomato season (May through October with some differences depending on where you live) to enjoy their amazing flavor – do NOT refrigerate them!
- Garlic, Onions, and Shallots – these alliums do best in a cool, dry, dark place where they can breathe. Do not leave them in the plastic bag you used to bring them home from the market. The only alliums that actually should be stored in the refrigerator are spring onions and scallions.
- Thick skinned squash – like Acorn, Butternut and Kabocha should stay at room temperature. Thin skinned summer squash like zucchini are the exception and should go into the refrigerator.
- Potatoes – of all types (including sweet potatoes) – like alliums like cool, dark, dry places. Sunlight and moisture facilitate ‘sprouting’ which is something you want to avoid. The sprouts won’t kill you but they taste terrible and will need to be trimmed off before you use the potatoes.
- Fresh Corn – this one is a bit tricky. If you’re going to use the corn within a day or two then leave it on the counter and save some space in the fridge. But, if you need to keep it longer than 2 days then it needs to be in the refrigerator to keep its freshness.
- Stone Fruit – like peaches, plums, cherries, apricots, etc. are in season now. Just like tomatoes their flesh will go mealy if stored in the fridge so keep them on the counter.
- Pineapples – a little secret – once picked they will not continue to ripen so buy one that is ripe and ready to eat the day you’re purchasing it and then just leave it on the counter until you cut it. The refrigerator will have absolutely no effect on its ripeness.
- Melon – this one is strictly a preference. If you keep your uncut melon on the counter at room temperature the flesh remains as soft as possible. When you refrigerate it, the flesh become more firm or crisp, so it really depends on how you like it.
And now you know the ‘rules’ on which fruits and vegetables to refrigerate and which to just leave on the counter!