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Sweet corn rules

July 30, 2011
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Sweet corn does, in fact, “rule”, but this post is the rules according to Robin for sweet corn.  I admit that I’m a bit of a corn snob.  Kyle would say I’m a major corn snob.  I don’t feel this passionate about any other vegetables and now that I think of it, perhaps it’s strange that I’m fanatical about this one particular food.  But sweet corn season is short, and it has the potential to be soooo delicious, so why waste time eating less than awesome corn?  Good corn is sweet and so crisp that it pops and sounds like fire crackers in your mouth as it bursts off the cob.

I grew up in a house where sweet corn season was taken very seriously.  The protocol was strict and now, any other way of eating corn makes me cringe.  My dad had a long commute down country roads, and I remember the excitement when he’d hit the jackpot and find a stand where the farmer was bringing the corn in fresh from the fields as he drove home.  If memory serves me right, we’d polish off several dozen ears between the four of us at dinner.  On the rare occasion we couldn’t finish it all, my mom would make the most incredible corn fritters the next night for dinner which we’d drizzle with maple syrup.  I don’t think I’ll ever attempt to make fritters because nothing could beat my memory of them.

Here are the rules for sweet corn in my house.  Kyle kindly humors me but he’s admitted he can’t taste the difference.

  1. The corn.  The corn has to come from a farm stand and should preferably have been picked within several hours.  We ate some for lunch yesterday that was still wet with the morning dew and I thought I’d gone to heaven.  Small kernels are often sweeter (and less starchy) than big ones.
  2. Cooking.  After husking the corn, I put about an inch of water in my biggest pot and bring it to a boil.  I pop the ears into the pot and cover it with a lid.  I let the water boil and the corn steam for 7 minutes.
  3. Kitchen to table transportation.  This step is critical.  Remove the cooked corn from the pot with tongs and stack them as quickly as possible on a plate.  Immediately cover the ears with a clean kitchen towel to trap the heat in and keep the corn piping hot.  Rush the plate to the table –  everyone had better be sitting and ready.  If your crowd appreciates good corn, this should not be a problem.
  4. Table preparation.  Sneak an ear out from under the towel without letting any steam escape.  Push corn picks into each end and roll the ear in butter.  Put one end on the plate and spin the ear as you sprinkle salt.  At this point in the preparation, my parents split into two very different camps, and each one lobbies for their own method every time they eat corn.  My dad would say the corn is complete with just butter and salt.  My mom also adds freshly ground black pepper.  I side with my mom.  Kyle is a purist and eats the corn “as nature intended” – totally plain with no butter, no salt, no pepper.  Preparation should be done quickly.
  5. Eating.  The corn should still be so hot that the kernels burn your mouth and the steam is rising up into your face.  If you’re not sweating form the heat rolling off that first ear of corn, it’s too cold.
When I was young, my dad would start at one end of the ear and speed-eat down a row of corn, splutter a “ding” (with a mouth full of corn), and move the ear back to his starting point, imitating a typewriter.  My sister and I thought he was hysterical, and we were never able to replicate it because our mouths weren’t big enough to hold a row of kernels.  Now that I’m a mom, I got to test out the typewriter trick on my boys.  They also thought it was hysterical, but have no idea what a typewriter is or that I was imitating anything other than a lunatic.  Their laughter escalated as they started to rub their corn cobs all over their faces and scream out “ding!”  I got the look from Kyle for riling them up at the table, but it’s all part of my grand scheme to make my kids as passionate about corn as I am.
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How do you dress your corn?  Are you pro pepper?  Is there a vegetable you are inexplicably zealous about?

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. kerrie permalink
    July 30, 2011 10:26 pm

    I must admit I am not corn fanatic (hubby is) but we grew our own corn a few years back now and it IS fantastic when eaten immediately. I really don’t like store bought fresh corn these days and frozen corn cobs? horrid! I like mine with butter and pepper (no salt).

    • July 30, 2011 10:33 pm

      I’ve been wondering if we should try to grow our own. How hard was it? Store bought corn isn’t even worth eating. And wow, pepper, no salt? I’m intrigued. I’ll have to give it a try! =)

  2. July 30, 2011 10:37 pm

    I used to be one of those guys picking corn (for 6 summers). My corn snobbery probably rivals yours. I still remember the varieties and their qualities… I recall Serendipity and Ambrosia as being the best (elevated sugar varieties). Don’t get me wrong, I like supersweets but not as much.

    • July 30, 2011 10:43 pm

      Ooh. You might have me beat. I think we should set up a corn tasting and you can be our guide in introducing us to different varieties!

  3. July 30, 2011 10:47 pm

    Here is a different method of cooking corn which you should consider. Fill the pot with cold tap water and put the husked ears in. Apply heat and stop as soon as the water starts to boil. Drain, and rinse with cold water (very briefly). Corn done.

    • July 30, 2011 10:54 pm

      Awesome! Corn for dinner again tomorrow night! I will report back with a side-by-side comparison. (Although it might be tricky timing that just right.) Eating three dozen ears in 3 days is perfectly normal, right? For a family of 4, I mean.

      • July 30, 2011 10:59 pm

        That’s totally normal. Besides, corn is in most consumer products, at least parts of it. We’re all probably eating an ear or two a day in that form. Regardless, I’d rather eat the whole thing instead of just its oils and extracts. I am intrigued about your experiment… please post your results.

        • July 30, 2011 11:01 pm

          Wise answer. I hereby appoint you Eric, Corn Guru.

        • July 31, 2011 9:21 pm

          Just so you know Robin, I ate Allen’s Allenville Sweetcorn (my old employer) today, delivered by Christine’s sisters. It was great to have home-grown corn!

  4. Kristen A. permalink
    July 30, 2011 11:09 pm

    Mike and I MISS good corn. Most of my life my corn has to be cut off the cob. First braces and now a fake front tooth that has put me in the dentist chair for 17 years. I know, I totally miss out on all the fun of eating corn on the cob. I like it plain as well and try to cut big chunks off.

    • July 31, 2011 7:46 am

      Such a bummer, Kristen, but it is still really good cut off the cob when it’s fresh. Is the corn 40 feet high in Alaska with all that summer sun?

  5. July 31, 2011 11:00 am

    Oh, Robin. You are a corn snob after my own corn snob heart. I agree with you 100% on it all! My husband will, at times, come home with corn on the cob in the middle of–perish the thought–winter. I won’t even touch the stuff. Locally grown, farm stand fresh ONLY–and I’m very particular about which I shop from, too. I miss growing my own corn, which we did when I was a kid.

  6. Auntie M permalink
    July 31, 2011 4:21 pm

    I’m definitely going to side with you on the butter, salt and pepper preparation. I never could figure out why Dad doesn’t put pepper on corn when he puts hot pepper on everything else.

    • July 31, 2011 6:40 pm

      Yes it really is strange that he’s so anti-pepper on corn but pro-pepper on everything else. Is it because only corn is worth eating without disguising it’s taste?

  7. Courtney permalink
    July 31, 2011 6:16 pm

    Wow, Kyle. You are hard core. Nothing on the corn? Are you one of those people who sleep in their clothes? And so sad that the typewriter analogy is lost on today’s kids.

    Oh, and I will now never be able to serve corn to you, for fear of screwing it up. Wait! I HAVE served corn to you! Were you cringing inside??!!

    • July 31, 2011 6:43 pm

      Oh I remember eating corn at your house well. It was so sooooo far from proper corn protocol that it ceased to even be corn, so I was able to eat it. =P

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