Cook corn on the cob fresh for best flavor

07/24/2013 12:00 AM

07/23/2013 12:32 PM

Fresh corn on the cob, slathered with butter, seasoned with a sprinkle of salt and eaten with your hands is a favorite summer ritual that is hard to beat. Now is the time to enjoy fresh corn while it is at its peak. You will find ample supplies of fresh corn in area supermarkets. For farm-fresh corn, check out the local farmers markets and corn stands that have popped up in various shopping centers across town. The fresher the corn, the sweeter the taste.

My family was practicing farm-to-table before it became a trendy movement. Planting and harvesting one’s own produce sounds idealistic, but it is seldom that simple in real life. As our family anticipated the first fresh roasting ears of the season, we looked forward to the time the corn was ready to pick. But there was always an exciting undercurrent connected with the sweet corn. Would we actually harvest it, or would the raccoons get it? The raccoons, possessing an innate sense of when the corn was mature, could destroy a season’s crop in a few nighttime hours. So it became a contest: My dad carefully monitored the developing ears daily. When the silk began turning from a yellow-green to brown, he checked an ear or two to see if the rows of kernels on the cob were mature – plump and bursting with sweet juices. The moment he gave the word, we’d head to the garden with bushel baskets to pull ears of corn from the stalks – elated that we had beaten the raccoons to the bounty. Of course, we savored the delicious fresh corn, but beating the raccoons made the corn taste even sweeter.

Although you probably will not have to outsmart raccoons to enjoy sweet corn, some of you have other issues. Let’s get them answered so all of you can easily enjoy this summer specialty.

Q: Why is it recommended to cook fresh corn right away? If cooking it the same day does not work for me, what is the best way to store it?

A: Fresh sweet corn is best cooked as soon after harvest as possible because that is when it is the sweetest. Once harvested, the natural sugars turn to starch, making the corn less sweet. If you must store it, refrigerate it with the shucks on to keep the moisture in the corn. Keeping corn chilled slows down the sugar-to-starch conversion.

Q: I love fresh corn, but removing the husk and silk is a chore. I can never get all the silk off it. Do you have any secrets for this?

A: Cooking fresh corn is a breeze in the microwave. It is fast and easy; the corn goes in the microwave – husk, silk and all. This method is amazing. The corn will cook in the husk with its own natural moisture. When done, the husks and silk fall off easily.

Remember, this is a guide. The exact time will depend upon the wattage of your individual microwave as well as the weight of each ear of corn.

Place corn on a dampened paper towel; place multiple ears in a spokelike arrangement. You may need to trim off a half-inch or so of the bottom of the cob to make it fit in the microwave. If your microwave does not have a turntable, turn ears over and rearrange after half the cooking time.

1 ear – 1 1/2 minutes

2 ears – 3 to 4 minutes

3 ears – 5 to 6 minutes

4 ears – 7 to 8 minutes

When the corn is hot to the touch, remove and wrap in a kitchen towel and let stand for 5 minutes for cooking to continue. The husks and silk will come right off. Serve with butter, salt and pepper.

If you don’t have a microwave or want to use a different cooking method for corn, here is an alternate method for removing the silk. Remove and discard the husks. Use a paper towel and rub the silk in the opposite direction to eliminate it. This will remove most of it. To loosen the last stubborn ones, use a small vegetable brush to brush them away.

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