Hello everyone. Today, I’m going to give yo a real lesson, something you can use now, and in the future. I promised all of you that I would give you the knowledge to become a skilled cook. I can’t do that by simply giving you recipes. So, instead of just a recipe, I am going to teach you about some of the techniques that can be used to prepare corn into wonderful dishes that you will be proud to serve. We are also going to learn about corn, what it is, and how it can be used to make so many things. So get your pens and pencils ready and sit up straight. Here we go.
Corn is a grain that acts like a vegetable. So let’s start with how it can be used in that form. Sweet corn is the kind of corn we think of when we want to serve it at barbecues, and with chicken. It is readily available still on the ears, normally called – corn on the cob, and both as a frozen and canned product. It can be cooked in a host of ways, such as on the grill, steamed, fried, boiled, baked, and put into soups. It is also great when made into corn pudding, and creamed corn.
Sweet corn is a starchy grain with substantial amounts of sugar in it. It comes to us by various, descriptive names, such as “peaches & cream”, sweet corn, yellow corn, shoe-peg corn, etc. Each of these types vary in how sweet they taste, but are all fairly sweet. Let’s start with corn on the cob.
Corn on the cob is corn that is still attached to the ear of corn, or corn-cob. It can be found still in the husk, and already shucked (with the husk removed) and packaged. When purchasing corn on the cob, look for bright, firm corn kernels that are plump and juicy. Corn that is not fresh will lose moisture and flavor, and can be tough to chew. I always by my fresh corn still in the husk because it gives me more cooking options. Plus, I save and dry the corn husks to make home-made tamales.
Once you’ve selected your fresh corn, you have multiple cooking options. The goal is to heat the corn sufficiently to kill any microbes that may be lurking around, while still providing a crisp, and flavorful ear of yummy corn to everyone at the table. So ow do we accomplish that goal?
Here is a list of ways to cook corn on the cob: grill over hot coals, or gas, steam, boil, microwave, bake. Which is the best method? In my humble opinion, they are equally good. You only have to understand how each of them work.
My dear mother always boiled her corn for at least fifteen minutes. The corn was very tasty, but had lost some of its crisp texture. And until I was on my own, and experimenting with food, I thought that her corn was the standard for all corn on the cob.
In my wife’s family, they also cooked their corn on the cob for ten minutes, and no more. The corn was crisp, and had more flavor than what I was used to. That became my new standard.
As time went on, I was exposed to corn that was steamed in foil, with butter. Usually, it was overcooked, and somewhat mushy, but had fair flavor. I tried that technique, but baked the corn for only ten minutes at 350′ F. That corn was very tasty, but also very similar in flavor and texture to the corn that was boiled for ten minutes.
Next, I was introduced to corn that was removed from the husk and grilled over charcoal. It was Ok, but usually was a little scorched, not my favorite technique. But others love it, and who am I to say that it’s wrong.
All of these methods involve cooking the corn with the husk off. My daughters learned from their own friends that corn could be grilled with the husk still on. The corn was simply soaked in a bucket of water for 30 minutes or so, and then placed over the hot charcoal and turned every few minutes until a total cooking time of 15 minutes had been reached. The corn was cooked by the steam trapped inside the husk, and it tasted about like corn that had been boiled for ten minutes. But it was a great way to prepare corn outside on a hot day.
Finally, I was wondering one day how it would be if I cooked corn in the microwave. So I removed the husk from an ear and put it into the microwave over for five minutes, on high. It was Ok, but a little overcooked. So for the next ear, I left it in the husk and cooked it for the same amount of time. It was perfect, again, just like the corn that was boiled for ten minutes. I found that this cooking technique works wonderfully when you want to cook a single ear, or maybe two, for a quick lunch. You don’t have to dirty any pots or pans, or wait for water or the oven to heat up. But it is a very ineffective way to prepare corn for a large crowd, as you can only fit, maybe three ears of corn in the microwave oven at a time. You can boil ten ears or more in a big pot.
So, now you understand that no matter how you cook your corn, if done properly, any of the above techniques will give you about the same quality, and flavor. You just have to decide which method is best for the occasion. If it’s winter, and your want a little extra heat in your home, fire up the oven, or put a pot of water on to boil. The extra moisture in the air will be a good thing. If it’s a hot summer day, fire up the grill. Just make sure that the corn has been soaking in a bucket of water for thirty minutes before you start cooking it.
Try these techniques, and the different varieties of sweet corn that are available as fresh ears, still in the husk.
In our next lesson, we will talk about sweet corn, off of the cob, and how to remove it if it’s still on the cob. Until then, eat well, and eat healthy. Remember my favorite quote: “There is no success outside the home that can compensate for failure within the home.”