The secret to perfect sweet corn, aka edible sunshine, is time.
As in don't waste any buying it or eating it once you've made your purchase.
Immediately after picking corn's sugars begin to turn to starch and within a couple of days what was once a sweet, juicy delectable ear of corn will become an ear of pasty, flavorless disappointment.
Chilling the corn will slow this process, but it won't stop it.
If you don't plan to eat what you've bought within 24 to 48 hours, shuck it, blanch it (cook in boiling water for 2 to 5 minutes) and freeze it. If you want off-the-cob-corn, cut the kernels from the cob after blanching. Transfer the cooked corn to freezer-bags and freeze until ready to use. The frozen corn will taste best if eaten within 6 to 8 months.
Because once it has turned starchy, there's nothing you can do to salvage it.
When it's fresh, sweet corn is delicious any which way you cook it. Some might argue you needn't cook it at all. (Sometimes we don't.)
How you choose to cook it may depend on many factors: time, space, weather, quantity, etc.
This method for cooking fresh corn, which we learned from America's Test Kitchen, has become our go-to method. It's snap simple and more forgiving than other methods we've tried:
Simply bring a Dutch oven (or other heavy, heat-retaining pot) of water to a boil, turn off the heat, add the corn, cover and let stand for 10 to 30 minutes. That's it. The corn will cook and remain hot while you prepare the rest of the meal.
Because the water is not actively boiling, there's little to no risk of overcooking the corn, and because you turn off the heat as soon as the water comes to a boil, it heats the kitchen less than other methods. The adjustable cooking time — as few as 10 minutes or as long as 30 — gives you a bit of wiggle room to get everything else ready without fear of the corn getting cold or shriveling from overcooking.
Other cooking methods include:
Grilled: Soak unshucked corn in cold water for 30 minutes to 2 hours before cooking. Heat grill for medium heat. Place unshucked corn on grill and cook, turning occasionally, 10 to 20 minutes.
Oven-Roasted: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place unshucked corn directly on oven rack and roast, turning occasionally 20 to 30 minutes.
Microwaved: If using shucked corn, place corn in a microwave-safe dish with about 1 inch of water. Cook, on high, 1 to 4 minutes per ear, turning ears halfway through cooking time; time can vary depending on your microwave. For unshucked corn: Place corn on a microwave-safe platter, and cook on high 1 to 4 minutes per ear, turning ears halfway through cooking time.
Slow cooker: Carefully pull back husks from each ear, but do not remove completely. Remove silk and rinse corn under cool water. If ear is too long to stand upright in slow cooker, trim to fit. Fold husk back around corn and tie with kitchen twine or a piece of husk. Arrange corn in slow cooker, stem end down, standing in the slow cooker. Add water (½ cup for medium cooker, ¾ cup for a larger cooker). Cover and cook on high for 1 to 2 hours.
SAVE THE COBS
In recipes that call for cutting the kernels from the cobs, don't throw out the cobs. Corncobs add depth and flavor to soups and chowders. To be able to enjoy that richness year-round, make stock from spent cobs and freeze it.
How to make corn stock: Using a ratio of 2 quarts water per 4 corncobs, place cobs in a large stockpot and add the water, making sure it covers the cobs. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Remove cobs and discard them. Divide and transfer the liquid to freezer-safe containers and freeze for up to 1 year. Use in place of water, chicken stock or vegetable stock in soup and stew recipes.
This is one of our all-time favorite summer salads. When peaches, corn and tomatoes are in peak season, it hardly needs dressing — just a light squeeze of lemon or lime juice, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper or a drizzle of fancy balsamic vinegar. And the best part, there's no cooking involved. That's right, the corn in this salad is raw. It is juicy and delicious, so be sure to use the freshest you can find.
Best Summer Salad
- 2 ears fresh corn, shucked
- 1 large or 2 small peaches, sliced
- 1 medium to large "slicer" tomato (I like Cherokee purple), sliced
- ½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved (I like a combination of red and gold)
- ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
- ½ avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
- 2 handfuls fresh basil leaves
- 3 to 4 ounces fresh mozzarella balls, halved, optional
- Juice of 1 lime or lemon OR 2 tablespoons good-quality balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil
- Salt and ground back pepper
Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the kernels from the corn.
In a large bowl, combine the corn kernels, sliced peaches, sliced tomato, cherry tomatoes and red onion and gently mix. Transfer to a platter. Add the avocado, basil and mozzarella, if using. Drizzle with lime juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Makes 2 to 4 servings.
These corn fitters make an excellent appetizer or light dinner.
Sweet Corn Fritters With Blistered Tomatoes
- For the fritters:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup milk
- 2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 2 to 3 ears)
- ½ cup finely diced red bell pepper
- ½ cup sliced green onions, white and tender green parts
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus more for optional garnish
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus more for optional garnish
- Vegetable oil
- For the tomatoes:
- 1 to 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and ground black pepper
For the fritters: Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and paprika into a medium bowl. Add the sugar, stir to combine, and make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and milk until combined. Gradually add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until a smooth, stiff, lump-free batter forms. In a large bowl, place the corn, red pepper, scallions, cilantro and parsley. Add the batter and combine.
In a large nonstick frying pan, heat enough vegetable oil to coat over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the batter in 2-tablespooonful mounds, cooking four at a time. Fry for 2 minutes or until the underside of each fritter is golden. Turn the fritters over and cook until the other side is golden. Transfer to another plate and keep warm while cooking the remaining fritters.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet combine the cherry tomatoes and olive oil and cook over medium-high heat, stirring or shaking pan frequently, until tomatoes blister and burst. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve fritters topped with blistered tomatoes (along with any oil and juice remaining in the skillet) and garnish with herbs, if desired.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Recipe adapted "Sydney Food" by Bill Granger (Murdoch Books, 2000) via The Washington Post
Corn adds a juicy pop of sweetness to this guacamole, which features roasted peppers and garlic.
Rustic Corn Guacamole
- 2 cloves garlic, in skins
- 1 jalapeno or serrano chile, seeds and stem removed
- 3/4 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed if using frozen
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 2 ripe avocados
- 3/4 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved if desired
Heat broiler or a comal or iron skillet over medium heat.
If using the broiler, line a small baking sheet or broiler-safe pan with foil. Place garlic and chile on foil and broil 2 to 3 inches from heat, or place them on the hot comal or skillet. Roast until charred on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip and continue roasting until charred on the second side. The chile should appear wilted and the garlic should be softened.
Remove from heat and let cool.
Once cool enough to handle, remove the papery skin from the garlic cloves and finely chop the chile. Mash them together in a molcajete or with a mortar and pestle. (Or in a bowl using the back of a wooden spoon.)
Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the corn and cook 30 seconds. Drain.
In a medium bowl or a molcajete, combine the mashed chile and garlic, lime juice and salt and mash with a spoon or fork. Halve and pit the avocados. Scoop the flesh from each half into the bowl. Gently mash to incorporate. Add the corn and tomatoes and gently stir together. Season to taste with salt.
Makes about 6 servings.
Recipe adapted from "Mexican Today: New and Rediscovered Recipes for Contemporary Kitchens" by Pati Jinich
This small batch ice cream (the whole recipe makes just one pint) is my favorite way to enjoy sweet corn as dessert.
Fresh Corn Ice Cream
- 2 ears fresh corn
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 5 egg yolks
- ½ cup turbinado sugar such as Sugar in the Raw
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Pinch salt
- 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
Using a sharp knife, cut kernels from corn. Cut cobs into 2-inch chunks. Measure kernels to make 1 cup (save remaining kernels for another use).
In a medium saucepan, combine the 1 cup corn kernels, the corn cobs and the half-and-half. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat. As soon as mixture boils, remove from heat and let stand 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a large glass bowl or the top part of a double-boiler, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar, whisking until yolks are pale yellow. Whisk in honey, salt and red pepper.
Remove and discard cobs from half-and-half mixture. Using an immersion blender, or in a traditional blender or food processor, puree corn-half-and-half mixture.
Bring a large pot filled halfway with water or the bottom part of a double-boiler filled with water to a simmer over low heat. Set the bowl (or double-boiler) with the egg yolk mixture over the simmering water, whisking constantly, slowly drizzle the pureed corn mixture into egg mixture and cook until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and remove bowl from pot. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl. Cover mixture with plastic wrap, pressing plastic against the surface of the custard. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours.
Transfer mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Serve immediately for a soft-serve consistency or transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze until firm.
Makes about 4 (½-cup) servings.
Recipe adapted from "I Love Corn" by Lisa Skye
Corn, coconut and cinnamon team up in this sweet corn pudding. Versions of this pudding can be found throughout the Caribbean and the Americas, but it is most closely associated with the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
Dominican-Style Corn Pudding (Majarete)
- 2 cups whole milk OR evaporated milk
- 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 to 3 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 3 ears)
- 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- Ground cinnamon, optional garnish
In medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the whole milk, cinnamon sticks and nutmeg. Heat, stirring occasionally, until bubbles begin to break on the surface. Remove pan from heat; cover and let steep 10 minutes; remove and discard cinnamon sticks.
Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, combine the corn, coconut milk, sugar and cornstarch; process until completely smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain corn mixture into the saucepan of steeped milk, pressing out all liquid; stir to combine. (The finer the mesh, the smoother your pudding will be. It took me about 10 minutes of pressing to strain my corn mixture.)
Return the saucepan to medium heat and cook, stirring frequently and scraping bottom of pan with a heat-safe spatula to prevent scorching until the mixture comes to a simmer. Once simmering, cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute or until pudding is quite thick.
Divide mixture evenly among 6 to 8 ramekins or small dessert cups; cool at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 45 minutes. Garnish with ground cinnamon, if desired.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Recipe adapted from Goya