Talkin’ Corn

The other day at lunch we were talking about food — it was lunch, after all — and the topic turned to sweet corn.  Why not?  It’s one of the foods that make summer in America the best season of the year, and any drive through rural Ohio will take you past a sweet corn stand in front of a family farmhouse.

IMG_2543The Jersey Girl mentioned that she’s intentionally failed to advise her kids that most people eat sweet corn liberally smeared with butter.  She prefers it plain, and now her kids do, too.  At some point, they’ll go to a cookout on a bright summer day where burgers and sweet corn are being served and they’ll slowly realize that everybody else is eating their ears slathered style and decide they have to try to butter option.  Until then, they’ll enjoy the natural sweetness, unaided.  Me, I like my corn buttered, but hold the salt.

The Red Sox Fan chimed in that he eats his ears of corn rotationally — that is, putting teeth into the kernels and then rolling the cod around as he chomps, rather than moving side to side.  The rest of us were, of course, aghast.  The only proper way to eat sweet corn is to move left to right, like the cob is the cylinder on a typewriter.  That way, when you reach the right end of the ear, you’ve got a mouth full of mushy goodness and lips glistening with butter, ready to be licked.  The Red Sox Fan’s curious admission frankly caused us to question whether he was a bona fide member of the Sweet Corn Club.

Up in Vermilion last Sunday we had a family cookout, and Cousin Jeff arrived with a passel of sweet corn purchased in Amish country that we boiled up in a big cast iron pot and ate with Lake Erie perch and grilled chicken.  I happily consumed my share of the ears, and realized at some point in the process that I probably could eat sweet corn until I exploded.  It wouldn’t be a bad way to go.

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The Sweet Corn Season

Last night we visited Jeff at his house on Lake Mohawk, in Carroll County in the northeastern part of Ohio.  We had a fine home-cooked dinner that featured some fresh Ohio sweet corn, local grass-fed beef, just-picked blueberries from a nearby farm, and other tasty products of Ohio agriculture. Everything was excellent, but the sweet corn was especially spectacular.

We are in the midst of sweet corn season in Ohio.  I am not sure when it begins and when it ends, but July is prime time to buy a few ears of sweet corn at a roadside stand, prepare it at home as part of a cookout, and then munch the corn right off the cob, your teeth moving down the rows of kernels like a typewriter cartridge, with butter and salt dribbling on your chin.  The corn is so fresh that the kernels seem to snap off the cob, and so sweet that eating a few ears is like sneaking dessert into dinner. Ohioans proudly boast that their sweet corn is the best sweet corn in the country — and it is hard to believe that any sweet corn anywhere could be better.

Jeff also tipped us off to a new preparation method that we are going to have to try.  Traditionally, when you get the ears home you shuck the corn and spend a considerable amount of time carefully picking the silk off the sticky rows of corn kernels.  Then, you toss the corn into boiling water to cook.  Jeff’s method is to cut off the silk from the top of the ear, and then place the unshucked corn in the oven for cooking at about 350 degrees for twenty minutes or so.  When the ears are done, steam from the cooked ears has loosened the green sheathing and the silk and they supposedly slide right off.

Any technique that streamlines the eating of sweet corn is well worth learning.