Thursday, July 5, 2012

An Ode to Corn

I have not been shy about my love of corn on this blog.  The Patti Wagon is rife with references to Zea mays.  Remember when I implored you to freeze corn here, and here, and here?  Well it's that time of year, so you better get to gettin'.  By all means, eat fresh corn this summer.  But find your inner-squirrel, and like acorns, save some corn for winter.  There are many ways to freeze corn, but you do need to cook it first.  You can cook it in your iron skillet.  My aunt swears by the microwave method.  Since I have a pre-1960s kitchen, I boil it. Here's what I do:

1. Find a farmer and get some corn. Sit back and admire the corn for a moment. (DO NOT omit this step. Corn is a beautiful thing.)

2. Fill your biggest pot with water and bring it to a boil. (Don't be intimidated by the canner. It's just my biggest pot.)

3. Husk the corn and get out as many silks as you can. Remember the rule: he who eats the most corn, eats the most silks. So don't stress if you don't get them all.

4. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, put about 5-6 ears of corn in the pot. Set your timer for 5 minutes when the corn goes in. Cover the pot and the water should come back to a boil in about 1 minute. If not, use fewer ears in the next batch. Or get a bigger pot.

5. While the corn is boiling, fill the sink with water and ice. I like to freeze a couple water bottles beforehand and use those to chill the water as well. Once the timer goes off, remove the ears from the boiling water and immediately place in the sink. Let them cool for 5 minutes. Add more ears to the boiling water and keep the cycle going. Make sure you keep adding ice cubes to the sink. You want that water to stay cold.

6. Once the ears have cooled, it's time to cut off the kernels. Use your sharpest knife, and make sure it's easy to cut through. If you feel like you're sawing and something tough, back the knife away from the ear a bit. (Advice Van Gogh should have taken.) Once you've cut off all the kernels, turn your knife over, and run the dull side against the cob. You'll get the corn milk out this way.

7. Keep boiling, cooling, and cutting until you've made your way through all your corn.

7. Bag it up. In freezer bags, of course. I started with 12 ears of corn, and I finished with 7 cups of kernels.

8. What to do with the naked ears? Compost? Squirrel food? Let a teething baby chew on them? (Note: I am decidedly not qualified to give parenting advice.) Or make corn stock? (My qualifications on cooking advice are slightly better.)

Corn Stock: Put the naked ears in a pot with a carrot, a few celery stalks, an onion, peppercorn, and some herbs (thyme is my favorite). Cover it with water and simmer away. After a few hours, you'll have corn stock. Run it through a sieve, bag it up, and freeze it. Think of the corn chowder you could make next January! (Note: I made corn stock last year, and it's still in my freezer. Oops. But the possibility that I could make homemade corn chowder with my homemade corn stock is one of the many reasons I wake up in the morning.)

9. So what do you do with the corn kernels after you freeze them (besides dream about the possibility of corn chowder)? Add them to vegetable soup. Or you could add them to this soup. Really add them any soup. Or make a Molly meal. Or cook the corn in my favorite way, described here. (Note: if you have fresh corn, don't boil it first. Just cut it right off the ear and put it in the skillet.)

I did that with my first ear of the season and then added the corn to a panzanella salad. In addition to the limey corn, the salad contained tomatoes, avocado, a boiled egg, and fresh herbs. I used my favorite pan for panzanella salad: the whole wheat English muffin. I love how the nooks and crannies soak up the dressing. I had one left from my experiment with homemade English muffins, and this was the perfect way to finish the batch. I dressed the salad with a simplicity: white wine vinegar, lemon juice, brown mustard, honey, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

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