As much as I adore canned creamed corn, come summer, I love sinking my teeth into a fresh cob and gnawing off the sweet corn kernels bit by juicy bit. My other favorite way with sweet corn is to toss the niblets into a salad with chopped tomatoes and cucumbers brightened with herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Even though I’ve been eating corn since I was yea high, I realized I didn’t know much about it. So I did a little research and discovered some corn trivia and tips.
First, just-for-fun trivia:
An ear of corn always has an even number of rows, with an average ear having 800 kernels arranged in 16 rows.
Popcorn, sweet corn and field corn are three distinct varieties. Popcorn is, obviously, made into everyone’s favorite movie-going snack. Sugar-rich sweet corn is cultivated for human consumption, and field corn is cultivated for livestock feed and processed foods.
Corn is a grass and cornstalks grow between 2 and 20 feet, with the average being 8 feet.
Heirloom corn varieties come in a rainbow array of colors, including blue, red, black, and green.
And some practical tips:
When buying corn, look for bright green husks that fit snugly around the ear of corn. You don’t have to strip the husks off the ears to check for freshness. Just squeeze down the length of the corn gently to feel for bald spots. If you can’t resist peeking, the kernels should be plump and in tight rows right to the tip.
Try and eat the corn as soon as possible after purchase but if you must store it, wrap in damp paper towels for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. The kernels become starchier and less sweet the longer the ears are stored. In fact, half the sugars can be converted to starch only 24 hours after sweet corn is picked!
For maximum freshness, husk the corn just before cooking.
Remove the silk (white hairy threads under the husk) by using a wet a paper towel and wipe down the corn.
Amazingly versatile in the kitchen, corn kernels can be stir-fried with tomatoes and onions, tossed into salads, added to salsa, turned into relish, and, a childhood favorite, churned into ice cream. Or simply grill, boil or roast the ears.
A few weeks ago, I came home from the market with six ears of corn without any inkling of what I wanted to do with them. After rummaging around in the fridge and pantry, I found some leftover garlic scapes and an unopened pouch of Hungarian paprika. I decided to improvise on the ingredients used to make kimchi for a corn side dish. Koreans turn just about any vegetable into banchan so why not corn?
The result is a refreshing summer side dish, crunchy and sweet with a touch of heat and just the right amount of garlicky. It’s lovely with grilled meats or mixed into a green salad.
Kimchi-Style Sweet Corn
Unless you make kimchi often, it doesn’t make sense to buy the one-pound bags of Korean red pepper powder (gochu-garu) they sell at Asian markets, and some recipes call for both fine- and coarse-ground red pepper! Instead I used paprika powder, specifically one that my friend brought back from Hungary. In my opinion, the kimchi flavor was a close approximation to that made with Korean red pepper.
Time: 15 minutes, plus melding time
Makes: 6 to 8 servings as a side dish
4 fresh ears of corn, husked
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons paprika powder
1 teaspoon sugar
6 garlic scapes, buds and flowers trimmed, remainder chopped, or 3 small cloves garlic, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
In a pot large enough to hold the corn plus water to cover the corn, bring cold water to a rolling boil over high heat. Don’t add salt as it toughens the corn.
Add the corn, cover and bring the water back to a rolling boil which will take 3 to 4 minutes. At this point the kernels will be crisp. If you like them a little softer, cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer but don’t overcook them.
Promptly drain the corn into a colander over the sink and plunge them into cold water to stop the cooking. Do not overcook them. Once cool enough to handle, stand the corn in a large bowl and scrape the kernels off each cob into a bowl using a small, sharp knife.
Add the salt, paprika, sugar, garlic scapes, and green onion. Mix well and refrigerate for at least 2 hours for the flavors to meld.
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