It’s not corny — it’s the all-around pleaser
Have you noticed that corn feeds are starting to appear in the upcoming August events portion of area newspapers? As familiar to Pierce County as the stone cairn located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and North Dakota Highway 3, so is the Little Flower Catholic Church Corn Feed held at the Balta Dam. Even the believers that were persuaded by Martin Luther join in the fun! Another fine corn feed is the Upper Missouri Ministries Corn and Quilt Festival near Epping. Naturally, if you miss one of these two offerings, you can always have your own corn feed! For that reason, I have provided several recipes, and tips for working with corn on the cob.
Many of us have early reflections of corn on the cob, and they probably include this meal at the fair, on the farm or fresh from our garden. When it comes to the table in this fashion, really nothing else needs to be served. Scientists believe people living in central Mexico developed corn at least 7,000 years ago. It was started from a wild grass called teosinte. From Mexico, corn spread north into the southwestern United States.
Corn, or maize as it is called in Europe, was believed to have been carried by Columbus. Soon this vegetable became known across Europe and as far away as Africa, India, China and Tibet. It is now considered a staple throughout the world. Somewhere in the world in every month of the year, a crop of corn is maturing. Amazing! We also realize that this plant is hardy and very practical; all parts of it are used for one purpose or another. Corn fuels our bodies and many other elements of our present-day society. Why, corn has even made its appearance at several of America’s beauty pageants! When the contestants have to present themselves in a costume that represents an industry in their home state, many a gal has appeared on the stage as a corncob – and some have done quite well! So it just proves being “corny” can be really beautiful!
Corn hints, tips
Adding salt to the boiling water or milk in which sweet corn is cooked tends to toughen the kernels. A little sugar may be added to the liquid and this often improves the sweetness. Corn should not be husked until time to cook it. It should be boiled not more than 5 to 7 minutes. Overcooking toughens the kernels and takes away their sweetness. (Also, any diners gathered at the red gingham won’t be as willing to help with the dishes if the meal was a flop!)
In buying sweet corn, it is good to remember the best corn is picked and cooked almost immediately after harvesting, so avoid wilted, yellowed husks. Do not buy corn that has been husked, unless you are planning to use this in an art project. Remember the husk helps to preserve the flavors and prevents the kernels from becoming dry and hard. The best choice will have kernels that are not only plump and well filled, but also soft and full of milk.
To keep corn fresh, if you cannot use it right away, leave it in the husk, place in a shallow pan of water with the tassel ends up and place in the refrigerator. You will find the corn will absorb just enough moisture so that it will be fresh. (This also gives the corn a time of privacy in which they often show off their silks to one another and dream about the impressive bowl they will be served in. Rumor has it that aspirations for most corn on the cob is to end up in a large, red square Pyrex bowl – this allows them not to get neck cramps!)
Old-fashioned corn on the cob
This is a waterless method of cooking corn. This was a common way that the custom combiners who resided in my folks’ trailer park made their corn. You will find it to have a more earthy taste as if it were roasted; it is most delicious and fun to prepare.
Remove husk and silk of as many ears of corn as needed. Wet the tender inner husks, and arrange several layers of them in the bottom and along the sides of a heavy Dutch oven with a good lid. Place the thoroughly washed ears of corn on the wet husks, covering the ears with several layers of husks. Put the cover on, and set the pot over a medium heat on the stove. When the cover gets uncomfortably hot to touch, reduce heat to the very lowest point and cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until corn is tender. Just before the corn is taken out, the top layer of the husks should be removed, salt and butter added. The cover then is replaced, and the heat turned off. Allow 5 minutes or so for the butter to melt and be absorbed by the corn.
Cooked corn on the cob (using milk and water)
This is a fine way to boil corn when you don’t want to use just water. The milk tends to add a smoothness and also sweetness to the corn. A good starting combination is half water and half whole milk.
In a kettle, bring to boil enough milk and water combined to cover eight ears of corn. Plunge the corn into the milk mixtures and boil it, covered, for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on its age. Serve the corn with softened butter and salt and pepper.
Pimiento Butter Balls
There is nothing wrong with serving corn on the cob with plain butter, but when you want to impress your corn cob pals, makes these little jewels.
Simply cream 4 tablespoons of pimento puree with 1/2 cup butter and shape into balls. For another touch of flavor, roll them in dry parsley if you like.