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How to select, store, prepare corn on the cob

August 19, 1997|By Lynn F. Little

Sweet corn on the cob is as American as apple pie and ice cream. Besides tasting good when cooked properly, sweet corn is nutritious.

Those tender kernels contain vitamins B and C. Yellow corn also has some vitamin A. If you are on a sodium-restricted diet, relax. Unsalted sweet corn is very low in sodium (13.7 milligrams), and it adds potassium and fiber to your diet. One medium ear has about 77 calories.

Sweet corn must be kept cold all the way from harvest to your kitchen kettle, so select corn that is cool to the touch. Reject any warm ears. The quality of flavor deteriorates rapidly at warm or even ordinary room temperature. The natural sweetness is converted quickly to starch if not kept cold, and the kernels will taste starchy.

Choose ears with fresh-looking, dark green husks. If sweet corn is displayed in your market with a strip of husk removed, make sure the kernels are fully developed and of good color.

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At home, keep the sweet corn cold and humid. For freshest flavor use it the same day as purchased.

Many recipes call for boiling sweet corn ears in salted water. This is a mistake. Salt tends to make the kernels tough. Those who like salt on their sweet corn can add it at the table. However, adding one or two tablespoons of sugar to your boiling water can help to improve the flavor of day-old corn. Some cookbooks advocate equal amounts of sugar and lemon juice for this purpose.

Boiling, steaming, microwaving, roasting

There are three different techniques for preparing corn on the cob for pleasurable eating: boiling or steaming, roasting and microwaving. Keep in mind that preparation methods are different for each technique. The key to delicious corn on the cob is proper cooking. Don't overcook! Ears should be cooked only until the milk in the kernels is set.

To prepare sweet corn for boiling, peel husks away just before cooking. Rub off silks, break off the tip and stem ends, then place ears in a kettle or saucepan of boiling water. Have enough water in your kettle to cover the ears. For steamed corn, use only one inch of water.

Cook corn in vigorously boiling water, covered for five to six minutes, depending on the size of ears (medium sized ears take five minutes; large ears, six minutes). Drain off water or remove ears from kettle with tongs. Serve immediately. Some cooks cool down the hot ears by dipping them in ice water for a few seconds just before serving.

You can take fresh ears of corn on picnics and camping trips and enjoy it roasted. To roast, turn back husks and remove silk. Brush kernels with melted butter or margarine and sprinkle with unsalted water.

Pull husks back over corn and twist at the top to secure. Place corn around edge of hot coals and turn frequently with tongs. Cook about 20 minutes. You also can remove husks and silk completely, wrap ears in heavy foil and cook over medium coals for five to seven minutes, turning often. A covered grill works faster than an open grill.

To roast sweet corn in your oven, follow the same preparation procedures. Place ears in a shallow pan, and roast for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Microwaving sweet corn is really a form of roasting, but the preparation procedure is somewhat different, and the cooking time is much less if you work with only one or two ears at a time.

One microwave method calls for removing outer husks only. Then carefully push back inner husks and rub off silk. Brush with butter or margarine. Pull husks back over corn and twist or tie closed at the top. Place in microwave and allow 3 to 5 minutes of cooking time at high for one ear; 4 to 9 minutes for two ears; 9 to 12 minutes for three ears and 10 to 17 minutes for four ears. Rearrange ears every four minutes, if you are microwaving more than one ear. Let corn stand for five minutes before serving.

Another way to microwave sweet corn is to husk ears completely, then wrap ears individually in plastic wrap or place them in a tightly covered dish containing 1/4 cup of water. Allow 2 to 5 minutes of cooking time at high for one ear; 4 1/2 to 10 minutes for two ears; 6 to 12 minutes for three ears; and 7 1/2 to 16 minutes for four ears. Let corn stand for five minutes before serving.

When cooking three or more ears in individual wrapping, rearrange ears and turn them over every 4 minutes. For two ears, do the rearranging when half the microwaving time has elapsed. Let corn stand for five minutes before serving.

When cooking in the microwave, start with the shortest amount of cooking time and check for doneness. Continue cooking until corn is done to your satisfaction. Standing time also is important for completing the cooking process without overcooking the exterior of the ears.

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