Cooked corn

Get it at its peak growth and try it on the grill, boiled or in fritters

Get it at its peak growth and try it on the grill, boiled or in fritters

August 17, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

This time of year it's hard to drive around and not pass a sign for sweet corn.

Often it's hard not to stop and buy some.

Corn is Washington County's biggest crop and though much of it is grown for animal feed, it's a treat for us two-legged creatures, too.

Corn can be boiled or grilled, eaten off the cob or turned into fritters, soup, popcorn, relish and other tasty recipes.

Some of those foods can be sampled at the 25th annual Shippensburg Corn Festival in Pennsylvania a week from Saturday on Aug. 27.


About 40 food vendors are expected, including a group from Oakville United Methodist Church selling Chicken Corn Soup.

Michael Smith, the festival's publicity chairman, said 30,000 to 40,000 people are expected at the festival.

About 300 handmade craft and antique vendors will sell their wares, and children will sell their crafts at 15 to 20 booths, Smith said.

In addition to child vendors, the children's area around Shippensburg Public Library will have children's activities and an art wall on which they can express themselves, Smith said.

There also will be live music, puppet shows and of course, corn.

The corn season usually starts in early July, peaks in late July and August, and goes through September, said Ivan Lehman, a Washington County farmer who has been growing sweet corn for 37 years.

The weather can affect the timing of the beginning and end of the season, cutting it short or letting it run long. This year's corn crop has been going well, Lehman says, though the drought might affect it. Lehman expects the corn crop to last through mid-September.

When shopping for corn, look for a bright green husk, lightly brown silk on the end and a light yellow color on the stalk end, said Lynn Little, a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County. Little also writes a column for The Herald-Mail that is on page C1 today.

Unless the proprietor prohibits it, Little recommends peeling back the husk just enough to look at a couple rows of kernels. The kernels should be plump and translucent. If you pierce a kernel with your thumbnail, there should be a milky juice.

Here are some tips for cooking corn:

Boiling corn

Ivan Lehman said the most important point about cooking corn is not to overcook it.

From the time you put corncobs in boiling water, it should take three minutes for them to cook, said Lehman, whose Lehman's Produce stand is along Downsville Pike. Start timing when you put the corn into the water, not when the water returns to a boil.

The brief boiling keeps the corn from becoming tough and saves the sweet flavor, Lehman said.

The cooking time can vary based on a person's taste, Little said. Some people boil their corn longer because they don't like it to be very crisp, she said.

Grilling corn

Corn can be grilled shucked or in the husk.

First, coat the grill rack with cooking spray.

Use medium-high heat with a temperature ranging from 350 to 400 degrees, Little said. To achieve this heat, arrange coals evenly on lower rack. If you can place your hand 5 inches above the top rack for five seconds, then the heat is right.

Put the husked corn on the rack and cover the grill. Turn the corn frequently so it cooks evenly. Various recipes call for grilling the corn for 20 minutes or until lightly brown. It might not take 20 minutes, perhaps only 10 minutes, to get it lightly brown, Little said.

You can always cook it longer, but you don't want to overcook the corn, she said.

To grill corn in the husk, peel back all but the last thin layer of green husk. If you leave the entire husk on, you are essentially steaming the corn in the husk and not getting the grilling flavor, Little said.

Turn the corn about every two minutes, watching for a pale golden brown coloring that's more golden yellow than brown, Little said.

The husk will char and the kernels will slightly caramelize. If you can't see the kernels change color through the husk, then peel back the husk slightly to check the corn's progress.

Grill for about 10 minutes, watching for a pale golden brown coloring.

Freezing corn

To freeze corn for cooking another time, first blanche the corncobs, Lehman said. Put the cobs in boiling water and cook them for 2 to 3 minutes - again, the water doesn't have to come all the way back to a boil for the corn to get blanched.

Then immediately cool the corn off by putting it in cold water.

When the corn is cooled, cut the kernels off with a knife or grater and place it in a freezer bag, getting as much air out of the bag as possible. Freeze it as quickly as possible.

The frozen corn is good for one year, in time for the new season of fresh corn to arrive, Lehman said.

For freezing, Lehman recommends Bodacious yellow corn or Argent white corn.

Corn Fritters

(courtesy of Cindy Lehman)

2 1/2 cups fresh corn (Lehman estimates 10 ears, depending on the cob size)

2 eggs

1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons milk

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