ELK COUNTY--It's that time of the year again! On streets and roads all over the county, you see the signs for homegrown sweet corn. It will be at your local Farmers Market as well. It's been a good year for corn for those farmers who planted, though bear problems have befallen several farms. The ears are large, firm, and sweet this year. The sweet, tasty crunch of fresh corn is truly a seasonal event. Since corn's sweetness quickly and steadily turns to bland starchiness every minute, it's off the stalk, freshly picked locally grown corn is the best bet for great flavor and freshness. How do you get the best corn? Make friends with your local farmer, and you will never go wrong!
How do you make the most out of locally grown corn? A few simple steps will turn you into a true corn connoisseur. First off, it's always best to use corn that was just bought and still at room temperature. If you have already refrigerated the corn or bought it refrigerated, let it sit out on the counter for thirty minutes to an hour to come to room temperature. You will never have good corn if you cook right out of the refrigerator. The sweet, tender kernels will be overcooked before you even have the cob lukewarm. Fresh sweet corn requires very little cooking time, in most cases less than five minutes for the crispest sweetest corn. After five to six minutes, extra cooking starts to turn the sugar in the corn into starch, and no one wants a starchy bland ear of corn. And one final hint, never, ever salt corn before cooking! Even a little salt in your steamer or pan of water will make it tougher. And never put in regular white or brown sugar. The sucrose that those two are made out of will overpower the natural fructose found in your corn. Yes, your corn will be sweet, but not that special corn sweetness that everyone loves. Those who add milk to boiling corn water or cook in milk can also have the fructose in the corn overwhelmed by the lactose in milk.
The most common way to cook corn is also one of the easiest to get wrong. Here's how to get it right. Shuck, however many ears of corn you need. (standard is two ears/per person to accompany a meal) Use a pot that is large enough to accommodate the cobs and cover completely with water. Remove the ears of corn from water and set them aside, keeping water in the pot. Cover and bring water to a rapid boil. Place cobs in water, cover again and turn off the heat. Leave the cover on for five minutes, and your corn is done. That's it. Do not turn on the heat, do not keep the heat on, or it will overcook. Serve with salt, pepper, and butter to taste.
Some people prefer the crisper texture corn keeps when steamed instead of boiled. In a large pot, bring about an inch of water to a boil. Set in a steamer plate that leaves at least an inch open around the edges in the pot. Set shucked ears of corn in the steamer or on the bowl, cover, and cook until corn is hot and tender, usually four to six minutes for very crisp and seven to eight minutes for more tender ears.
The third way is to cook fresh sweet corn. Grilling gives a great charred edge to the sweetness of corn on the cob. You can grill corn in the husk, as long as you open it up first and pull out the corn silk, but you end up with something more like corn steamed inside the husk, which is fine, but for true grilling, shuck the corn, brush it with melted butter, and set it on a medium grill until charred and tender, for three to six minutes.
Fresh Sweet Corn from local farms is only available for about six weeks, so make sure to enjoy this treat and support your local farmers.