Sweet corn does, in fact, “rule”, but this post is the rules according to Robin for sweet corn. I admit that I’m a bit of a corn snob. Kyle would say I’m a major corn snob. I don’t feel this passionate about any other vegetables and now that I think of it, perhaps it’s strange that I’m fanatical about this one particular food. But sweet corn season is short, and it has the potential to be soooo delicious, so why waste time eating less than awesome corn? Good corn is sweet and so crisp that it pops and sounds like fire crackers in your mouth as it bursts off the cob.
I grew up in a house where sweet corn season was taken very seriously. The protocol was strict and now, any other way of eating corn makes me cringe. My dad had a long commute down country roads, and I remember the excitement when he’d hit the jackpot and find a stand where the farmer was bringing the corn in fresh from the fields as he drove home. If memory serves me right, we’d polish off several dozen ears between the four of us at dinner. On the rare occasion we couldn’t finish it all, my mom would make the most incredible corn fritters the next night for dinner which we’d drizzle with maple syrup. I don’t think I’ll ever attempt to make fritters because nothing could beat my memory of them.
Here are the rules for sweet corn in my house. Kyle kindly humors me but he’s admitted he can’t taste the difference.
- The corn. The corn has to come from a farm stand and should preferably have been picked within several hours. We ate some for lunch yesterday that was still wet with the morning dew and I thought I’d gone to heaven. Small kernels are often sweeter (and less starchy) than big ones.
- Cooking. After husking the corn, I put about an inch of water in my biggest pot and bring it to a boil. I pop the ears into the pot and cover it with a lid. I let the water boil and the corn steam for 7 minutes.
- Kitchen to table transportation. This step is critical. Remove the cooked corn from the pot with tongs and stack them as quickly as possible on a plate. Immediately cover the ears with a clean kitchen towel to trap the heat in and keep the corn piping hot. Rush the plate to the table – everyone had better be sitting and ready. If your crowd appreciates good corn, this should not be a problem.
- Table preparation. Sneak an ear out from under the towel without letting any steam escape. Push corn picks into each end and roll the ear in butter. Put one end on the plate and spin the ear as you sprinkle salt. At this point in the preparation, my parents split into two very different camps, and each one lobbies for their own method every time they eat corn. My dad would say the corn is complete with just butter and salt. My mom also adds freshly ground black pepper. I side with my mom. Kyle is a purist and eats the corn “as nature intended” – totally plain with no butter, no salt, no pepper. Preparation should be done quickly.
- Eating. The corn should still be so hot that the kernels burn your mouth and the steam is rising up into your face. If you’re not sweating form the heat rolling off that first ear of corn, it’s too cold.