Friday, September 3, 2010

Illinois Sweet Corn

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2010)

One of the most comforting sights for me are the rows upon rows of corn that shoot by when I take the train to southern Illinois. It's probably politically incorrect to admit this. Most of the corn grow in Illinois is subsidized, and ends up as cattle feed or corn syrup. I don't support the subsidies or approve of their impact: the artificially low price of beef and the omnipresence of corn syrup in the American food system.

Yet, I treasure the taste of sweet corn, and believe it's one of the most underappreciated gifts Mother Nature offers this time of year. I love the sandpaper-like feel of the husks and the silky softness of the tassels. After a quick boil, the plump, taut kernels pop in my mouth like perfectly ripened berries. They're sugary and savory. I never add salt or butter. As far as I'm concerned, it just gets in way.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2010)

At the farmer's market, I carefully pull back the husk and tassels by an inch or so to make sure each ear is fresh. I look for plump kernels. During a recent visit, another shopper told me that smaller ears are more flavorful. She also recommended smelling the tip as part of the freshness test, but I didn't know what scent was the right one.

Anyone know about the smell test?

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2009)


Bring a pot of water to boil. Add enough water to cover the corn.

Add the corn and boil for about 4 minutes.

Remove from heat. Drain water. Cover with cold water to cool.

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