Thursday, August 20, 2015

Vegetable Feature: Sweet Corn

by Andrea Yoder
Harvesting Sweet Corn!
 The corn is iced immediately after being picked.
There are some crops we grow to make money and others we grow to make friends.  Sweet corn is not a terribly profitable crop, but it is one that we fuss over quite a bit with the goal of growing corn that will make you stop and say “Man that’s good corn!”  Due to the cool, wet spring, we didn’t get as many corn plantings done as in some years, but the ones we did get planted have proven to be Fantastic…Stellar….Awesome!  These are fitting adjectives to describe this year’s corn-eating experience, but they’re also the names of several varieties of sweet corn we grew this year.

Variety selection is very important with sweet corn.  There are hundreds of corn varieties to choose from, but the challenge is finding the ones that produce well in our growing conditions.  First of all, we do not grow genetically modified sweet corn. The varieties we grow produce very sweet & flavorful corn that you’ll find to be very tender with nicely filled out ears.  The tenderness is because our varieties have a thin pericarp which is the “husk” that covers each kernel of corn.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of “ok” corn available in the marketplace, and there’s a lot of corn that really just doesn’t taste very good at all.  Over the years we continue to trial new varieties, but we keep turning back to the ones that give us the best quality product and best eating experience.

Sweet Corn Fence with Hawk, Streamers, and Scare-Eye Balloons
Our corn field looks like a disco party waiting to happen!  We have to protect the corn from all the critters that would like to help themselves to this tasty treat as well.  First we put up a 6’ tall fence all around the field.  Next we run an electrical wire about 6 inches off the ground…to keep out small creatures such as raccoons.  Now it’s time for the party decorations including silver reflective streamers and colorful scare-eye balloons that deter birds. We also put out a few hawk decoys that, while they don’t look very scary to a human, the blackbirds seem to respect.

After we go through all of this hullabaloo to produce a great tasting ear of corn, the final step is to KEEP IT COLD!  The sugars in corn can quickly convert to starch if the corn is not handled properly.  It’s important to keep corn cold from the time it’s picked until you’re ready to eat it. We ice the corn immediately in the field, and then again when it comes into the packing shed.  It’s important that you do your part as well to store your corn in the refrigerator and eat it within a few days.  Contrary to popular belief, the garage is not the best place to store sweet corn.  If you have limited refrigerator space, you can remove the husk and put the ears of corn in a plastic bag to store in the refrigerator.

Corn can be enjoyed by eating it directly off the cob, or you can cook it on the cob and cut it off.  Fresh corn cut off the cob can be used to make a lot of different dishes including salads, fritters, dips, fried rice, etc.  Don’t throw the cob away!  Corn cobs actually have a lot of flavor on them.  Add them to a pot of chicken or vegetable stock to add some great summer flavor.  I like to do this to make stock that I then use to make a delicious corn chowder.

Corn season is always way too short, but we hope you’ve been enjoying the ears in your box this year.  We are hoping for about one more week of corn, so savor your final bites of the season!

Grilled Corn and Ricotta Dip
This recipe was adapted from the recent August/September 2015 edition of Saveur magazine.  
This is an issue worth reading and is full of tasty recipes featuring summer vegetables. 
Yield:  3 cups
3 ears corn, shucked
¾ cup heavy cream
¾ cup ricotta
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp finely chopped thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, diced
Finely chopped chives and scallions, to garnish

  1. Heat the oven to 325°F.  Heat a grill pan over high and cook the corn until charred on all sides, 25 minutes.  Cut the kernels from the cob, and puree two-thirds of the kernels in a food processor with the cream, ricotta, flour, and thyme.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in remaining kernels.
  2. Scrape the dip into an 8-inch baking dish, sprinkle with Parmesan, and dot with butter;  bake until bubbly, about 1 ½ hours.  Garnish with chives and scallions to serve.

HVF Serving Suggestions: Serve with fresh wedges of sweet pepper or carrot sticks.  You could also spread it on top  of a slice of toasted French or Italian bread and top off with slices of fresh tomato, or keep it very simple and just scoop it up with tortilla chips or crackers.

Corn Studded Corn Muffins with Mascarpone
This recipe was featured in the recent August 2015 issue of Food & Wine magazine.  This issue includes some great recipes for all the summer vegetables we’re enjoying right now.  Pick up your own copy or check out the recipes on their website.

Yield: 12 muffins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup finely ground cornmeal
½ cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp plus one pinch Kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup fresh corn kernels (from about 1 ½ ears)
½ cup mascarpone cheese
1 ½ Tbsp honey

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and 1 tsp of salt.  In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the buttermilk and melted butter.  Whisk in the dry ingredients, then fold in the corn kernels.
  2. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean.  Let the corn muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the mascarpone with the honey and a pinch of salt.  Serve with the muffins.

No comments: