When did we start allowing people to shuck corn in the grocery store? This seems like a newer phenomenon but apparently some grocers are ok with it. They even leave out a trash receptacle for your husks. Just doesn’t seem right to me. That’s part of the social contract we have with our grocer when you buy corn – you stock it, I’ll bring it home and clean it up. Sure, we allow the grocer to shuck some corn and sell it as such, a little added convenience for the shopper on the go, but I’m talking about fresh corn that is piled into bins that shoppers pick out and apparently strip naked right there in the aisle. I’m not allowed to break out my knife and prep my fresh pineapple in the store, so what makes corn so special? Are corn husks a bigger problem in the home kitchen than I am aware of?
Surely these in-store huskers did not grow up in a place that didn’t have something called “outside.” That’s where my mom would send me with corn – go outside and husk the corn. She’d give me some newspaper upon which I would begin my prep-work so as to contain my mess, or sometimes a big paper bag to work over. But if I was outside, I wouldn’t have to worry about the rogue corn silk that would blow in the breeze. I wouldn’t be too concerned about making a mess because I was outside with all the other kids on KP duty husking corn. That’s how it was done. Your reward would be fresh corn which usually makes any kid happy. Husking corn on the cob was a summer ritual like making s’mores or having a lemonade stand. It’s where you first start helping in the kitchen (ok, so technically your out of the kitchen). But it’s a tradition. Don’t leave your husks at the store because I didn’t want to watch you husk in public. Go home and do it in the comfort of your home and enjoy the beautiful outside sky.
When I got home tonight after work, I had picked up some fresh corn at the store. Now you may think this is hypocritical but I opted for the package of five that came husked. But, these weren’t husked in the middle of the produce section. These were professionally husked in the back produce room at Clements by there professional husker. There’s a difference. Frankly, it was late in the day and I wanted dinner to be easy as possible, so I took the shortcut. But, even in this package of husked corn, they still leave one side of the corn unhusked. I don’t quite understand this – does it make the corn look more natural? Are they trying to make the corn as easy as possible to take home and use, but not completely easy? Whatever the reasoning, I had to remove the last bit of husks and silks from the corn before cooking it. Because it was dusk out and the bugs were out, I didn’t feel like going outside, so I grabbed a paper bag, ripped it open to create a large surface upon which to work, and I shucked the corn on the counter over the paper. Lola saw me doing this and it reminded her of how her Mom would send her outside to shuck corn when she was growing up. That made me think of all this in-store husking nonsense.
The last few times I have made corn on the cob, I have grilled it and I like the way the corn comes out that way. I baste it in a salsa butter as it is cooking so the outside gets a nice char to it and it soaks in the flavor of both the butter and the salsa. It’s a fan favorite. However for today, grilling was not an option because our propane ran out on Thursday and I have not yet gone to fill it back up. Today would be corn the old fashioned way – boiled. But I did do a quick search for any recipes that could help me up my game and I found one from a website called Spicy Southern Kitchen.com. The article was called “Best Way to Cook Corn on the Cob“, so I figured it had to be pretty good. It basically called for adding a stick of butter and some milk right into the water the corn is boiling in and then the corn can soak in all that goodness. That’s what I did. I filled my pot halfway with water, brought it to a boil and then added in the milk and butter. When that commingled, I added in the corn and let it cook for about ten minutes. The water turns a creamy buttery color and when the corn starts to cook, you get that beautiful aroma of fresh corn mixed with a hint of butter. It looked really tasty as it cooked away.
We were eating late tonight because I was at work for longer than expected so when the corn was finally ready, it was about 8:30. I served it up along with some ribs so we had a nice little summer picnic watching the Tony Awards. When I told Lola I wasn’t grilling the corn and serving the salsa butter, she was a little disappointed as that’s one of her faves. When she saw the corn, which was brilliantly yellow and steaming as it sat on her plate, she was uninspired. But then she bit in and she was won over. The corn really does soak in all that flavor from the butter and milk. It adds a creaminess to it all. It was corn that you didn’t need to add more butter to. The corn itself was cooked perfectly – nice and firm but not underdone. Every bite into a kernel gave you a little burst of corn flavor. It made me think about adding some sugar or even some salt to the water to bring in more flavor to the party. No joke, this was really great corn so if you are making some this summer, consider the recipe. You won’t be disappointed.
We ate our corn until we were left with a plate of empty cobs and well-stripped rib bones. There’s something sad about a cob of corn that’s been eaten, like the party is over kind of feeling. It reminds me of raccoons because I can recall seeing raccoons break into our trash cans at our summer cottage and always feasting on the cobs eating it down until there was no presence of corn left. Odd little creatures they are. But that was our corn feast for National Corn on the Cob Day. This is a great time of year for corn fans because the fresh corn is just hitting the markets. It’s a special time of year to really enjoy locally grown corn. The sweetness of summer. I made a bunch of corn yesterday because I plan to make a Texas Caviar for Lola which is essentially a mix made with corn and beans. It’s refreshing and one of her favorite snack foods. It’s always good to have some corn left over. Lola’s father used to eat it for breakfast. The whole family would be around the table holding onto their coffee and waiting for it to bring them back to life, and her father would be in his chair plowing through ears of cold corn. It would usually be all over his face and chin too. That’s a sign of good corn – when it’s all over your face.
A great day to celebrate especially at this time of year. I learned a new way to cook corn and the results are fantastic, so that was a big plus on the day. Corn is always easy to cook too, no matter how you do it. It’s a true bounty of the soil in this area, a celebration of one of our most productive crops. It’s a sign that summer is here. So get out there and get your hands on a cob. Summer will only be around for a few months, so enjoy all of its spoils. That’s the lesson to take from National Corn on the Cob Day. But for the sake of all that’s good, don’t husk it in the store. Take it home and shuck it in the great outdoors like our moms taught us.
Next up: National Peanut Butter Cookie Day