Sherrel Jones: Aw shucks, it's corn season

Sherrel Jones shares wisdom and a recipe for local corn.
BY SHERREL JONES Published: July 24, 2013
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The corn is ready, and I'm ready for the corn.

We love the stuff, on the cob or off.

Growing up on a farm, when the corn was ready, we launched into high gear. Corn my father didn't share with co-workers was eaten at home or processed for the freezer.

Whether blanched, boiled, fried or stirred into fritters, cornbread or succotash with onions and those butter beans also from our huge garden this time of year, corn was a constant in our rural diet.

Eating corn on the cob, I sometimes think of a typewriter carriage moving across the page then returning to pick up the next few rows. Perhaps the arrangement of the kernels on the cob lends to this approach of eating corn. It makes me wonder if a younger, more computer-friendly generation will understand the connection.

I can say from experience growing corn that raccoons can be organized in the way they can devour a patch of corn. They are efficient, too, going through an entire garden-size stand in one night. Those little hands of theirs can shuck corn and get to those golden kernels the second that corn is perfect for picking.

There are some ways of separating the corn from the cob that make for easier cleanup. In many recipes, it is nice to have the corn milk along with the kernels. You can do this before or after blanching. Blanching is a must if you plan to freeze the corn, but cutting it away from the cob enables you to store it using less freezer space than leaving it on the cob.

You can use any good sharp knife to cut the corn away from the cob, but I prefer using the small bird's beak knife. The curve of its cutting edge makes it easy to go around the cob in downward strokes while holding the corn upright on end. Work inside a large bowl to keep the splatters in check. Once the kernels are separated, you can take the back of the knife and, holding it at a 45-degree angle from the cob, run the blade down the ear to “milk” the extra sweet corn milk from the cob.

We don't butter good sweet corn in our house, as the kernels are packed with flavor on their own. But if you plan to grill the corn, you will want to brush it with olive oil or butter to keep it moist as it cooks.

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Summertime Corn Chowder

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped red sweet pepper

¼ cup chopped Poblano or green pepper

1 stalk of celery, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

2 medium potatoes, cut in half-inch cubes (about 1 to 1½ cups)

3 ears fresh corn, shucked and cut from cob

1 chicken bullion cube or salt and pepper to taste

3 cups evaporated skim milk, or any combination of milk and cream

Garnish: chopped crisp bacon, avocado, fresh cilantro or green onions, tops and all.

• Prepare vegetables and corn for saute. Place cumin in bottom of dry pan and toast slightly over medium heat. Add oil and butter. Stir in vegetables and corn. Cover and simmer over low heat until vegetables soften.

• Add bullion cube or seasoning and milk. Stir and keep over medium heat until chowder is steaming hot. Reduce heat to keep from boiling as necessary.

• Serve warm or cold with garnish as desired. If serving cold, allow chowder to cool before refrigerating. It should be stored in a covered container. If serving warm, chowder can be made ahead up to four days, refrigerated and reheated to serve hot.

• Cook's note: When serving this chowder hot, you can add cubes of chopped ham, shrimp sauteed in butter with garlic and cumin or chunks of browned, well-drained sausage. A little shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar can be sprinkled over the top to melt into the piping hot chowder. If cumin is not your thing, leave it out.

Source: Sherrel Jones, inspired by a recipe shared by Martha Stewart during a Westport, Conn., cooking class more than 25 years ago

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