Sweetcorn has arrived! I always look forward to seeing new cobs on the market stalls, a couple half-peeled to reveal plump sweet yellow kernels. But sweetcorn is a little confusing, starting with the name.
In the UK we call it sweetcorn or corn on the cob. In America they simplify it to ‘corn’ even though that is a generic word encompassing wheat, barley and all the rest; and even though the proper name for that cereal is ‘maize’. Confusing? There’s more!
Corn kernels grow on the cob which is the hard, inedible centre. They are coated in husks and silk (the annoying fronds that go everywhere) and all together is an ear of corn. Shucking an ear means peeling off all the husk and silk and is best done outdoors – see the comment about silk.
How to cook sweetcorn? There are many ways. For years I’d microwaved corn cobs, for about 3 minutes at full power, in a plastic container with a splash of water. It’s a good method but now I swear by roasting it in the oven, rubbed with butter, wrapped in foil, at 210C for 30-40 minutes. You can also boil it of course, like the street vendors in Italy do, dropping shucked corn into vats of boiling water.
And then there’s barbecuing: gorgeous corn grilled in the husks, or shucked ears tossed on the rack until charred and blistered. In the latter case they only need a relatively quick roll over the barbecue grill. Sweetcorn cooks much quicker than we tend to think.
You can also cook it deliciously off the cob. Stripping corn off the cob is easier than it seems: against professional and YouTube advice, I use a small, serrated knife and saw the kernel rows off gently. Do it in a large bowl if you like, but unless the corn is freshly picked and super ripe, with its milk spraying the whole place, it won’t make much mess. And in the latter case, the taste will compensate for the cleaning up.
And now for the recipes, though the above should really suffice to corn lovers like me, who like nothing more than just eating it off the cob, buttered, biting round and round and round. But if you’ve made the effort of stripping the kernels, make creamed corn with tomatoes. Or how about a twist on paella: rice with corn and chorizo? It’s delicious.
A crab and sweetcorn salad is much nicer made with fresh corn. And check out this recipe for chicken with fried corn and feta – you might want to just lift the bit about caramelised corn from it!
Sweetcorn does spicy very well: chilli con corn is the proof. And it can dance on a cheesy tart which is an almost, sort of, pizza.
Finally, you can find sweetcorn in baking too: bacon and sweetcorn muffins make a great breakfast.
I hope that satisfies sweetcorn fans. For sweet things fans I suggest homemade cream tea this week, the full works from scratch: classic scones, strawberry jam and home clotted cream. Or is it first cream, then jam? Stay well and happy cooking!