By: Debra Chase
Morning fresh fruits and vegetables, local olive oils and cheeses, grass fed meat and fresh caught fish, all good reasons to shop at the local farmer’s market every week. There are many other reasons to support the local farmers; better health, better health for the planet and buying produce that has a higher antioxidant level and fewer toxins from pesticides, herbicides and commercial fertilizers. Most folks though, will say that the main reason to shop at the farmer’s market every week is taste. Food from the farmer’s market just tastes better.
Sweet corn is one market vegetable that is always better purchased from the local small farmer. Yolo county small farmers grow plenty of sweet corn. Ignoring the low profit margin, they continue to grow it as a labor of love and an ode to tradition. Crisp and sweet, it comes in a variety of colors; yellow, white, blue or multicolored and it all tastes great. The home cook can dive into the many ways to serve fresh corn without a hitch, as it is an easy, versatile vegetable to prepare and easy to pair with a variety of dishes. Steamy hot cobbs slathered with butter and salt, served up with barbecued meats and vegetables or cheesy enchiladas served with a side of kernels cut right from the cobb and sautéed with peppers, onions and garlic or fresh kernels baked in cream and black pepper and served with the Thanksgiving feast.
Preserving the summer corn harvest is a must if it is to be carried over into the fall and winter months and since there are a whole host of different varieties, the home cook can experiment to find the varieties that best fit their taste. The most famous sweet corn variety, Golden Bantam, was released in 1902 and has been a favorite of small farmers and consumers ever since. Before venturing into the preserving techniques talk to the farmer and find out what varieties they grow that are best for long term freezer storage. After that, pick up the corn from the farmer’s market, (It’s conveniently wrapped in its own protective packaging), and get ready to save the harvest. Choose corn ears that are fully encased in their husks with the silk poking out at the top. Grown organically without pesticides there will be the occasional cut worm at the tip of the cob, don’t be concerned, just cut that off and feed it to the chickens or toss it in the compost pile. The rest of the cob is still in good shape.
Preserving whole corn on the cobb is done in one of two ways. The easiest is to first shuck the cobbs, then toss them whole into freezer bags, extract excess air and freeze for several days to a few weeks. Thaw completely before cooking in boiling water for a few minutes. This process is fast, but over time the kernels can get soft and mushy.
Blanching the corn before freezing is the best way for long term storage but there are a few tips to pay attention to. Be sure that the corn is fully shucked and clean, then bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the corn to the pot of water and boil for about four minutes. Immediately drop the corn into a large bowl of ice water and let it sit for a minute or two. Drain and pat dry. The drying is important, doesn’t take much time and will prevent ice crystals from forming on the surface of the kernels. When the cobbs are ready, package into freezer bags, remove the excess air and freeze. When you are ready to cook the corn after preserving, drop the cobbs back into boiling water right from the freezer for about three or four minutes.
Both methods above can be used for corn kernels that have been removed from the cobb. Blanching time will be shorter and it is easier to save perfectly sized portions. Anyway you cut it, sweet corn is an easy, healthy and delicious way to brighten a meal.