If you sell it, they will come
Knee high by the Fourth of July has always been a rule of thumb for corn growers and eaters a like, hungry eyes would scan the corn fields to check on how the corn was doing. August would find Mr. Becker, a local farmer (back when there used to be local farmers), and his old black Ford Pickup sitting on a corner in Butler, WI waiting for folks seeking sweet corn to come by. He gave a dozen for a buck, but it was a Farmer's dozen as he always tossed 13 in the bag. Then it was on home for a shuck fest peeling back the green sheathes are revealing the sweet pearly kernels beneath.
Looks worse than it is
Then there was the state fair where the Kiwanis Club had massive grills going, their only thing coming off those grills was roasted corn. The husks were burned black and looked awful, but once the singed shucks were peeled away a perfectly caramelized ear. Beat the hell out of boiled ears that never reached their potential deliciousness by being kissed by fire. The sugars held by the kernels are the key to corn success, but the time the sugars have is fleeting.
Extra starch with that?
Mr. Becker's corn was so good because it was fresh out of the field, just picked with the sugar still at its peak. Once picked from the stalk the lovely sugars in the kernels rapidly begin converting to starch, which can be delayed by refrigeration – only put off, not stopped. Best thing is to find a farmer's market, or a super market with a high turnover to ensure the corn is relatively fresh. As a last ditch effort to increase the sweet in the sweet corn, adding some sugar to the soaking water can help.
A good soaking
Take a large pot or if largely potless, a clean sink, place the ears (still in the husk) in whichever vessel and fill with water to cover the corn. Add some sugar (or simple syrup) to the water as mentioned above to boost the sugary goodness. Soak it about an hour before tossing the corn on the grill. Make sure the ears are over the hot coals and don't forget to turn them from time to time – never fear the husk turning black as coal, that only means the kernels are caramelizing.
Now it is time to disrobe the corn. The silk (the little fibrous things that stick in your teeth) should have pretty much burned off and the shucks should be charred to the point were they crumble away – the ears will be extraordinarily hot so handle them carefully. The green stalk at the bottom of the ear should snap right off, but if not there's no shame in using a knife to separate the edible from the inedible. All that is left to slather on the butter – yes, butter! Corn and butter were made for each other and what a pair they make, using margarine on fresh corn should be a class II felony.
All that's left is to bask in the sunny glow of a well done ear of corn and bite into the honeyed goodness that screams summer time. Fortunately with the global market one doesn't have to wait for Mr. Becker to shine around in August, corn on the cob is available year 'round. Unfortunately the stuff that has made the long haul from Chile isn't going to have the same sugary taste as the ears from the farm down the road – the imported corn is simply a faint echo of a summer long gone.
Places nearby to buy corn:
Note: Give Wal-Mart's corn a pass, the last two batches purchased there were pretty well riddled with worms.
Sprouts Farmer's Market
13759 W. Bell Rd.
Surprise, AZ 85374
13828 W. Waddell Rd.
Surprise, AZ 85379
13982 W Waddell Rd
Surprise, AZ 85379
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