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Salute The Kernel

Salute the kernel

This is a perfect time to enjoy delicious Nebraska-grown sweet corn.

It’s not only tasty, but nutritious. Did you know that corn is a great source of fiber, potassium, folate and vitamin A? Not only that, an ear of corn only contains about 80 calories.

What is the best way to cook sweet corn? It can be grilled, roasted, cooked in boiling water on the stovetop or even microwaved.

When eating just buttered corn-on-the-cob, I remove the husks, wrap the ear in waxed paper and microwaved for just a couple of minutes. Don’t do this with more than three or four ears at a time. The more ears, the longer it will take. Another microwave method involves placing two or three husked ears in a dish with a little water and cook on HIGH; 2 minutes for one ear, five minutes for two ears.

If you have more than that, perhaps the stovetop is best.

If you prefer to boil or steam your corn remember this: Salt toughens the vegetable so do not add it to the water. And if you’re boiling the corn, bring the water to the right temperature before you add the cob, again so the kernels don’t toughen.

To grill your corn, here are some tips from Lee Svitak Dean, former food editor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Unhusked corn. This is truly as easy as you can get. Toss an ear of corn, still enrobed in its husk, directly onto the grill for about 10 to 15 minutes, turning it occasionally. If there’s a cover to your grill, use it.

If you’re cooking over a campfire, toss the corn in the embers to cook. The husk, in effect, steams the corn, and also provides a hint of flavor.

Partially husked corn. This is a little fussier method. Start out grilling with the corn in the husk for 5 to 10 minutes. Then pull back the husk and silks, and baste the corn with melted butter (flavored or not). Either fold back the husks before you return the ear to the grill, or leave the kernels exposed to the heat for a few more minutes.

Husked corn. Remove the husk and silks and place the stripped-down ear directly on the grill, with or without basting it with melted butter. Cook the corn until it’s lightly browned — how long will depend on the cook and the intensity of the coals. The kernels aren’t quite as tender as with other methods, but will have a bit of a smoky flavor.

Dean also offers tips for seasoning your corn.

“Perfect as corn is, many of us reach for butter to gild this lily of a treat,” she said. “Flavored butters are one of those quick tricks of the kitchen. Simply soften butter and add the flavorings. Then either smooth the mixture into a container or roll it into a log and wrap it in plastic wrap until it’s time for guests to cut off slices for their corn. Either way, store it in the refrigerator.”

Some flavor options: To 2 sticks of butter, add either 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1 teaspoon minced garlic or 1 teaspoon minced chives or sea salt to taste.

What is the best way to store and preserve sweet corn?

“Corn is best if cooked and eaten within a few hours of picking, so try not to store it long if possible,” says Cami Wells with UNL Extension in Hall County. “If you do have to store corn, leave it in the husk until you are ready to cook it. Storing corn in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper of your refrigerator is best.”

What is the correct way to freeze corn? First, Wells says, shuck the corn by pulling the husks down the ear and snapping off the stem at the base. Under cold running water, rub the ear in a circular motion to remove the silk, or use a vegetable brush.

-- For corn on the cob: Water blanch small ears 7 minutes, medium ears 9 minutes, and large ears 11 minutes. Cool promptly and completely to prevent a “cobby” taste. Drain and seal in a freezer-weight storage bag. Freeze.

-- For whole kernel corn: Water blanch 4 minutes. Cool promptly, drain and cut from cob. Cut kernels from the cob about 2/3 the depth of the kernels. Package and seal in a freezer-weight storage bag leaving a half inch headspace. Freeze.

-- For cream-style corn: Water blanch 4 minutes. Cool promptly and drain. Cut kernel tips and scrape the cob with the back of a knife to remove the juice and the heart of the kernel. Package and seal in a freezer-weight storage bag, leaving a one-half inch headspace. Freeze.

Does it always have to be blanched? Wells says research has shown that unblanched sweet corn can be held in frozen storage for up to eight months without significant loss of flavor quality. Beyond eight months of frozen storage, however, the blanched corn was preferred by a taste panel. The storage life of sweet corn is going to vary depending on the variety used and growing conditions for a particular year.

How do I can corn? Corn can be canned as whole kernel or cream style but must be processed in a pressure canner due to its low acid content. When canning you must follow tested recipes for a safe product such as the recipes found at

More tips

Dig out your tube pan or Bundt pan when you cut the kernels off the cob; stand the cob upright in the center hole, and the kernels will fall into the pan as you cut.

And finally, from food writer Daniel Neman:

“You love corn, right? Everybody loves corn. But removing the husk, and especially the silk, can kind of be a hassle. Don’t worry. I have a solution.

“Just cook your corn — still in the husk — in the microwave for four minutes. When it’s done, cut off the stem and an inch or two of the ear from the stem side. Then grab the stem-end of the ear with a towel (it will be hot) and pull the husk off the other end. All of the silk will come off with the husk. The rest of the corn will be perfectly cooked and ready for butter.”

Corn on the Cob with chili Lime Butter

4 tablespoons salted, light margarine

1 teaspoon grated lime peel

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon chili seasoning

4 ears of fresh corn, husked and silks removed

Combine margarine with lime peel, juice and chili seasoning. Mix until all the juice has been incorporated into the margarine. Cover and allow to stand for at least 30 minutes.

Place corn in a covered microwavable dish with 2 to 3 tablespoons of water and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until done. Brush hot corn with chili lime butter and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from: Cami Wells

Elotes are known in this country as Mexican Street Corn. It is said to be typically sold in Mexico by street vendors, but it is gaining popularity here as well.

“You begin with corn cooked on a grill or a grill pan,” says food writer Daniel Neman. “It creates a deeper, richer flavor of corn. You brush it with butter while it cooks and slather it with either mayonnaise or crema (a Mexican sour cream) mixed with lime juice. Add cotija cheese or feta and sprinkle it with powdered hot chile pepper. It’s an unforgettable way to bring out the best in corn.”

Mexican Street Corn (Elotes)

6 ears of corn

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup mayonnaise

3 wedges lime

1/3 cup feta cheese or cotija

1 tablespoon powdered hot pepper, such as cayenne pepper or chile de arbol

If grilling corn in the husk: Soak corn in cold water for at least 15 minutes; use a weight such as a plate to keep them fully submerged. Place corn on grate over a medium-hot fire (or grill pan) and cook, turning frequently, until the husks are blackened.

When cool enough to touch, remove the husks and silk, and place the corn back on the grate. Turn frequently until browned on all sides, basting occasionally with the melted butter.

If grilling corn out of the husk: Microwave corn for 2 minutes. Place on grate over a medium-hot fire (or grill pan) and cook, turning frequently, until browned on all sides, basting occasionally with the melted butter.

While the corn is cooking, mix together the mayonnaise and the juice of the limes. Slather this mixture over the cooked corn, and sprinkle with cheese and powdered hot pepper to taste.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe from: Daniel Neman


In this recipe, the corn is grilled both in the husk and out of the husk, then the kernels are sliced off the cobs and made into a tasty salad.

Grilled Mexican Street Corn Salad

Start to finish: 45 minutes

6 large ears of corn (3 with husks and silks removed, all 6 soaked in water for 10 minutes)

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 tablespoons sweet butter, melted

1/2 cup (slightly heaped) Hellmann’s mayonnaise

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus sprigs to serve

Zest and juice of 1 lime

2 cloves garlic, finely grated

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder

Maldon or other flaked sea salt

1/2 cup queso anejo

1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese (or a grated Italian cheese blend), plus extra to garnish

6 slices apple wood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled

Ground black pepper

Heat the grill for medium-high direct heat cooking.

Remove the corn from the water and pat dry. Brush the 3 ears of husked corn on all sides with the olive oil. Leave the other ears of corn in their husks.

Place all of the corn on the cooking grate. Grill, turning occasionally, until the husked corn is well-browned and charred in places, about 10 minutes. The other ears of corn will steam in their husks, but the husks themselves will be dried out and charred in places.

Remove all of the corn from the grill and set aside until cool and easily handled, about 5 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, remove the husks and silk from the 3 ears that were grilled with them on.

One at a time, stand each ear on its wide end and use a serrated knife to saw down the length of the cob to remove the kernels. Discard the cobs, then transfer the kernels to a large bowl. Mix in the melted butter, then set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, cilantro, lime zest and juice, garlic, chili powder and a pinch of salt. Stir in both cheeses and most of the bacon, reserving a little for garnish. Add the dressing to the buttered corn kernels and mix well. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with grated cheese, cilantro and the reserved bacon. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from: Elizabeth Karmel

Here’s another take on “street corn” salad. With this Indian-inspired dish, the corn is first roasted and charred in a pan. The kernels are then tossed in a highly flavored dressing that mixes a blend of traditional spices (cumin, cardamom and garam masala) with heat from cayenne pepper and the cooling citrus bite of fresh-squeezed lime juice.

“It’s kind of an astonishing array of tastes,” says food writer Daniel Neman, but it works because they all share a flavorful kinship to the corn.

Indian Street Corn Salad

3 large ears corn

Olive oil

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon or less cayenne pepper

Big pinch ground cardamom

Big pinch chaat masala or garam masala

Salt and pepper

1 cup halved cherry or sugarplum tomatoes

1 or 2 sprigs fresh mint, leaves thinly sliced

Small handful fresh cilantro, leaves rustically ripped into bite-size pieces

Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and heat until just beginning to smoke. Rub the corn with olive oil and carefully place in the pan. Cook until charred in patches all the way around and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Remove and let cool.

For the dressing: Meanwhile, whisk together the lime juice, cumin, cayenne, cardamom, chaat or garam masala, salt and pepper to taste. Slice the kernels off the cobs and place in a large bowl. Add the tomatoes, mint and cilantro. Toss with the dressing, taste for seasoning and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from: Aarti Sequeira, via Food Network

Based on an iconic side dish that’s one of the most popular dishes at Jack Stack barbecue in Kansas City, Missouri, it’s as hearty as it is decadent because of the addition of two kinds of pork and two different cheeses.

Called cheesy corn, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a city that’s known for serving up some of the nation’s best barbecue — a creamy, crowd-pleasing side that’s a marriage of two summer faves, mac ‘n cheese and fresh corn.

Bacon and diced ham make it even more substantial while adding a slightly smoky finish. You will want to eat more than you should and make it again and again.

Kansas City Cheesy Corn

2 slices bacon

3 cups corn kernels cut from cobs (from 4 or 5 ears)

4-ounce ham steak, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup whole milk

8 ounces cream cheese

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste

6 ounces yellow cheddar cheese, shredded (1-1/2 cups), divided

Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler.

Cook bacon in large saucepan over medium heart until crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. Add corn, ham, milk, cream cheese, garlic, salt, pepper and cayenne to saucepan, breaking up cream cheese with rubber spatula.

Cook, stirring occasionally until cream cheese is melted and mixture just begins to bubble at edges of saucepan, 8 to 10 minutes. (It will be liquid-y.)

Turn off heat, stir in 1 cup cheddar until melted, about 30 seconds. Transfer corn mixture to 1-1/2-quart broiler-safe baking dish and top with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar. Broil until cheese is spotty brown, about 3 minutes.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Recipe from: Cook’s Country, via Gretchen McKay

This is an old-timey corn relish, the kid-friendly kind you put on sandwiches and hot dogs. It’s also good as a piquant side to any summer supper. You’ll have enough for yourself and some to share. Instead of finely chopping the vegetables by hand, you can do so in a food processor or blender, in batches.

Grilled Corn Relish

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

5 ears of corn, shucked

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 green pepper, stemmed, seeded, finely chopped

1/4 head cabbage, finely chopped

1 cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons each: salt, flour

1/2 teaspoon each: dry mustard powder, celery seed, mustard seed

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 cup sugar

Grill or broil the ears, turning frequently, until the kernels have begun to char, 10-12 minutes. Cut kernels from cobs. Set corn aside, discarding cobs.

Place corn and chopped vegetables in a large pot. Pour 1/2 cup vinegar over vegetables. Moisten salt, flour, mustard powder, celery seed, mustard seed and turmeric with remaining 1/2 cup vinegar; stir to combine. Stir into vegetable mixture, along with the sugar.

Over medium-high heat, bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat to a gentle boil and cook, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Allow to cool before storing in the fridge in covered containers.

This relish will keep up to six weeks in the refrigerator. For longer storage, follow canning instructions below.

Ladle corn relish into clean, hot 8-ounce jars. Wipe rims. Apply lids. Process in boiling-water bath for 15 minutes, beginning timing when water in canner returns to a full rolling boil. Remove canner lid. Let stand 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

Makes four 8-ounce jars, or about 4-1/2 cups.

Recipe from: Robin Mather, Chicago Tribune

Terri Hahn of Osceola has worked in food media for more than 30 years and has won numerous state and national awards for her writing.


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