By Joel Tracy
How to Buy Fresh Corn
The most important thing to remember when buying fresh corn on the cob is that it starts converting sweet tasting sugars to starches immediately after it is picked. So ideally you want to buy it, cook it and consume it the same day it is picked or as close to then as possible. I have read that sweet corn has an 80:20 sugar-starch ratio when harvested but within 3 days that ratio will shift to 20:80. That's the difference between really sweet-tender corn and mealy tough corn.
When buying, pick up each ear and look for ears that feel full and plumb in your hand. Take a look at the silk sticking out at the top, it should be golden pale, slightly sticky, and the more the merrier.
Even though it's sometimes messy and gets all over you when shucking, the more silk, the more kernels of corn. You also want the husks to have a good green color - not brown. Even though most stores don't appreciate your doing this, try popping one of the kernels with your thumbnail. If the juice from the kernel is milky, the fresher the corn. And don't buy corn that has been sitting out in the sun all day. The sun and heat will speed up that conversion of sugar to starch.
Look at the bottom of the ear of corn where it has been broken off at the stalk. If it has already turned brown, it most likely is at least 2 days old.
If you are not going to cook and eat your fresh corn that day, store it in the refrigerator with the husks left on. Cooling it will help slow down the sugar - starch transformation. You may also want to remove the long stem and outer most big leaves to prevent loss of moisture. Will it last more than a day? Sure it will but as the clock ticks, so does the sugar/starch ratio.
Prepping Fresh Corn - How to Shuck.
Start by peeling the husk back from the top and removing it completely. Remove all the thin hairs (silk) that run from top to bottom. If you are really fussy about those hairs, use a vegetable brush or a damp cloth. Finish up by breaking off the stalk at the bottom.
Cooking Fresh Corn on the Cob
There are many ways to cook fresh sweet corn. On top of your stove in a pot of water or steamer, on your grill, in your microwave (bad choice) and I've even tried cooking a large number of ears for a party in the dishwasher (but with wishy-washy results).
The most popular way to cook fresh sweet corn on the cob in our family is boiling it although my wife and I use different techniques to boil it and both come out great. She likes to start with a large pot of cold water, add the corn and bring to a boil. When the water comes to a rapid boil, the corn is done.
I learned as a kid to start by boiling the water first and then add the corn to it and let it cook for about 5 minutes. I don't think it matters that much. Both ways always produce delicious corn. I have read in some cookbooks to add a teaspoon of sugar to the pot of water to keep the corn tender. I don't think it will hurt, but if you are starting out with fresh sweet corn, why bother.
Don't add salt to the water. It only toughens the corn when it cooks.
Don't cool off hot corn by running under cold water. It will make the corn soggy.
Don't overcook or the kernels will get hard and the corn will loose some of its sweet flavor.
Finishing it off
I suppose you can get "gourmet" and add all sorts of fancy seasonings but I like my sweet corn simple with just butter, salt, and pepper. Sometimes simple is better.
Article courtesy of Joel Tracy. Cook the same recipes from your favorite American restaurants for friends and family and have them convinced that you've ordered in. They simply will not believe that you've learned the secret, guarded recipes from their favorite American restaurants. 750+ Recipes.