Tuesday, July 27, 2010

107. Grilled Corn on the Cob, Summer Meal

Roadside vegetable stands remind me of childhood summers in the Midwest. Those rural stands fairly bulged with fresh sweet corn with a season that began in July and stretched on until late August.
Sweet corn sales wound down just about the time the back-to-school shopping frenzy
started. As we ate our way through each tender ear of corn, thoughts about how to get the most out of the last days of summer preoccupied the minds most children. It was a short but wonderful season.

Having been raised in Iowa, which was and is definitely corn-country, my mother was quite particular about buying sweet corn. She would pick up an ear almost as if it was the enemy, quickly yank back the green husk layers and expose the top inch or so of the ear. If the kernels were not the right size or were shriveled, the ear would be thrown back on the pile with disdain. Mother would even take her fingernail and give one or two kernels the puncture test...if the kernel burst open, she knew the corn was fresh...but, if it simply oozed corn juice, we all knew the ear was old and it was promptly rejected.

Each and every ear was checked, and only those that passed inspection, were placed in our bag. Woe to the farmer who tried to pass off corn that was past-picking on my mother. If the seller was honest, though, we usually came away with two dozen ears. The cost of corn back then was a dollar for a dozen. If the vendor was in a generous mood, an extra ear was placed in the bag for free...Mother called that a 'baker's dozen'.

I can still remember that smell of the sweet corn as we gripped the full bags between out feet on the car floor when we drove away. The minute we got home, the corn was husked...usually, outdoors on sheets of spread-apart newspaper...this kept the mess and loose strands of silk from getting all over the house. If an ear of corn had a worm or two hanging on for dear life...they were quickly dispatched and the husking continued until all of the golden corn ears lay side by side.

Mother would heat up a huge pot of salted water to the boiling point and then, in went the ears. I don't remember how long she cooked them, but the kernels were usually wonderfully crisp when they came out. An occasional sneaky but unlucky green worm would float to the top of the water. We just spooned it out and tossed it aside.

For a time, plastic corn holders were things that we gamely tried to use by stabbing them into the ends of each ear. The holders, while cute, were more work than they were worth.

Regardless of whatever entrée was on our plates, fresh sweet corn took center stage and was usually consumed first. Mother mentioned from time to time that when she was growing up, her family would sometimes dine on a meal made up entirely of golden, summer corn picked from their own garden.

Today's recipe for grilled corn is a great way to enjoy a summer meal...no corn holders necessary.

Grilled Corn on the  Cob

4 ears fresh corn, unhusked
3 T butter or margarine, softened
1/4 tsp salt
1/8-1/4 tsp *Weber seasoning

*(the following website shows 15 wonderful seasonings, any of which may be used: http://www.spiceadvice.com/weber/seasonings.php

Mix butter and seasonings in a small bowl and set aside

Pull outer husks from top to base of each ear, leaving the husks attached to ear. Strip away the silk and discard. Keep a small strip of husk from each ear for tying.

Place corn in a larg bowl. Cover with cold water and soak for 30 minutes. Weight down the ears, if necessary, to keep them under the water.  Prepare grill. Remove corn from water and pat the kernels dry. Bring husks back up and secure at top with a reserved strip of husk. Tie in a knot at the top of each ear. 

Place corn on grill, cover - medium, hot. Grill 20-25 minutes or until corn is very hot...turn every 10 minutes with tongs. Some of the husk will scorch.  Remove ears from grill and carefully peel off and discard husks; brush hot ears with seasoned butter and serve immediately.
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