Corn on the cob. Those four words are full of magic for most of us, redolent of summer camp, picnics and bonfires at the beach, and we here in Ontario are lucky to have an abundance of at least three delicious varieties available to us for most of the summer and fall. We’re also lucky to have incredible chardonnay producers in this province. Nothing goes better with corn on the cob than a chilled glass of crisp chardonnay.
In Ontario we grow yellow, yellow and white-sometimes known as peaches and cream- and white corn among the dozens of varieties, available from July to October, and each has their own unique flavour profiles and varying levels of sweetness.
Unlike a bag of spuds, corn is highly perishable; it doesn’t keep long due to the fact that its natural sugars start to deteriorate soon after picking. So only pick or purchase what you intend on eating within the next couple of days. The best way to store it is in a plastic bag in the fridge, still with its husk on.
If you wish to freeze it and have a ready supply of delicious Ontario corn available all winter you can freeze the whole cob after husking, or remove the kernels and freeze them. Either way you have to blanche the corn before freezing. To blanch the kernels, remove all the kernels from the cob with a chef’s knife and blanche them in boiling water for about four minutes. Note that a typical ear of corn will yield abour ¾ cup of kernels. Immerse the kernels in an ice bath to prevent them from overcooking. Individually Quick Freeze the kernels, then put them in freezer bags.
To freeze the whole cob, husk it, then boil the cob for about seven minutes. Put the cobs in an ice bath, then freezer bag them.
When it comes to cooking corn, everyone has their favourite method. A good old fashioned corn boil suits most; husk the corn and drop into boiling water, letting it cook for about 3-4 minutes for young corn and up to 7 minutes for more mature ears.
Our favourite way to cook corn is to grill it on the barbecue over some aromatic hardwood coals and applewood or hickory chips. Make sure the grill is good and hot, the hotter the better, and just lay the cobs on the grill for a couple minutes. Rotate the cob and check for doneness; the corn should be darkened and plumped, or, depending on how smoky you like it, leave it on until it just begins to char. Rotate the cob until the desired level of doneness is achieved. Corn done this way is so good it doesn’t need butter, or even seasoning. But it definitely needs a glass of chard! Often we cook a few extra cobs and remove the kernels and freeze them, for a smoky side dish, in a chowder, or used in your favourite cornbread recipe.
Every year Prince Edward County’s Rosehall Run hosts a Corn Boil and Chardonnay Tasting at the Drake Hotel, it will take place this month on the 28th and will even feature a buffet of flavoured butters sponsored by Stirling Creamery. The event is free and open to the public, check it out at 8pm. It’s a great opportunity to experience this incredible pairing and chat with winemaker Dan Sullivan about his lovely chardonnay.
With the evening temperatures just starting to cool recently, how about making up a batch of smoky corn chowder. Served with a salad and a hearty bread, what a great late summer dinner!
Smoky Corn Chowder
2 stalks of celery
1 med onion
3 slices thick smoked bacon
7-8 ears smoked corn (about 6 cups kernels)
4 cups water
2 tablespoons flour or (optional)-1 cup mashed potatoes
2 bay leaves
1 cup cream
3-4 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons chives
Dice celery and onion and chop bacon into small pieces (lardons). Sauté over medium heat until fat is rendered and veggies are soft. Remove half the bacon fat and reserve for another use. If you are not using mashed potatoes, stir in 2 tablespoons flour. Add smoked corn and stir. Add water and bay leaf and bring to simmer. At this point stir in mashed potatoes if you have not used flour as a thickener. Add 2 sprigs of thyme and simmer on med-low for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add cream.
Serve with thyme and chopped chives.