Two-year-old Gates Griffin concentrates on shucking an ear of corn Monday at the Hitching Lot Farmers’ Market. Gates’ parents are Mitch and Leigh Griffin of Columbus. Phil Lancaster of Hamilton grew the corn. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
My memories of my Granddaddy and Grandmama West's farm in Pontotoc are few and precious. I was very young when Granddaddy died and his beloved Minnie moved back to Memphis, leaving behind the rural peace they had enjoyed together. Among my vivid childhood recollections is Granddaddy tending his garden and Grandmama making butter in a sturdy wooden churn. His corn and her butter were an outstanding combination. When I see fresh corn on the cob, it often reminds me of the Pontotoc years.
The delicious simplicity of hot corn drizzled with melted butter and seasoned with a bit of salt is hard to improve on. But it pays to venture outside the box.
A few weeks ago, I received a text from my son, who is living in North Carolina. He'd just been to a cookout. "Corn on the cob with mayo, salt and pepper. Try it! It will change your life." While life-changing powers remain to be proven, the idea of shaking things up from time to time appeals. To that end, Alison Ladman, recipe developer and tester for the Associated Press, has come up with 10 creative flavorings to knock corn out of the ballpark.
Blue cheese chive butter - Mash together 4 tablespoons of softened butter with 4 tablespoons of crumbled blue cheese. Stir in 2 tablespoons of finely chopped chives and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Spread on hot corn on the cob.
Old Bay boil - Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season heavily with Old Bay Seasoning. Boil husked ears of corn until tender, about 5 minutes. Serve with butter and an additional sprinkle of Old Bay.
Spreadable bacon - Cook 1 slice of bacon per ear of corn. In a food processor, crumble the bacon and process until finely chopped. Add 1 tablespoon of butter per ear, a pinch of salt and black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar. Spread on hot corn on the cob.
Herb vinaigrette - In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, a hefty pinch of salt and black pepper, 3 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme. Drizzle over the corn.
Toasted almond and tarragon - Spread 1/2 cup ground almonds on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 350 F until golden and toasted, about 8 minutes. Allow to cool. Mix in 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Coat each hot ear of corn with butter, then roll in the almond-tarragon mixture.
Toasted marshmallow - Husk six ears of corn, skewer with long skewers, and coat lightly with cooking spray. Grill over medium-high until tender and lightly charred, turning frequently. Spread each ear of corn with a couple tablespoons of marshmallow spread (Fluff). Turn the grill flame up (or use a campfire) and toast the marshmallow on all sides.
Smoked feta and pepper - Finely crumble 1/2 cup smoked feta cheese. Mix in 2 tablespoons finely chopped pickled jalapeno peppers. Coat each hot ear of corn with butter, then roll in the cheese and pepper mixture.
Jerk grilled - Whisk together 1 tablespoon water and 2 tablespoons molasses. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat four ears of corn with the molasses mixture. Sprinkle all over with purchased or homemade jerk seasoning. Grill over indirect heat on well-oiled grates until tender.
Chili lime - Spread cooked ears of corn on a platter. Sprinkle with fresh lime juice, finely grated lime zest, ground cumin, minced serrano chili and salt.
Saffron and olive cream - Mix 2 tablespoons minced Kalamata olives, 2 tablespoons minced green olives, a pinch of saffron and a pinch of black pepper into 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese. Spread over hot corn on the cob.
As mouth-watering as Ladman's flavorings sound, she also reminds us that corn doesn't have to be cooked to be good.
"Raw corn eaten right off the cob is easily one of the freshest, sweetest ways to capture the taste of summer," she said. "And adding raw corn kernels is an easy way to push just about any salad over the top."
The best way to cut kernels from an ear of corn - cooked or otherwise - is to stand each ear on its wide end on a cutting board, Ladman said. Then use a serrated to knife to saw down the side of the cob, cutting just deep enough to slice off the kernels. Rotate the cob and saw down again, repeating until all of the kernels are removed.
However you prefer your corn, take advantage of the fresh ears coming in to farmers' markets now. Try out some of Ladman's suggestions for variety. You don't even have to churn your own butter.