Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s intimate cookbook the Gift of Southern Cooking points out how many names the South has for corn. For example, the term “green corn” is used to indicate corn is fresh off cob – as in not dried, hominy or grits. The North is not as corn-centric as the South, but I remember well the gift of corn for dinner nights when a farmer in our upstate New York town would drop off fresh picked summer corn on his way home from the fields.
I also loved winter nights when canned cream corn was a dinner side dish. In college and beyond, I heated up the same familiar can for comfort. When I want to reminisce about the pleasure canned corn brought me way back when, I don’t open a tinny, sugary can with a verdant big man on it. I make Summer Sweet Creamed Corn and savor the taste of sweet corn radiating from every bite.
The recipe for Summer Sweet Creamed Corn is fairly straightforward, but there are are some crucial tips for making this creamless creamy wonder shine. They include:
- Making sure to get all the corn off the cob, including the creamy corn “milk”. My trusty Oxo corn peeler makes it easier to get the kernels off the cob before I need to rub the back of a knife along the cob to get the remaining milky parts of the corn.
- Pureeing and cooking half the corn and adding the rest of the kernels near the end of cooking. This extra effort ensures a lusciously creamy texture and retains the fresh corn flavor. In Tom Colicchio’s Craft cookbook the pureed corn is cooked in a double boiler, but this step doesn’t seem worth the extra pans for a home cook.
- Cooking the corn as little as possible for flavor. Ideally, fresh corn is cooked for less than 5 minutes. More and it kind of defeats the purpose of using fresh corn.
- AND most importantly, I try finding the freshest corn possible. At my local farmers market I have to take a deep breath and just pay the $1 per ear for the true green corn experience. It’s always worth it!
One notable exception to my regionally fresh corn rule is when Olathe Sweet corn from the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains is in season. When I lived in Denver years ago I distinctly remember the yearly hoopla around this regional favorite.
At my local Atlanta supermarket, I’m able to still get in-season Olathe corn. When I asked a produce guy about why Olathe corn is so consistently sweet, he explained that it’s fresher than even the locally shipped corn because of the great care given to transporting it in top condition. After harvesting, Olathe corn is apparently put on crushed ice and sent to coolers before being shipped to supermarkets within the day. Quick cooling retains the high sugar content by stopping the sugar to starch process corn goes through once picked.
Whether made with local or Olathe sweet corn, each ingredient in the Summer Sweet Creamed Corn recipe exists only to highlight the just picked sweet corn flavor. Georgia sweet Vidalia onions and sweet unsalted butter only add to the sweet theme.
Summer Sweet Creamed Corn
4 Tbs sweet unsalted butter
3 cups fresh corn off the cob (see directions below for removing kernels)
1 cup diced Vidalia onion, or other sweet onion
1/8 cup dry white wine (I use sauvignon blanc)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp sugar
pinch red pepper flakes
3 Tbs milk
1 Tbs chopped chives
- Remove corn from cob with corn peeler or by running a sharp knife downward along the ear. Once the kernels are off, use the back of the knife to get the corn milk off the cob. Do this over a large bowl, a bundt pan, or a cutting board with a groove in it to catch the liquid. You don’t want to lose any precious corn milk!
- In food processor puree 1 ½ cups corn.
- Melt 3 Tbs butter over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes
- Add white wine and reduce by half.
- Add the pureed corn, salt, pepper, sugar and red pepper flakes to onions and cook until thickened slightly, about 3-4 minutes
- Add corn kernels and milk and cook 2-3 more minutes just to meld the flavors.
- Mix in chopped chives, swirl in remaining 1 Tablespoon of butter, serve, and enjoy!