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How to Make the Most of Sweetcorn

How to Make Make the Most of Sweetcorn

Tinned sweetcorn and frozen sweetcorn are a useful standby but they’ll never deliver anything like the pleasure of a freshly shucked cob of corn, slathered in melted butter. Sweetcorn is in season in the U.K. in August and September just as the earlier summer produce is coming to the end of its run. You can find the fresh stuff all year round, but it won’t be as sweet, juicy, and delicious as it is in season, so we encourage you to indulge when it’s at its peak. It will be out of season long before you’re sick of it, we promise you!

How to select sweetcorn

The big supermarkets tend to sell sweetcorn pre-shucked and plastic-wrapped. Again, it’s fine, but we want great and great sweetcorn is more likely to be found still in its green outer husk, in old-fashioned greengrocers and farmers’ markets.

Take a look at that husk. It should be bright green, not a pale, dull brown, or blemished.

Examine the corn silk, the fine threads protruding from the top. They should be pale and moist, slightly sticky even; if they’re dry and matted, the corn is not fresh.

Feel the weight of the whole ear of corn in your hand. It should feel quite heavy, a sign it’s full of plump juicy kernels, not starchy, tough, hollowed out kernels.

How to prepare sweetcorn

Sweetcorn starts to lose its sweetness once it’s cut, as the sugars turn rapidly to starch (much like fresh peas). Be sure to cook the corn on the day you buy it so it’s as fresh as possible. Leave the husks on until just before cooking as the protective husk keeps the kernels fresh for longer.

To cook the cob whole, remove the outer husks and any strands of silk, then tidy up the ends. If you plan to cut it into chunks, you should do so after cooking when the cob is soft.

To cook the cob in kernels, stand the cob on its end on your chopping board. Take a sharp knife, such as a small serrated knife, and cut down the length of the cob, removing the kernels in strips.

How to cook sweetcorn

The simplest way to cook sweetcorn is simply to steam or boil the whole ears or grill them in or out of their husks on the barbecue. Cooking times vary according to the freshness of the corn. Really good, fresh corn won’t need more than a few minutes; older, larger specimens might take up to ten.

You can freeze cooked corn, either on the cob or in kernels (store kernels in a freezer bag laid flat in the freezer so they don’t clump together).

Serving suggestions

The classic is corn on the cob, with lashings of butter.

Another of our favourite ways to use sweetcorn is in a salsa, with spring onions, fresh tomatoes, heaps of coriander, red chillies, and a little lemon. Serve with spicy chicken or with chilli con carne and roasted sweet potatoes.

Mexican-style sweetcorn, called elote, is all the rage on restaurant menus. It’s grilled then slathered with mayonnaise and sprinkled with chilli powder and fluffy grated cheese, and finished with a squeeze of lime juice.  

Sweetcorn also makes the most soothing, late-summer-into-early-autumn hot soup, swirled with a little cream and topped with crisp pancetta. For a dinner party, you might even want to try a more luxurious version with white crab meat.

Sweetcorn purée is an excellent accompaniment to chicken or fish (it goes particularly well with smoked haddock).

Fritters, based on a light egg batter with a little flour, make a delicious starter or light meal. Make sweetcorn the star, or mix with spring onions, grated zucchini or fresh herbs such as coriander, parsley or chives. Just add bacon, eggs, or avocado for an indulgent weekend brunch.

Kernels of sweetcorn lend texture and sweetness to cornbread. Good with soup, spicy stews, chilli, and with eggs and bacon for breakfast. Add jalapeño for a chilli kick.

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