Corn is one of nature's gifts, wrapped and ready to enjoy. I love peeling back the tasselled husks to discover rows of golden yellow and white pearl-like kernels that prove to be every bit as sweet, tender and succulent as they look.
Writing about these tasty morsels reminds me of one of my trips to Hungary, where corn is a staple food and the picturesque countryside is dappled with shades of gold given off by fields of maize, sunflowers and wheat. After taking a car ferry from Tihany to Szantod one summer afternoon, we stopped for a picnic and dip at Lake Balaton — the country’s most popular tourist attraction and the biggest lake in central and western Europe.
Dressed in swimmers and towels, we were munching on wedges of melon when a man rode up on a bicycle not unlike a remnant from the second World War. A plastic basket lined with foil and teatowels was firmly strapped to the old bike, and the vessel was filled with freshly cooked cobs of corn! Though sufficiently full from the lush watermelon, we found the corn irresistible — and ate with real gusto, to the delight of the gypsy pedlar (and peddler).
Young corn in cream is a popular Hungarian dish — though, I dare say, the recipe is too rich for my tastes. According to George Lang in The Cuisine of Hungary (Penguin), corn in cream usually served as a vegetable accompaniment for fried chicken.
One of the simplest and most delicious ways to prepare young corn is to remove and discard the husks and silks, trim the stem ends and simmer the cobs for 8-10 minutes in a saucepan of water. To barbecue corn, peel back the husk then remove the silk. Wrap the corn in its husks, secure with string and soak in cold water for a minute. Place corn onto a medium-heat barbecue grill. Cook for 6-10 minutes, turning occasionally, until the kernels are tender.
Use fresh kernels in salsa and fritters. To remove kernels from cob simply hold the husked and desilked cob upright with tip pointing down, then slice downwards cutting as close to the corn as possible.
Corn is available all year round with peak supplies from November to February. Choose fresh-looking ears with bright green, tightly-fitting husks free of decay. The kernels should be plump and milky. And it's best to avoid the ones with dry-looking or shrivelled kernels.