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How to cook sweetcorn

Sweetcorn is a type of maize with a naturally high sugar content. Whilst other types of maize are left longer in the fields until dried out, then harvested and ground into cornmeal (or polenta), sweetcorn is younger and therefore juicier. It comes into season in the UK in August and runs through to mid-September, but frozen or tinned sweetcorn is a perfectly good option when fresh isn’t in season. The intense sweetness of very fresh sweetcorn, however, makes it worth seeking out during the summer.

Sweetcorn is a versatile ingredient that's enjoyed across the world. The Japanese grill and glaze it in wonderful soy or miso marinades, whereas in South America the kernels are used in fresh salsas with red onion, tomato and plenty of coriander. Corn on the cob is big in the US, tossed on a barbecue and slathered in butter or used in chowders for a natural sweetness and creamy texture. Peru boasts thirty-six different varieties of maize, including the large kernelled choclo or cuzco corn, and blue corn which is used to make an aromatic and vivid purple beverage called chichi morada.

Sweetcorn is often eaten with beans, whether with black beans in a Mexican salsa, or with butter beans in the North American dish succotash. Sweetcorn contains amino acids which beans do not (and vice versa), so eating them together means you get a combination of the amino acids making a complete protein.

What to look for when buying sweetcorn

When buying fresh corn, always try and buy them still in their husks. Choose firm, bright green husks which cling tightly around the corn. Ideally you want the silk strings to be sticking out of the top to making removing the husk easier. If you can see the kernels, they should be smooth and plump; if you can see a white, milk-like liquid coating the sweetcorn, that means it's very fresh. It’s best to cook the corn when it's as fresh as possible, as the sugars begin to turn to starch once it’s been picked.

How to prepare sweetcorn

To shuck the corn, separate the silk strands sprouting from the top of the ear in half, then peel the leaves down and rip off at the bottom. Peel away any remaining silk strings and you’re ready to cook.

To remove the kernels from the cob, hold the corn tip down into a large bowl (to catch the kernels), and ideally using a small serrated knife, trim the kernels away- try not to take any of the husk with you. This is easier to do once cooked, although not essential if you don’t want to cook on the cob.

How to cook sweetcorn

Fresh sweetcorn is best cooked as soon as possible and, as with all fresh vegetables, the simplest ways are often the best. It is usually barbecued, steamed, boiled or roasted, and the kernels can be blitzed into a purée or lightly crushed when making salsas. Here's a very simple way to enjoy sweetcorn simply boiled, seasoned and slathered in butter.

Ingredients

  • 2 corn on the cob, halved
  • 4 knobs of butter
  • salt
  • pepper
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1
Place the corn into salted boiling water and cook for 5 minutes
2
Drain and immediately slather in butter
3
Season with salt and pepper and serve up warm

Alternatively, barbecue sweetcorn in their husks for about 10 minutes for a smoky finish. Sweetcorn's starchy properties make it an excellent thickener for soups and chowders. The natural sweetness also makes it a great candidate for baking into corn bread or savoury muffins, for example.

What sweetcorn goes with

Chilli, garlic and paprika complement corn's sweetness and the combination is often found in Cajun cuisine, particularly the famous crayfish broils of Louisiana. Check out a Cajun butter recipe here.

Creamed corn is another popular dish; MiMi Aye's Burmese recipe uses condensed milk for an interesting twist.

Seafood of all kinds is often paired with sweetcorn; tempura prawns are served with a sweet and creamy soup, or try these crispy crab, sweetcorn and coriander fritters with sweet chilli sauce.

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How to cook sweetcorn

 
 

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