One of the oldest corn recipes I have found instructs the cook to set a large kettle of water to boil, go to the field and pick the corn, shuck the ears and boil them straight away. If by chance the cook is delayed, the corn must be abandoned (fed to the animals, perhaps) and another armload picked.

The culinary lesson is obvious -- newly picked corn should be cooked and eaten as soon as possible. From the biological standpoint, once the ears of corn have left the stalk, the sugars present begin to change over to starch, thus making for a chalkier tasting vegetable.

To slow down that process with corn purchased at the farm stand and destined for eating that evening, keep the husks on, store the corn in plastic bags in the refrigerator, then shuck just prior to cooking.

Silver queen, butter and sugar (yellow- and white-kerneled corn), sweet sue, and country gentleman are just a few of the many corn varieties available regionally during the current season, which extends into September.

When buying corn, first look at the husk: It should tightly envelope the ear firmly and moistly in overlapping layers. Papery, dry husks indicate that the corn has been lying around too long; slightly moist husks, with loose, floppy tassels of corn silk indicate a fresh ear underneath. Next, remove a narrow strip of the husk along with a patch of silk to view the kernels: They should be plump and well rounded, not decayed or the least bit wrinkled. (The milky juice that pops out of each kernel when poked with a fingernail should be neither watery nor thick.)

It's always a good idea to look at the rows of kernels and husks; those farmers and greengrocers who make it a point to sell fresh corn never seem to mind if you peek through the husks to see what's underneath.

Shucking corn is a pleasant-enough rite of summer if accomplished with a partner on the back porch, front step, or over a deep sink. Pull back the layers of husk and silk together, and snap everything off at the base. Pick off any clinging threads of silk from the corn -- some cooks like to use a soft corn brush that desilks, but I am content to use my fingers.

So far, so good, for corn on the cob. However, if you plan to try some of the recipes that follow or to freeze some corn for fall and winter enjoyment and are removing the kernels, stand the uncooked ear upright on the stem end and cut off several rows at a time with a very sharp stainless steel knife. Also, equip yourself with freezer-weight (that is, heavy) plastic bags or storage containers that close airtight. Cut off enough corn kernels to make up the yield you desire, then turn them into bags or containers, leaving 1/2-inch head space at the top. Close up the bags or cover the containers, pressing out as much air as you can. Label according to the amount and contents (I find that freezing corn in 1-cup quantities is the most useful).

To use the corn, thaw it out in the refrigerator, not at room temperature, to keep the flavor and texture intact. This dry-pack method for freezing corn retains the firmness of the kernel; the moisture that clings to the kernel, plus any of the milky juices that seep out of the kernels after cutting them from the cob, is all the liquid you need to pack the corn.

Frozen corn, thawed out, may be folded into cornbread and muffin batters, cooked in vegetable medleys, made into fritters or corn cakes, and used in vegetable soups.

The Saute' of Crab Meat With Corn is an exceptionally light summertime entree, with bits of minced scallion and chopped fresh thyme. Saute'ed red and yellow cherry tomatoes would be a tasty and colorful accompaniment to the crab dish, and they would cook in the same time it takes to prepare the crab meat.

One of the pleasures of using freshly scraped corn is rendering out the corn "milk" to use for enriching a particular dish. When I cut off the corn kernels for use in Corn Pudding, I run the dull side of a knife over the bare cobs to bring out the milky liquid; several tablespoons of it naturally enhance and build up the flavor of the pudding, which is marvelous with chicken and ham, especially smothered chicken or baked country ham.

Cornbread Flecked With Fresh Corn is a cakelike yellow cornbread dotted with corn kernels; it cious served with spicy food as it is a sensible foil for pepper-hot pan gravies and sauces. If you'd like to add a little fire to the bread itself, stir in 2 tablespoons minced pickled jalapen o peppers along with the corn kernels.

Confetti Corn and Corn Stewed With Tomatoes are two vegetable dishes that are easily put together after a trip to the local farm market. Choppings of red and green pepper, tomatoes, and green olives simmer along with fresh corn kernels in the Confetti Corn; chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic, and minced thyme season the just-scraped corn in Corn Stewed With Tomatoes. Both dishes are best with main courses that are grilled, roasted or broiled, and may be made a day in advance up to the point that the corn is added.

The Corn and Roasted Red Pepper Salad is a nifty salad to pack up for a picnic, serve as a vegetable first course (on a bed of greens), or to have as a room-temperature vegetable dish on the buffet table. It tastes slightly smoky from the grilled peppers.

One recipe that benefits from freshly scraped corn kernels is the Corn Chowder, a mellow soup made up of diced root vegetables and chopped green pepper, tinged with sweet paprika and given body with cupfuls of chicken broth plus cream and milk. It is a chowder to savor during the height of corn season, as processed corn never achieves the depth, richness or complexity that fresh corn does. Serve the chowder for lunch with homemade melba toast as a first course, or as a light supper with salad and toasted sourdough bread.

The following sampler of corn recipes will make good use of the market's bounty:


Snowy backfin crab meat (or jumbo lump crab meat) takes well to being saute'ed with kernels of corn that have been lightly steamed. This is a quick and uncomplicated way to highlight Maryland crab, and pairs two of summer's best offerings.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

6 small scallions, pale green and white parts only, minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

1 pound lump crab meat, picked over for shell and cartilage

4 ears corn, shucked, kernels cut off from cob, steamed until just tender-crisp

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

Melt the butter in a skillet over moderate heat. Add the scallions and thyme, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the scallions have wilted, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons parsley and crab meat, taking care not to break up the large clumps or "eggs" of crab. Cook for 2 minutes over moderate heat; add the corn and continue cooking for about 1 minute, or until heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the lemon juice and stir briefly.

Turn the crab meat mixture out onto a warmed serving platter or onto individual plates and sprinkle remaining minced parsley over the top(s).

CORN PUDDING (8 servings)

For me, a good corn pudding is one chock-full of corn, enriched with several eggs, and balanced out with an equal amount of whole milk and cream. When all of the ingredients are baked together, what emerges from the oven is a silken savory custard that is delicious with barbecued food, fried chicken, and the like.

4 large or extra-large eggs, at room temperature

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 cups milk

2 cups light cream

3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 cups freshly cut corn kernels, preferably from silver queen white corn

Lightly butter a 3-quart ovenproof casserole; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and butter. Beat in the milk and cream. Season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Blend in the corn kernels.

Pour and scrape the pudding mixture into the casserole. Place the dish of pudding in a larger, deep baking dish. Pour on enough warm water to rise at least one third the way up the sides of the casserole.

Carefully transfer the pudding water bath assembly to the lower third level rack of a 350-degree oven. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the pudding has set.

Carefully remove the pudding from the water bath, dry off the outer sides and serve hot.

Note: The baking time of the pudding depends on the type of baking dish you have used. For example, pudding baked in a wider 3-quart oval casserole will take less time to cook than if you were to use a deep 3-quart souffle' dish. To be sure that the pudding is done, test it by gently shaking the casserole -- a baked pudding will not be liquid but will wobble like a baked custard. A knife inserted about 1 inch away from the center will come out relatively clean with just a few particles clinging to it. In any case, do not let the pudding bake until rock-hard firm and rubbery.

CORNBREAD FLECKED WITH FRESH CORN (8 generous servings, or makes an 8-by-12-inch pan of cornbread)

This is a moist cornbread with a delicate crumb and fine texture, almost like cake. The batter is interrupted by bits of fresh corn, making the bread one of the joys of the summer season when corn is abundant and fresh.

1 1/2 cups unsifted yellow corn meal

1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 cup fresh corn kernels

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

7 tablespoons solid shortening, melted and cooled

1 1/4 cups milk, at room temperature

1/4 cup light cream, at room temperature

Lightly butter and flour the inside of an 8-by-12-inch baking pan; set aside.

Into a large mixing bowl, sift together the corn meal, flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Place the corn in a small bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of the sifted mixture.

In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk the eggs for 2 minutes, or until well combined. Beat in the melted butter and shortening. Blend in the milk and cream. Make a large well in the middle of the sifted dry ingredients and pour in all of the liquid ingredients. Stir quickly with a wooden spoon to make a smooth batter but do not overbeat. Fold through the corn kernels with a spatula.

Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake on the lower third-level rack of a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until golden on top, firm to the touch, and the sides of the break pull away slightly from the edges of the baking pan.

Cool the cornbread on a rack for 5 minutes, then cut into squares for serving. Serve warm.

CONFETTI CORN (4 servings)

This is a happy combination of produce -- corn, onion, red and green pepper, and tomatoes -- simmered communally for a brief time to develop the flavors of each. The ingredients, taken straight from the market to the pot, will merge into a delicious accompaniment to anything grilled or oven-roasted.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 onion, chopped

1 small green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into small dice

1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into small dice

2 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into small dice

2 tablespoons chopped green olives

6 ears corn, shucked, and kernels cut off from the cob

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves

2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce

Cayenne pepper to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup chicken broth

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

Place the butter in a small saucepan or casserole. Set over moderate heat and when the butter melts, stir in the onion. Cook slowly for 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Stir in the green and red pepper; stir-cook over moderate heat for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and olives; stir-cook for 2 minutes. Add the corn kernels and basil. Stir in the worcestershire sauce. Season with cayenne pepper and ground pepper. Pour in the broth and bring to the simmer. Cover and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until the corn is tender. Season with salt to taste. Fold through the minced parsley and serve piping hot.


This old-fashioned way of simmering corn pairs two garden-fresh things, and since the season for both corn and tomatoes roughly coincides, each becomes a natural enhancer for the other.

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped

8 ears of corn, shucked, kernels cut off from cobs

2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

2 teaspoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

3/4 cup tomato juice

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

Place the olive oil and butter in a small saucepan or casserole. Place over moderate heat, and when the butter melts, stir in the onion. Reduce the heat to low and cook slowly for 5 minutes.

Spear the garlic cloves separately on 2 toothpicks (this makes removal of them easier later on). Add the garlic cloves and stir in the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the corn, thyme, tomato paste and sugar. Season with pepper. Stir in the tomato juice and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the corn is tender. Remove and discard the garlic by locating the toothpicks. Season the mixture with salt to taste.

Fold through the minced parsley and serve piping hot.


Here is a salad that brings out the bright flavor of newly picked corn. The kernels get a preliminary steam-cooking in olive oil, which makes them glossy and tender. Then bits of roasted red pepper and corn are lightly bathed in lemon juice, mustard and seasonings.

2 sweet red bell peppers

12 ears of corn, shucked, and kernels cut off from cobs

1/2 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves

5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste, or several drops of liquid hot pepper sauce

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

Roast the red peppers until the skins are lightly charred on all sides, either over the hot coals of a barbecue or under a preheated hot broiler. When the peppers are charred, place them in a paper bag, close the bag and let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Take away the outer peel of the peppers; remove the cores and seeds. Cut the pepper flesh into small cubes and set aside.

Place the corn kernels, olive oil, and thyme in a saucepan or casserole. Stir. Cover tightly and cook over low heat, letting the kernels steam in the oil until cooked, about 15 minutes. Uncover and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper and cayenne (or hot pepper sauce). Add the corn and combine well. Fold through the red peppers and parsley. Adjust the seasoning, adding additional salt and pepper as necessary. Turn the salad into a dish and serve at room temperature.

CORN CHOWDER (6 servings)

Gentled by cream, this is a substantial chowder livened with saute'ed bacon and snipped chives. After you have scraped the corn kernels from the cob, run the dull side of a knife over them to extract the corn "milk" -- the delicious essence of the corn. Do this over a bowl to collect the "milk," and add it along with the kernels during the final simmering time.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup diced bacon, blanched in boiling water for 1 minute, drained and dried on paper toweling

1 onion, finely chopped

3 ribs celery, finely chopped

1 small green bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped

1 large, waxy "boiling" potato, peeled and cut into small dice

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 cups chicken broth

5 ears corn, shucked and kernels cut from the cob

1 cup light cream, warmed with 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup whipping cream

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

Place the butter in a soup kettle or casserole and set over moderate heat. When the butter melts, stir in the diced bacon and cook until lightly browned. Stir in the onion and cook low heat for 5 minutes or until translucent and softened. Stir in the celery and green pepper; cook 2 minutes. Stir in the potato, paprika and nutmeg. Season with black pepper.

Pour over the broth, bring to a rapid simmer, cover partially, and simmer for 35 minutes, or until the potato is tender.

Stir in the corn and simmer, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes or until the corn is tender. Uncover the pot and pour in the warmed cream-milk combination. Season with salt. Slowly heat the soup to very hot but do not let it boil -- this will take about 10 minutes over low heat. Fold through the parsley and chives and serve immediately.