Knee High by the Fourth of July

Summers are for bare feet, dripping ice cream cones, sun-kissed cheeks and hair, beautiful sunsets and drive-in movies.

I digress here, let’s talk about food.

When it comes to eating, summer brings picnics, watermelon, Wisconsin brats and grilled anything. It says to me garden produce and fresh ingredients, maybe something a little spicy or crunchy, flavors at their peak. Corn, however, is the definitive vegetable of the summer.

Fresh corn is plentiful in the summer months, as early as mid-April at the grocery store and then fresh from local Door County growers and farmers markets throughout July.

We Midwesterners are lucky to be surrounded by patterned cornfields as we drive down highways and the back roads during summer months. It’s a little reaffirmation of all the good around us. I remember hearing as a child, “Corn should be knee high by the Fourth of July.”

Corn is a versatile vegetable that is loved by all. A summer BBQ is not complete without corn-on-the-cob, butter running down your chin. It is also a food that is easy to preserve and enjoy year round. It is delicious popped and gobbled in front of a movie, and incorporated into your favorite soups, side dishes and bread. Corn is a delicious accompaniment to any meal.


Preserving Corn:  “Put It Up”

Photo by Brett Kosmider.

Photo by Brett Kosmider.

When it comes to preserving the taste of summer, corn is simple. Don’t be afraid to buy a lot of corn from your local farmer and “put it up” for use in the cooler months. The process is a very straightforward, six-step endeavor; do not feel intimidated here.

What you will need

1 dozen ears of corn (the average cob provides a ½ cup of corn)

  •    Bring a stockpot of water to a gentle boil. Add one tablespoon of salt to the water.
  •    While the water is heating up, shuck the corn — remove as much of the corn silk as possible.
  •    Boil the entire cob for approximately five minutes. The goal is to blanch the corn, not cook it all the way through.
  •    Strain the corn from the water and allow to cool.
  •    Using a chef knife, remove the kernels from the cob.
  •    Spread the corn in a single layer on sheet pans and freeze for one hour or until kernels are frozen. Store in quart size freezer bags in the freezer. The corn will stay good for three to six months.


Creamy Corn Pudding

Photo by Brett Kosmider.

Photo by Brett Kosmider.

Serves 4

3 cups of fresh corn kernels cut off the cob (average cob is ½ cup of corn)

3 roasted jalapeño peppers, deseeded and diced

½ cup Vidalia onion, diced

1½ cups heavy whipping cream

1 egg

½ cup shredded white cheddar cheese

1 Tbsp smoked paprika

3 Tbsp fresh chives, diced

½ tsp salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix raw corn kernels, jalapeño, and onion in a bowl and set aside. Mix heavy whipping cream, egg, cheddar cheese, paprika, chives, salt and pepper together in a second bowl. Combine all the ingredients in one bowl. Pour into a shallow baking dish. Bake for approximately 30 minutes. Serve warm. This is a great accompaniment to BBQ chicken and pork or a fish fry.

Photo by Brett Kosmider.

Photo by Brett Kosmider.

Popped Corn the Old Fashioned Way

What you will need

  •    Stockpot with a tight-fitting lid
  •    Oil — coconut, vegetable, grape seed all work well
  •    Popcorn (I recommend purchasing popcorn in bulk from any health food store. They typically have many organic options to avoid GMO and pesticide ridden food.)
  •    1 Tbsp of oil, enough to cover the bottom of the pot
  •    ½ cup popcorn kernels, enough to cover the bottom of the pot in a single layer

How to pop

Turn on burner to medium-high heat. Place the oil and a layer of popcorn kernels in a pot. Place the lid on the pot and wait. Popping corn is a listening and waiting game; never take the lid off to visually check the corn. The kernels will begin popping slowly, and then quickly, then all at once. You know it’s done when the popping slows to notable pauses between pops. Remove from heat immediately. It will go fast once it begins to pop, so have a bowl ready to pour the popped corn into. Be ready to move quickly, the corn will burn if you stall.

Savory Popcorn Topping

½ stick of melted butter

½ tsp sea salt

1 Tbsp nutritional yeast (found in bulk sections of most health food stores)

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated

balsamic vinegar

Pop the popcorn and drizzle the butter over it. In a separate bowl mix together the sea salt, nutritional yeast, cayenne pepper and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the mixture over the popcorn, making sure it is coated thoroughly. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the bowl of popcorn, stir and enjoy!

Sweet Corn Topping

½ stick of butter

¼ cup of Sucanat (dehydrated cane sugar, available at health food stores)

½ tsp cinnamon

sprinkle of salt

Pop the popcorn. Using a sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat and add the Sucanat — stirring constantly to alleviate burning. This will create a caramel-like sauce. Mix in the cinnamon and sprinkle of salt. Pour the sweet, hot mixture over the popcorn and stir. Let it set for a moment and enjoy!

Whether you like it sweet or savory please enjoy with good company!

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