Pardon us, but might we have a little summer stuck in our teeth?
OK, yes, we could potentially chomp into a hot, buttered corncob in the dead of December, and there's also nothing stopping us from window-shopping on Fifth Avenue with steaming cocoa and a wool scarf in mid-July. Possible, sure, but just not the same when it's not the proper season.
Fresh, sweet, plump kernels reach their peak right around now and need very little preparation to taste just perfect. All it takes is a pot of boiling water or an open flame and a few patient moments to transform it into one of summer's greatest treats. (Though most people don't opt to gnaw on ripe, raw cobs, it's surprisingly delightful to do so.)
But our food editor, Andy Baraghani, likes to put a little more fuss into celebrating corn's brief season, approaching it two different ways in a single dish: a chilled corn soup studded with pickled corn relish (see the recipe) that highlights its sweetness, texture and versatility. The pickle, made from raw kernels spiked with white wine vinegar, jalapeño slices, shallots and a whisper of garlic, throws a sharp, crunchy note into a silken, refreshingly cold soup that amps the corn flavor up to 11 with a cob stock and a kernel purée.
And to get the most out of your produce (and extend the season a smidge), Andy has a few tips:
Pick it. Look for ears of corn that are still in their husks and have been just picked. You'll be able to tell by checking the bottom of the ear of the corn where it has been broken off. It should be milky and pale. If it's brown and dry, then it is more than a few days old already. The husks should be green and not too dry, and the corn silk should be slightly moist.
Use it. As soon as a corn has been picked, its sugars convert to starch—which means you should buy only as much corn as you need that day. Do not remove the husks until you are ready to cook the corn. To remove the silk, use a kitchen or paper towel.
Preserve it. If you buy extra, boil the corncobs for 4 to 6 minutes depending on their size. Drain and cool them immediately, then cut and dry the kernels and place them in a resealable plastic bag, taking care to remove as much air as possible. Store them in your freezer and make sure they're thawed out before using.