I wore a coat for the first time this week and wasn’t too happy about it. Fall is definitely in the air and though it is my favorite time of the year, I’m not quite ready give up summer. It’s inevitable, I know, but I’ll stretch it out as long as I can. Mostly, I don’t feel that I had my fill of sweet corn yet so I’ve done a few things to help that – I froze a ton of it. I also made some soup, pure essence of corn flavor that is like sunshine in a cup. It might be getting chilly but I’m going to be in full denial for quite some time.
On my way to Wisconsin over the holiday weekend, some friends and I saw just the kind of thing that makes me smile. A hand painted sign with an arrow “Sweet Corn!” In front of a farm was a table, a cash honor box and big tubs full of corn that couldn’t have been more than a few hours old. Two dozen freshly picked ears for 10 bucks. Deal! While bagging up our ears, my eyes kept drifting off to the side where there were large feed bags of corn leaning against a tree and a sign that read “Freezer Special: 3 dozen – $12.” It took every ounce of self control not to fling a bag in the back of the truck.
Two dozen ears, 10 people, 3 days. Sounded good but then the folks showed up with another two dozen ears of the same corn. Great minds think alike. We ate a lot of it but come Monday, there were leftovers. I volunteered to take them home, of course, still thinking about that freezer special. Luckily, I was asleep when we passed that sign on the way home or I probably would have made my friends pull over. All the same, I had a bag with 18 ears. What should I do with them? In a great twist of fate, my pal Caroline over at Whipped did a post about freezing the excess so that’s exactly what I did. Extend that season, friends.
So I created a giant mess in my kitchen with corn husks, silk and stray kernels everywhere. 18 ears is a lot to deal with. I cut the kernels from the cobs, spread single layers on a sheet pan, froze until solid then transferred to heavy-duty Ziploc bags. I’m set for the winter with sweet corn anytime I like. I love knowing that nestled in my freezer are these little nuggets, safe among bags of frozen sour cherries and packets of blueberries when the urge hits to whip up a chowder, a batch or cornbread or just a big bowl with butter and pepper.
But first, I made some soup. I’ve been on a soup kick lately. It’s easy, the flavors are so pure, it’s cheap and depending on how you do it, low cal. In building the soup base, I have a nifty little trick. Simmer the cobs in water to extract every last little bit of flavor – it works great and creates a beautiful base for the soup. Normally, those cobs go right in the trash but there’s some good flavor in there – as long as the corn is fresh and sweet. If you’ve got old, starchy corn don’t bother.
The one thing to keep in mind is when you cut the kernels from the cob, don’t cut too closely to the cob. There are tough little bits on that cob that will add a tough and slightly unpleasant texture to your soup. You want just the tender flavorful nibs of the corn. If you really want to get every last bit of flavor, scrape the cobs with the back of a knife after you cut off the kernels. This soup is extremely versatile – add some bacon or onion, leave it chunky, strain it smooth. I took some of the leftovers, heated it with a little milk and diced potatoes and had a lovely corn chowder. Think of it as a blank canvas – good on it’s own and a great base for other flavors. If you still have corn in your area, and it’s likely the very tail end, I say go for it.
I’ve been reading a lot about shishito peppers lately and found them last week at the farmers market. Apparently, they’re all the rage and are best simply toasted in a really hot cast iron skillet and sprinkled with salt. So that’s what I did – and they were delicious. I chopped up a few and added them to the top of my cold corn soup. Nice touch.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: SMILE INDUCING. Like I said above, sunshine in a cup. I really like that I have a base that can be made into other things as well. Now that I’ve got a freezer full of frozen kernels, it makes me happy knowing I can make this a few times over the winter too. Stocking up invokes that pioneer spirit that is embedded somewhere deep in me. Soups, chowders, cornbreads, arepas. I’m good to go.
SWEET CORN SOUP
Makes 1 quart, serves 2-4
3 cups vegetable stock
3 cups water
4 ears fresh sweet corn on cob
½ medium onion diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
- With a serrated knife cut the kernels from the cob, and set aside; you should have about 4 cups kernels
- Cut the cobs in half and place in a saucepan with the vegetable stock and water.
- Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, sauté the onion over medium-high until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Remove the cobs from the hot stock and discard.
- Add the garlic, onion, corn kernels, salt and pepper to the hot stock, bring back to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer.
- Simmer for 30 minutes until the corn is tender.
- With an immersion blender or in batches in a food processor or regular blender, puree the mixture until smooth.
- Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper if needed.
- Eat hot, room temperature or chill completely.