Monday, September 2, 2013

I've been grilling corn wrong my whole life

Now I know better

How to grill summer's sweetness perfectly every time

Instructions below
Corn grilled correctly,
the Szalay's way

Have you been to Szalay's Farm Market? It's worth a little drive down to the Cuyahoga Valley, especially now that much of the local produce is at peak. We sampled tasty cantaloup and sweet honeydew and noticed racks and racks of ripe red raspberries, freshly picked strawberries, delicious concord grapes, tree-ripened peaches and much more. An outdoor family-friendly market has live music, comfortable outdoor seating, fresh lemonade and ice cream. And roasted sweet corn.

This is about their good, delicious corn* and how they make it the best tasting in the state. Well, in the Valley anyway.

I wanted to know their secret. I asked. Now I have the answer. The method is easier than any grilling method I've used, and it's the best tasting by far. It comes down to a couple extra things that make all the difference. Read more or skip to the bottom for step by step instructions. 

Szalay's Farm Market
Each Saturday and Sunday, hundreds of visitors line up for these roasted ears. Szalay's must sell several thousand more ears of corn -- un-roasted -- every day.

Two times in the last 10 days, Sophie and I popped over to Szalay's for a taste of that corn and a chance to catch our bearings after a couple of 8-mile hikes along the Buckeye and Towpath trails in the CVNP, one loop north one week and the other loop south the following week (yesterday) both hikes starting at the Boston Store Visitor Center trailhead in Peninsula.

Start: Just cut the top
of each ear. Following
steps below
At Szalay's, a few miles south of the Boston Store, they serve the corn with the inner husk pulled back, after the corn has been roasted in the husk -- but just the inner husk. That inner husk serves as a handle to hold the ear, the cob's juicy rows of perfectly cooked kernels requiring no salt or butter to please the palate. No doubt our long hikes played into our taste receptors being easily impressed and gratified, but for both weeks I couldn't remember a better tasting corn eating experience in my life.

Now that I had the answer from the generous fellow behind the corn counter, I wanted everyone to know about this great place and, especially, this great grilling discovery. (I thought myself not unlike the guy I had recently read about**, the wartime lieutenant who had "discovered" sweet yellow corn in an Indian field in the 1770s. I want to be that guy.)

Today, Labor Day, I tried it on the grill at CadMur Manor, and the corn turned out wonderfully.

The secret is out.***

Try it, and pass it along. It's so easy. (Notes on GMO and the "discovery" of yellow sweet corn follow.)

Here's how:

Grill on high

Repeat: (cut tops)

Peel back just the outer
layer (dark green) husk

On the grill

Lid down

Check time

Wait 5 minutes

Lift lid and give a 1/4 turn,
close lid, repeat:
5 minutes x 4 sides = 20 minutes

After 20 minutes @ 5 minutes per
side, remove from grill, peel back
remaining husk
Ready to eat
* I didn't ask anyone at Szalay's about their corn and GMO, because I knew I wasn't likely to get the answer I wanted. Also, GMO or no GMO, corn, like a lot of foods, has its problems and its detractors, which admittedly I'm choosing to willfully ignore for the moment. Ninety percent  of corn planted and harvested today is genetically modified to both ward off pests and to be "Roundup ready," the latter of which allows farmers to spray the branded herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) over and along planted rows of GMO corn to kill any non-corn plant or weed, including milkweed, while seemingly the corn is not affected. The wondrous monarch butterfly, about which I've written here, lays its eggs under milkweed leaves and depends on the plant exclusively for food in its larval stage. The monarch population has been decimated in recent years in large part due to the destruction of its habitat at the hands of glyphosate. As a guy who has received certification for a backyard habitat for practices including the propagation of milkweed specifically for the benefit of monarchs, this is tough to reconcile: a delicious ear of corn in one hand along with the knowledge of what damage it takes to get that corn.

** I recently learned the story (brought to light last month in a New York Times article on how humans have inadvertently been breeding the nutrition out of our food for eons) about the of the Revolutionary War lieutenant, Richard Bagnal, who, during a battle with the Iroquois nation, was perhaps the first Westerner to come across a field of unusually sweet yellow corn. Bagnal was said to have been so taken with its preferred qualities that he harvested seeds and distributed them to friends and family back home thereby popularizing the variety. 

*** To be sure, the secret is new to me. No doubt it's common knowledge to a fair number of folks. But, I'm confident few of my city slicker friends know about it yet. 


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