Oh, how patient we’ve been through this rainy spring and slow start to summer but, finally, the sweet corn is in! Night after night, it’s platters of salt-kissed, golden ears of fresh, plump, corn with melting butter. The sweet kernels take center plate as “best farm stand” and “grill or boil” dominate the dinner conversations.
Right now, though, I’m faced with a yearly seasonal dilemma. Too much corn! Try as I might, I can’t resist buying two dozen ears when one or less will certainly do.
Marie Porter comes to the rescue with her new book, “Sweet Corn Spectacular” (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 129 pages, $16.95). Loaded with tips, her 75 corn-focused recipes are a guide to the bounty.
While some folks are chocolate aficionados, Porter’s passion is corn. Hailing from Manitoba, she married the self-proclaimed “King of All Corn Freaks.”
The idea for the book was sparked when, as a birthday present for her husband, she whipped up a full day’s corn-centered menu, complete with brewed corn soda and sweet-corn ice cream; both were a hit. Porter puts up plenty to last the winter, from simple corn relish to corncob wine.
“Many of these recipes just came to me as I was falling asleep, thinking about what I’d like to make next when the corn is in full swing,” she said from her home in north Minneapolis.
Before moving to the Twin Cities, Porter lived in Toronto, a city of many cultures, where she learned to cook with a variety of ethnic flavors.
Her book taps into tastes from across the map. Find Colombian-style sweet corn fritters, Italian corn risotto, Native American parched corn and low-country boil (a k a Frogmore stew) from the South.
“Most people think of corn as a vegetable, but it’s a grain, like wheat. So think of it for a breakfast cereal, snacks, drinks and desserts,” she said.
Porter, a cake artist in the past, is the author of two other cookbooks (“The Spirited Baker” and “Evil Cake Overlord”), all available through her website, www.celebrationgeneration.com.
The best source for fresh corn is the farmers market or farm stands, she notes — that is, if you can’t make it to the Morden Corn Festival in Manitoba.
“Find a farmer whose corn you like and buy only what you intend to use right away or put up in a day or two,” Porter said. “If you do have leftover corn, toss the kernels into pancakes, risotto and muffins. But it’s always best fresh. After a day, the sugars convert to starch and it tastes bland and chalky.”
Along with suggestions for boiling, steaming, roasting and grilling, Porter covers smoking and freezing corn.
Though the season is short, with this book, I’ll eat a year’s worth of corn.
Beth Dooley is the author of “Minnesota’s Bounty” and “The Northern Heartland Kitchen.”