Saturday, September 12, 2009

193. Corn Relish (p. 902) and 194. Fresh Corn Soup (p. 99)

Has 2009 been some sort of bumper crop year for corn, or what? For the last several weeks, there have been at least a dozen ears of fresh corn in my CSA box. Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. It's delicious! Crisp and sweet, but, seriously, that's a lot of corn. And while plain old corn on the cob is one of the true joys of summer, I've also been taking advantage of the corn surplus by focusing on The Book's many corn recipes.

The first recipe* for Corn Relish brought me back in time. When I was a little kid, summer cookouts at my grandparents' house usually involved something called piccalilli. This sweet, tangy brightly-colored relish was always a real favorite of mine. It's been years since I've had it, but one taste of this corn relish brought me right back. Now, traditional piccalilli has cauliflower in it, but it's the seasonings in this relish ... the tumeric and dry mustard ... that are classic piccalilli flavors.

To make the relish, I started by cutting the kernels off eight ears of corn to get four cups of kernels. If you've never done it, cutting the kernels off ears of corn is really easy. First, get a great big bowl and a serrated knife. Stand the corncob on its end in the middle of the bowl, and with a sawing motion, cut the kernels off the cob. As you cut them off, they'll fall into the bowl, and if the bowl is big enough, it will catch any wayward kernels (they tend to scatter a bit as you saw them off). Next, I finely chopped some celery, white onion, and green and red bell peppers. I tried to chop the vegetables to about the same size as the corn kernels, so that everything would be of uniform size. (Excellent knife skilz practice!) The Book calls for green pepper only, but I decided to add a red bell pepper for some nice color.

I mixed the corn and chopped vegetables with some white vinegar, sugar, water, dry mustard, salt, tumeric and celery seeds. I brought it all to a boil and then reduced the heat and simmered it for about 15 minutes. I cooled the relish at room temperature and then transferred it to some plastic containers and put it in the refrigerator to chill.

This stuff is delicious. It's crunchy and sweet with a nice vinegary bite and the bold mustard and celery flavor. And the intense yellow color from the tumeric is bright and sunny. The recipe made about two quarts. The Book says that it keeps for a month in the refrigerator, but I didn't get to test that theory. My wife and I polished off a quart of the relish in about two weeks, enjoying a little bit of it as a condiment with sandwiches and salads for lunch. Another pint disappeared at our family's Labor Day cookout, and I gave the last pint to my sister-in-law. This is an easy and delicious recipe that could easily become a summer tradition.

The second recipe for Fresh Corn Soup was good, but not great. The Book calls it "pure simplicity" and says that it's "all about the corn." This is an incredibly apt description. There's really only one ingredient: corn. (Yeah, you also need water, a bit of salt and some chopped chives as a garnish.)

First I cut the kernels from a dozen ears of corn. As easy as it is to cut the kernels off corncobs, I won't lie, it took some time to do it to a dozen ears. Next, I brought the corn, six cups of water and some sea salt to a boil. Then, I reduced the heat and simmered it for about 20 minutes.

Then comes the pureeing. The Book says to do it in the blender, but I decided to use my immersion blender. It seemed a lot quicker and a lot less messy. Once it was all blended, I poured the soup through a fine-meshed sieve, pressing on the solids to get all of the liquid out.

The Book says that the soup can be served, sprinkled with chopped chives, either hot or cold. I tried it both ways, and while I liked it a lot, I didn't love it. This soup was pure corn essence. The flavor was excellent, and somehow, it was buttery and creamy even though it has not a bit of dairy in it at all. The problem I had with this soup was that it was too light. It had no substance. If I were to have a small bowl of this as a first course before a big meal, I'd be very impressed by it. But, eating this as my main lunchtime meal left me wanting more. I think that this soup could have been improved by adding some more fresh whole corn kernels at the end to give it a bit of crunch and some more heft.

(As I mentioned recently, I have a pretty big backlog of recipes that I've cooked and haven't blogged about yet. For some reason, I did't take a picture of the corn soup, and, for the life of me, I can't even remember exactly when I cooked it.)

Corn Relish
Date Cooked: August 29, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: A

*The recipe for Corn Relish isn't on
Fresh Corn Soup
Date Cooked: Early August, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Very Easy
Rating: B+

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