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Michigan sweet corn: Summer’s golden ticket

Gnawing on sweet corn is a summertime ritual.

It’s a downright primal pleasure. Dignity tossed to the wind, lips glistening with butter, we gorge on cob after cob.

Of course, that’s not the only way to enjoy fresh sweet corn, which is good on and off the cob.

Just ask Anthony Patton, executive chef at Gray Ghost in Detroit. Corn’s potential, he maintains, is largely untapped. “Really have fun with it. You can do a lot with corn.”

Local corn is coming in hot and heavy now.

picking corn

“Corn is the top favorite vegetable,” says Richard Andres, co-owner of Tantre Farm in Chelsea.

Two varieties of Michigan corn — super-sweet “golden corn,” and the less-sweet, more intensely corn-flavored bi-color corn — offer delicious options.

Whichever you choose, forget about peeling back the husk to determine whether an ear is good. That husk protects the tender corn kernels and keeps them from drying out. For optimum quality, use the corn you buy as soon as possible, Andres advises. Reload your supply as new crops come in.

“If the ear is full and firm, that’s what we look for,” Andres says. “We pick about 10,000 ears a week by hand, so we pick by feel.”

Grilling caramelizes the sweetness of corn and intensifies its flavor.  Whether you prefer more or less char, grilled corn is perfect for summer meals.

corn preparation methods

“Corn is more versatile than people think,” Patton enthuses. “You can do a lot more with it than what you usually see. I try to get the most out of corn season because I love corn so much.”

Boil. Add flavor by mixing ingredients into your cooking liquid, In her cookbook, “Pearl’s Kitchen,” the late entertainer Pearl Bailey’s recipe for “Corn on the Cob, Mama Style,” for example, mixes in milk (whole or evaporated) and sugar. Reserve the cooking liquid to use in soups and sauces.

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