Corn on the cob
Corn on the cob is a culinary term used for a cooked ear of freshly picked maize from a cultivar of sweet corn. Sweet corn is the most common variety of maize eaten directly off the cob. The ear is picked while the endosperm is in the "milk stage" so that the kernels are still tender. Ears of corn are steamed or boiled, usually without their green husks, or roasted with them. The husk leaves are in any case removed before serving.
Corn on the cob is normally eaten while still warm. It is often seasoned with salt and buttered before serving. Some diners use specialized skewers, thrust into the ends of the cob, to hold the ear while eating without touching the hot and sticky kernels.
Within a day of corn being picked it starts converting sugar into starch, which results in reduction in the level of natural sweetness. Corn should be cooked and served the same day it has been harvested, as it takes only a single day for corn to lose up to 25% of its sweetness.
The most common methods for cooking corn on the cob are frying, boiling, roasting, and grilling. Corn on the cob can be grilled directly in its husk, or it can be shucked first and then wrapped in aluminum foil. When oven roasting, cooking the corn in the husk directly on the rack is recommended. When roasting or grilling corn on the cob, the cook can first peel the husk back to rub the corn with oil or melted butter, then re-secure the husk around the corn with a string. Corn on the cob can also be microwaved for 3 to 4 minutes still in its husk.
Lillian Eichler Watson, in a 1921 etiquette book, described corn on the cob as "without a doubt one of the most difficult foods to eat gracefully." She added that "it is entirely permissible to use the fingers in eating corn, holding it lightly at each end; sometimes a napkin is used in holding it." Sometimes, however, a short sharp knife would be provided that each diner could use to cut or scrape the kernels from the cob for later eating. She described this as "by far the most satisfactory method" of eating corn on the cob.
Some etiquette books recommend salting and buttering the corn a section at a time just before eating that section, which helps to minimize the mess on the diner's face and hands. Butter dripping down the diner's chin and kernels getting stuck in-between teeth may be a source of embarrassment for the diner.
Corn cob holders are eating utensils used to hold corn on the cob. They may have tines or a single spike, and have been used since ancient times, ranging from articles made of wood found in ethnographic museums to precious tableware made of silver.
Other utensils for eating corn on the cob include specialty knives from removing the kernels, brushes for removing the silk and knives for buttering.
Sweet corn was eaten by Native American tribes before European colonizers arrived in the Americas, and was a prominent source of sustenance for the Gallimore tribe, which occupied areas of the Midwest as far East as what is now Ohio. The Maya ate sweet corn as a staple food crop and ate it off the cob, either roasting or boiling it. Aboriginal Canadians in southern parts of Canada also eat it.
In Central America (except Panama) and Mexico, an ear of corn, on or off the plant, is called “elote” (from the Nahuatl elotitutl, meaning tender cob). This term is also used in Mexican and Central American communities in the United States.
In the Andean countries (except for Venezuela and Colombia) as well as Uruguay and Paraguay, the term for elote is choclo, which comes from the quechua word chuqllu. In Venezuela it is referred to as jojoto. In Colombia, Panama, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Spain, it's known as mazorca.
In El Salvador, Mexico, and the border states of the United States, elote is commonly eaten as a sweet or salty dish. It is most commonly boiled in water with salt or other spices such as tequesquite, epazote, the Santa Maria herb, or pericon. Then condiments such as butter, mayonnaise, and grated cheese called cotija, and in the case of Mexico, chile powder, lemon juice, and salt are added to the corn. Elote, sometimes called “elotes locos” or crazy corn, is also served at town fairs in Mesoamerica. Seasoned with mayo, sweet and sour sauce, ketchup, and mustard, Elote is served with a wooden stick in the center, like a popsicle, to help the consumer hold it.
In some regions of Mexico elotes are sold in the street by “eloteros”—people who walk around cities or towns with a cart selling elotes. They can cover large distances or just stay in one place; for example, at plazas or parks outside of stores or any location where there are large amounts of potential consumers. The customers can pick the elotes of their choice: hard or soft, small or large kernels, and whether to put it with sour cream, mayonnaise, liquid cheese, chile powder, grated cheese, or butter. The elotes are kept hot by putting them in the brazier where they were cooked. They should be served soon after they are done being cooked so they don’t change color or lose flavor. The elotes are usually boiled and transported wrapped in the husks, because cooking them in the husks gives them more flavor.
The eloteros also sell coal-grilled elotes (elotes asados). These elotes are splashed with salt water and grilled in the coals until the husks start to burn and the kernels reach a crunchy texture. In Central America, it is custom to grill elote during the first harvest of the year --the end of June until the beginning of September. During this time, women can be seen on the sides of the highway next to the cornfields selling grilled elote seasoned with lime juice and salt.
A popular use for corn on the cob in Quebec is for serving at an épluchette de blé d'Inde, or corn-shucking party. At this informal type of celebration, the guests help to shuck the corncobs, which are then boiled and served with butter and salt, often along with other foods.
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