Sweet Summer Corn: An agricultural cornucopia

Published on Tuesday, 27 August 2013 22:44 - Written by CHRISTINE GARDNER food@tylerpaper.com

Sweet corn on the cob is a late summer favorite and each of the 800 kernels that can be found on an ear of corn bursts with juicy flavor.

But what’s interesting to notice is the prevalence of corn in so many different food products. In addition to the obvious things, such as kernel corn and creamed corn, there’s cornstarch, corn flour, corn meal, masa and polenta — all slightly different, but each resembling the other in a ground corn form.

Then, there are corn dogs, corn chips, corn tortillas, popcorn, caramel corn, corn oil, corn syrup, corn muffins, cornbread — the list goes on.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 80 million acres of planted corn in America. It is the most widely produced crop in the country, but most of it is grown as feed grain or ethanol fuel.

Iowa is the state that produces the most corn in the nation and in 2012 the Iowa Corn Growers Association reported 1.88 billion bushels of corn was grown on 13.7 million acres of land.

The accepted standard for measuring a bushel of corn is by weight. A bushel is 56 pounds of shelled corn after the husks and cobs are removed.

Many of the farmers have changed the type of corn they grow to accommodate the demand for corn needed for feed and fuel. This is not the same type of corn that can be purchased in the grocery store or used in many food-related corn products.

One bushel of corn can produce 2.8 gallons of ethanol and approximately 17 pounds of animal feed. This same type of corn is used to create the cornstarch, oil and sweeteners that are added to candy and sodas.

Iowa has produced the largest corn crop of any state for almost two decades. From the 13.7 million acres of corn grown in the state, the 2007 U.S. Census showed that only 3,548 acres were sweet corn.

In Texas, corn growers yield approximately 145 bushels per acre with 2.3 million acres planted statewide. The Texas corn industry contributes approximately $1.2 billion to the state’s economy.

 

Corn Chowder

 

INGREDIENTS

2 slices bacon, diced

1 medium onion, diced

3 cups corn

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon of chipotle in adobo sauce (liquid from a can of chipotle peppers)

1 cup half & half

1 teaspoon of black pepper

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Salt, to taste

 

DIRECTIONS

In a stockpot add the bacon and cook over medium heat until soft and fat is rendered. Add the onion and sauté until soft. Add the corn and stir to combine. Add the broth and adobo sauce and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the half & half and bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, add the cornstarch and a large spoon full of the soup. Stir to create a slurry. Pour back into the soup and stir to combine. Bring to a light boil to thicken for about a minute. You also can partially puree the soup, with an immersion blender or regular blender to reach the desired level of consistency. Add salt, to taste.

 

Brown Bag Popcorn

 

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons popcorn kernels

1 tablespoon olive oil

Seasoning mix of choice

 

DIRECTIONS

Place the kernels in a paper lunch bag, fold top down twice to close, and microwave until popping slows almost to a stop, 2 to 3 minutes. Makes 3 cups. Drizzle the olive oil over the popcorn and then toss with seasoning. Mexican Chocolate: Combine 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, 2 teaspoons powdered sugar, 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt. Cheesy Garlic: Combine 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder.

 

Grammy’s Corn Fritters

 

INGREDIENTS

1 can whole corn

1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper

2 eggs

1 1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

 

DIRECTIONS

Beat eggs well, add corn, salt and pepper. Sift together flour and baking powder and stir into eggs. In a deep skillet, heat two inches of cooking oil. Drop tablespoons of batter into the oil and cook until golden. Serve with maple syrup.

 

Skinny Stuffed Poblanos

 

Stuffed Poblanos or Chili Rellenos are a Mexican food restaurant favorite. The typical restaurant version has about 600 calories and close to 50 grams of fat. This version is packed with flavor and is very creamy, with all the calories and fat. Each pepper has 370 calories and 8 grams of fat.

 

INGREDIENTS

4 poblano peppers

1 can Hunts no salt added diced tomatoes

1 grilled chicken breast, small dice

1 cup brown rice, cooked

1/4 cup part skim cotija, crumbled

10 basil leaves, chopped

1 teaspoon ancho chili powder

1/4 cup light sour cream

1/4 cup low fat ricotta

3 cups grilled corn (approximately 4 ears)

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

DIRECTIONS

Adjust the racks of your oven so that the top rack is 6 inches from the broiler. Heat the broiler to high and place the peppers on a baking sheet. Keep a close eye on the peppers. When the skin begins to blister, turn the pepper to the other side. When both sides have blistered, remove the peppers and place them in a large zip-top bag. Close the bag and let them sit for 10 minutes. Remove the peppers from the bag and pull off the skins of the peppers. Set aside while making the filling. Pour the can of tomatoes into a strainer. Rinse with cold water. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl. Add the chicken, rice, cotija, basil leaves, chili powder, sour cream, ricotta and corn. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Cut a slit down the side of the peppers. Place them in a baking dish and fill each pepper with an equal amount of filling. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Add a sprinkle of breadcrumbs to each pepper and bake for an additional 10 minutes.