In Season: Corn ripe for the picking

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Some of the year’s best fresh corn is in all our markets now, including the many farmers’ markets around the county.

Think about putting up some corn in the freezer. It makes sense because fresh corn is at its cheapest now. I’ve seen five ears for two dollars at several markets. Not only that, but corn is a staple complex carbohydrate, the kind of carb that fuels your day but without the side effects of simple carbs like sugar and white bread; these effects can be seen at your sides, where your love handles are beginning to flop over your belt.

Make sure your corn is organic. Sellers of organic corn are usually at every farmers’ market, and that’s where you’ll most likely find fresh organic corn at the best price. This means that not only is the corn free of pesticides and Roundup herbicide, which is now banned in Santa Rosa (score one for the environment), but it also hasn’t been genetically modified to resist Roundup. Much corn is also genetically modified to control insect pests like the corn borer and corn earworm. A gene that produces an insecticide was found in a bacterium. This gene was taken from the microbe and inserted into the genome of corn. Now every cell in this GMO corn contains the insecticide, including the cells you eat. Genetic modification is not allowed in organic or biodynamic agriculture.

If you like corn that pops in your mouth as you nibble it off the cob, that’s sweet and milky, whose kernels are turgid rather than mealy, look for young ears. The slenderer the ear, the younger it is. Old corn on the cob is just a bunch of mealy mush.

For putting corn up, you first have to cook it to disrupt the enzymes that would otherwise cause that awful freezer-burn taste, because the enzymes keep working even in the freezer. I simply boil the ears for a few minutes, giving them a roll now and then so all sides cook evenly. For corn that’s destined for the freezer, undercook them a little. So if you ordinarily boil corn for five minutes, cook these ears for four minutes or even three and a half. You’ll still be undoing the enzymes, and you can finish cooking when you gently heat the thawed kernels just until they’re hot on some cold night in December.

After you shuck the ears, look at the tips to see if there’s a fat earworm there enjoying his dinner. You’ll see him — or her — and the black trail he leaves. Simply cut off the affected part and proceed with the cooking.

After cooking, place the ears on a platter or in a big bowl and let them cool so they’re warm but not blazing hot. Using a sharp knife, slice the kernels off in long strips running from the tip to the butt end where the corn attached to the stalk. After slicing, scrape down the cob with the blunt back edge of the knife and let the sweet corn juices flow into the kernels.

For a family of four, four ladles of kernels go into each quart-size zip freezer bag. As you are closing, exclude as much air as you can, then zip them closed. Place the bags on a large cutting board or platter of some sort. Keep them from touching each other. Then place the board in the freezer. When frozen, put the portioned bags into a container or plastic bag, so the bags of kernels are all in one place.

When the dark and dreary — and, it’s hoped, wet — days are upon us, this corn will be sunshine on your plate. To achieve the best result, take a bag from the freezer and float the bag in a big bowl of hot tap water. It takes about a half hour to 45 minutes to thaw out a bag this way. When the bag is just thawed, pour a quarter cup of water into a saucepan with a lid and then pour the corn into the saucepan. Cover the pan and gently start heating, timing it so the corn is hot just when the dinner bell rings. Don’t overcook or heat too vigorously. Easy does it.

I think you’ll thank yourself for taking the time back in September to put up some summer-fresh corn to brighten the winter.


The English like their puddings, even when they were pilgrims on the shores of Massachusetts in the early 17th century. Flour was scarce, but the local natives had corn, so this “Indian Pudding,” as the settlers called it, was born. It’s a dessert pudding, great paired with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. And it’s an ideal dessert to finish a hearty fall dinner.

New England Corn Pudding

Serves 6 to 8

4 cups whole milk

1/2 cup cornmeal

1 cup corn kernels from the freezer, thawed

1/2 cup molasses

1/4 cup real maple syrup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for baking dish

2 large eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and grease a 11/2- quart baking dish. Have your bag of corn kernels thawed.

Bring milk to a simmer in a double boiler over high heat. Slowly add the cornmeal. Cook, whisking constantly, for 15 minutes.

Slowly add the corn kernels and molasses, then remove from heat. Add maple syrup and the rest of the ingredients. Stir until smooth.

Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish, and bake until the pudding is set and the top is browned, about 2 hours. It’s good hot or cold.

Jeff Cox is a Kenwood-based food and garden writer. Reach him at

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