Fire-Roasted Sweet Corn: Fleeting Taste of Summer

Super-sweet corn-on-the-cob is such an All-American summer tradition. I can’t help but think of slathered-on butter and sea salt.

For the Volunteer Appreciation Picnic at the Creation Museum near Cincinnati, they had a circular stone pit filled with white-hot coals. Laying atop the charcoal briquets were large roasting ears of sweet corn.

Those coals radiated some powerful heat and it was a scorcher of an evening, but the smell of the barbeque and something reminiscent of buttered popcorn wafting on a light breeze was delectable.

When served, the able cook pulled back the long, fibrous leaves (called husks) to reveal the steaming tender/sweet kernels of bi-colored deliciousness, and without removing them, he wrapped them in foil as a handle-of-sorts (no one got charcoal smears on their clothes). I asked some questions, and the server said those husks act as a ‘steamer’ for the corn.

I admit I have never seen this done before, and was intriguing, so I wanted to try it here at home on the grill. My Dear Husband is a grilling pro and knew just what to do – as far as I’m concerned, he’s the best! It was great with steaks and grilled zucchini.

You have always heard of ‘roasting ears’ of corn, well this is how you can do it:

All the roasting ears you can eat
1 large tub water

Soak unshucked ears of corn in tub of water after cleaning tips of any undesirables. Let them soak for about 1 hour or however long so that water penetrates the husks good. Place over very hot coals and turn as the husks turn white, yellow and occasionally brown from burning. This process will cause the husks to steam the corn on the cob. When the husks are no longer green it is ready to serve.

(I have read about how they use large banana leaves in the tropics to wrap meats and fruit and steam them in the coals. Plus, the flavor of the fire just makes everything taste better. I would love to experiment sometime with cooking like that, but I think the leaves have to be green and wet when you start or they will just burn up!!)

Sweet corn should be out there on the road side stands soon, or you may be ready to harvest if you planted this year. Whichever, putting up some freezer corn could become your next family tradition.

I bought a corn-kernel ‘slicer-offer’ so we can freeze this sweet treat to enjoy through the winter. I’ve heard it cuts kernels off without much mess and gets all the sugary juice, too. In that case, I will want a couple more for an assembly line production. I can’t wait to do it! Enjoy this last bit of summer while it lasts, friends.

Editor’s Note: First published in August 2011.

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Mike Davis
Mike Davis
12 years ago

forget the foil and roast them in the shuck.

Mike Davis
Mike Davis
12 years ago

I put them on the grill in a less heat area and let them cook slowly until done, usually about 20-30 minutes. The shucks will burn and a little browning of the corn just adds more flavor. I hadn’t thought of soaking the corn first, that would help cook faster by adding steam.

You may even marinate with a mild mixture of water and Italian dressing? I’ll have to try that next time.

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