Many years ago a houseguest was in the kitchen helping to prepare dinner. Corn-on-the-cob was on the menu and had just come in from being shucked. When I turned around, the helper was at the sink filling a very large pot with water. When I asked her what she was doing, my helper told me that she was getting the pot ready to cook the corn. I think she was rather taken aback by my response, which was to tell her that no one with any feeling for corn ever boiled it in water! Well, then, she wanted to know, how else would you cook corn-on-the-cob? My response was to tell her story.
I grew up eating farm fresh corn cooked to perfection by my mother who had a true feeling for corn. We ate platters of perfectly cooked corn all summer long. My mother steamed her corn in milk bringing out its sweetness and tenderness. I thought every one cooked their corn like my mother, until I had the unfortunate experience of eating boiled corn-on-the-cob at a friend’s house--it was tough and tasteless, and truly terrible. I went home and told my mother about the bad corn. She replied by telling me that most people cooked their corn in this way. I was shocked!
Not long after I asked my mother why she cooked her corn differently from everyone else. Her response, “The water was for the cows, but there was plenty of milk. We needed to save the water for the cows. Our lives depended on the animals and their needs came first. This is how your grandmother cooked corn, and this is how she taught me to cook it.” And, it is how my mother taught me. Mother passed her feeling for corn onto me, and in turn, I to my daughter. In the summer, as soon as the corn starts coming in, we eat platters of perfectly cooked corn. And, with every bite I think of my mother and my Memere and am ever so grateful for their feeling for corn.
Shuck the corn being sure to remove all the silk. Select a pot with a lid large enough to hold the corn. Put about ½ inch of water into the bottom of the pot, and place it on a large burner. Put the corn in the pot. Pour about 2 inches of milk into the pot. Cover. Turn the burner to high. Watch the pot carefully. When the milk begins to boil and envelop the corn in its bubbling steam, turn the heat down to medium-high. Reducing the heat also helps prevent burning. Continue watching to make sure the milky steam always covers the corn. You can adjust the lid a little to help keep the milk from bubbling over. Add more milk if necessary. Steam the corn for about 20 minutes or until the kernels are tender. Remove the corn to a platter and serve immediately.