Very few weekends go by in the summertime when I don't hit the farmer's market, and I can never resist a truck bed full of fresh sweet corn picked that morning. As anyone nerdy enough to listen to our show knows, corn starts losing its mojo in a hurry; within 24 hours of picking it loses about 90% of its sugar content. But they sell it by the dozen at the market, and there are only two of us, and as tempting as it sounds to rub all of it with some olive oil and dust it with salt and Official WCN! Favorite Obscure Product aleppo pepper and throw it on the grill, in reality we're left with a little more corn than we can eat.
Sure, we can freeze it, or even can it if I got off my ass and bought a pressure canner. But I thought back to my first restaurant job, expediting at second-rate Lexington BBQ joint Red Hot and Blue, and to a side dish/condiment that made even their sorry-assed pulled pork taste good--corn relish. (RH&B is no more; it never had a chance, sitting across from the holy BBQ temple that is Billy's. But it left me with a decent recipe or two and a lifelong appreciation of the Stax record label.)
I couldn't find a corn relish recipe that blew my skirt up, so I decided to wing it, and if I do say so it came out pretty damn good. Improv cooking at its finest--just take tasty things and use some basic technique to put them together with other tasty things.
The key ingredient here (aside from the corn) is smoked Spanish paprika, aka pimenton de la vera, which is like the paprika you get at the supermarket in the same way that a Red Bull is like a pipe of crack. It went through a brief trendy period a year or two ago, so it's not hard to find in a decent upscale grocery like The Fresh Market; I ordered mine from The Spice House. It comes in sweet and hot.
I'll be playing with this recipe as the summer goes on. Particularly, future variations will include fresh peppers of some kind, likely banana. But this would be a welcome topper for a grilled dog or a fine side for damn near anything you pull off the fire. It's a little spicy, but that's what beer is for. And I didn't even get around to making this the day I bought the corn--if you hit it in the sweet spot, I think it could be transcendent.
Red Corn Relish #1
Makes two quarts for canning plus about a cup for the fridge
10 ears corn (approximately 8 cups cut off)
3 cups cider vinegar
1 tbps kosher salt (heaping)
Black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbsp sweet Spanish smoked paprika (accept no substitutes)
16 Tien-Tsin chiles (also from The Spice House, or use any small hot dried chile, or a big squeeze of the official WCN! hot sauce, Sriacha)
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 candy onions (or regular onions), diced
small handful flat-leaf parsley
5 small tomatoes, big dice
Bring a big pot of water to a boil and add the corn. Boil for 5 minutes, let it cool, and cut it off the cobs.
Meanwhile put everything but the tomatoes and parsley in a big pot and bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Add the corn and cook for about 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes and parsley and cook for 5 more minutes. Taste to adjust the seasoning.
Per the usual canning methods (as described in the Ball book or whatever text you prefer), prepare two quart or four pint jars, fill with the relish, and process for 20 minutes. The rest can go in the fridge, covered.
Please drop me a line if you use this recipe, and let me know if you changed anything and what you'd change next time.