Dear Barbara: When I barbecue corn on the cob, I remove the husks and wrap the ears in foil. Sometimes the corn comes off easy from the cob, and sometimes it does not. Do you know why, if size and cooking time is pretty equal each time? — Bob from Stockton
Dear Bob: Did you buy the corn on the same day? I ask because corn starts losing its sugar and turns it in to starch starting immediately when it is picked from the stalk. You would want to cook it the same day you buy it.
They don’t grow a wide variety in the United States; most corn is used for animal feed. If it is left on the stalk too long, the kernels get large and tough. This corn is referred to as “field corn.”
Be sure you are testing corn that you purchased on the same day and is not past its prime. Cutting too close to the cob also makes it harder to cut.
Dear Barbara: I read the question about alcohol replacements in a recent column. Doesn’t all the alcohol cook out of the dish when it is cooked? I have always heard that the alcohol evaporates when cooked. It does, doesn’t it? So even if you don’t want the alcohol, isn’t just the flavor left behind? — Brenda from Lodi
Dear Brenda: I wish I could say all the alcohol evaporates, but unfortunately, it doesn’t. If you were to “flambé” something, meaning pouring liquor over a dish and igniting it, only about 4 percent of the alcohol burns off. Slow-cooking dishes have a much better percentage. If you were making a slow cooking roast, or Oso Bucco, where it may cook for two hours or so in a red wine sauce, about 80 percent of the alcohol will evaporate. There is nothing in life that is 100 percent guaranteed! Especially in cooking!
Dear Barbara: I love the direction food trends are going with Pacific Rim and Asian fusion, but I get dizzy with all the unusual ingredients! Now I have a recipe that I want to try that calls for 2 tablespoons of mirin. What is it and where do I buy it, or can I even find it around here? — Betty from Lodi
Dear Betty: Mirin is a Japanese rice wine. It has a lovely sweetness about it, that somehow reminds me of cherries. It is readily available at most supermarkets that carry Asian ingredients. I know Raley’s has it. I’m sure our other supermarkets carry it as well.
Mirin is low in alcohol and really adds a lovely element to the dish. If you feel you would never use it again except in the recipe you have, you can substitute 2 tablespoons of white wine plus 1 teaspoon of sugar. Not quite as nice, but it would work.
Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and city.