Monday, August 4, 2014

Freezing Sweet Corn

So I know it's been awhile since I've last posted.  Maybe that's an understatement. Anyway - today I will write about freezing sweet corn.

Step 1 - Plant the Corn
              As soon as the ground is dry enough in the spring, work up the ground, and plant the corn.  Sometimes this takes more patience than you want it to, but eventually the weather will be right.  We like the corn variety 'Incredible' because it truly is incredibly sweet and delicious corn.

Step 2 - Tend the Garden
             Just when you thought you could just relax on your front porch enjoying the good breeze and the singing of the birds you realize there are weeds growing up all around your newly sprouted corn!  So you must pull weeds, and my husband likes to side-dress with a nitrogen fertilizer to help the corn put out a good crop.  He likes to see nice, dark green corn growing in his garden - not sickly yellowish plants.

Step 3 - Processing Day

Here's where the process gets really involved:
A.  Pick the ears that are ready.  You don't want them to be immature because they're not as sweet and the kernels just don't cut off the cob well - but then again if they're getting past ripe they're tough and not as tasty to eat.  It's a fine balance

B.  Shuck, shuck, shuck.  Get your helpers together in a shady spot, complete with lawn chairs, a big washtub to contain shucks and silks, and plenty of pans to place shucked ears.  If there are ear worms in the end of the cob, break or cut that portion off - it won't hurt the rest of the ear.  If there's not much breeze a fan can sure help morale.

C.  Now that the shucks and silks are (mostly) off, it's time to wash the corn.  After the pans of corn are brought into the kitchen, run a thin stream of water onto the ear, and scrub with a brush until the remainder of the silks are off.  Place the washed ears in a pile.  You will want to make sure you either do this over a sink with a garbage disposal, or put a screen over the drain - you'll be surprised how much comes off the corn ears that really shouldn't go down the drain.

D.  Cutting the kernels off the cob is the next job.  We like to set up the cutting station right next to the sink so that the person cutting just takes from the pile of the newly washed corn.  Holding the narrow end with your fingertips, place the ear of corn upright in a glass 9x13 pan with the wide end down.  Cut the kernels off as close to the cob as you can without cutting bits of cob off. Work your way all around the cob until all the corn is cut off into the 9x13 pan.  Drop the empty cob into your scrap bucket of choice - we use 5 gallon buckets. 

E.  Next up is scalding the corn - Use a good-sized cooking pot, and fill the pot with corn about 1/3 full.  Add hot water until you can just see the water level.  Cook on high until it starts to boil, then simmer for 3 minutes. 

F.  Cooling the Corn.  After the corn is scalded, I pour the contents of the pot into a colander set inside of a bowl.  From there, transfer the hot corn to a metal bowl, which is sitting in a bath of ice water.  Spread the corn up the sides of the bowl in a thin layer so it will cool quickly, stirring from time to time so it will cool evenly.  This step is important because it's not a good idea to put a lot of hot things into the freezer.

G.  Packing freezer containers.  We use rectangular plastic freezer boxes of various volumes because they maximize space in the freezer, stack well, and also don't tend to leak when they thaw like freezer bags sometimes do.  Just remember that when corn freezes it expands so leave plenty of head space. 

H.  Putting your corn into the freezer.  Here it's important not to stack too many boxes in the freezer at once.  It puts the other food in the freezer at risk of thawing and that's not a good thing.  So try to put just one layer at a time, then when that is solidly frozen stack it, and so on.  A good staging area for the corn is the fridge.

I.  Thawing and serving the frozen corn.  Take out as many packages as you need, and thaw either overnight in the fridge, or in hot water, or in the microwave.  My opinion is that the sweet corn is delicious enough to be served after a simple heating through - but others like to add butter and salt and pepper.  It's tasty either way, and it's so fulfilling to be able to tell your guests that the vegetable you've served them was grown and preserved by you!

My husband, parents, and especially my 6 year old (though my 4 and 1 year old were also around) and I all worked together to freeze 72 quarts of sweet corn over the weekend.  What a day! 

If you've never grown sweet corn, maybe next year you will feel inspired to give it a try!