Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Filling the Freezer-Corn

A while back I mentioned that I used my Food Saver to freeze corn for our family for the winter. The last two summers I've managed to put up enough corn to last us for the entire year, with even a little over flow. As of today I think we've got about 4 bags of corn that are still from last summer and I've already put up 5 bags of corn for this year! The bags I use are the quart sized Food Saver bags, so they hold a lot more than the typical 16 oz or less bag that you buy at the grocery store. We are able to make huge batches of corn chowder, taco soup and salsa chicken with black beans and corn all winter long. We eat corn as a side dish as well since it is probably my husband's favorite vegetable. By spending a little time processing ears of corn I am able to provide my family with yummy summer fresh corn all year long at a fraction of the price. Talk about something that works for me! Here's how I do it.

First I find the corn at a great sale price. Two years ago the large local chains of grocery stores ran a deal for $.10 ears of corn. I went and got 20 ears to start just to make sure it was good and that we liked it. The next day I went back and bought 40 more ears of corn. After I realized how easy it was to freeze I went back to get more. They were out! I got a rain check and went back for another 40 or so ears a week later. I'm not exactly sure, but I froze about 80-100 ears worth of corn that year. The next year Aldi had corn for $.10 an ear. I knew to just go for it this time. I was VERY pregnant and decided I needed to get it all done ASAP as I may not have much time after baby arrived. I think I did 60-80 more ears last summer, all in one day. This year Aldi had some corn marked down to $.10 an ear after Memorial Day. They didn't have a ton left, but I still did 30 ears. I'm hopeful that I will see prices continue at $.10 an ear or that I will find someone who has corn I can pick after they are done with it. Finding corn at a great price is an important part of the 'fraction of the cost' part!

Second, I make sure I have time to process the corn within a day of bringing it home. The sooner you get it in the freezer, the sweeter it will be. The longer corn sits the more of the sugar converts to starch. This is why many people who grow their own corn say to start the water boiling before you pick the corn. Talk about some sweet stuff! I know the corn has been trucked in and make an effort to minimize time on my end.

Third, it is finally time to get to work! I put all the corn out on our deck which connects to the kitchen through a sliding glass door. I take my dish rack outside with me and have a large container for putting the corn husks into ready to go. I make sure my microwave is clean and I put a bunch of ice and cold water into my sink. There is a pie plate and a sharp knife along with a large bowl set up on the counter. The Food Saver is out and I have the quart bags ready to fill with a sharpie for labeling along side. It is really a simple process if you get everything ready to go before you start.

So I shuck the corn out on the deck and put the ears into the dish rack. I fill it up pretty full to start, because once I'm rolling I'll have less time to come and clean the ears. I do have some time though, so I do not worry about getting it all done at once. I get all the husks off and try and rub the silk off as well. I do not worry about getting every single strand off, they do not hurt you! Did you know that there is a strand of silk for every single kernel of corn on that particular cob? Fun fact for the day. The husks all go into the compost pile when I am done.

The next step is blanching the corn. I used to do that with hot water, but learned from another woman buying lots of the sale corn that you can use your microwave. It saves on lots of hot boiling water heating up the house! I do 4 ears at a time and put the microwave shield over them to help them steam. They go in for between 5-8 minutes depending on how strong your microwave is. The slight cooking helps them freeze much better than if you just did it raw. There is lots of science behind this, but I'm not going into it now, we've got corn to finish!

They go from the microwave to the ice water bath to shock them and make them stop cooking. We will cook our corn when we eat it, no need to cook it to death now! The cobs will be HOT so please use an oven mitt or tongs or something to protect your hands. As you can see, my ice has melted. It is important that this is cold, so you may need to restock the ice or drain the water and start over. As you do batch after batch it will get pretty warm. Keep the microwave working by starting another 4 cobs as soon as you dump 4 into the ice bath. They can hang out in the ice bath for quite a while, no worries!
After the corn has cooled a bit you can begin cutting it off the cob. I drain them and then stand the cob up in a pie plate and cut it off with a big sharp knife. The sharper the better. The trick is to get as much of the kernel off as you can without cutting into the hard center of the cob. It takes a bit of practice, but you will quickly get the feel for it. I love it when big planks of corn kernels fall off together. I feel like such a chef! When the pie plate gets full I transfer the kernels into a bigger bowl. I want to make sure they are as cool as possible before I begin filling the freezer bags. Less moisture build up, less worries about making chemicals leach from the bags, less heat on my hands, just better for them to be cooled off in my opinion!

I find that as I work I can de-kernel the cobs faster than the microwave can get them done and then cooled in the ice water. This extra time is great for going and shucking a few more ears or even for beginning to package them up. There is a real rhythm that makes it go pretty quickly once you are working! I have been able to do a years worth in just one day both of the last two summers. This year I only got about 30 ears done so far, but I'll be doing more when I find some and hope that then I'll be able to do it all at once again!
I package the quart bags pretty full and seal them following the instructions. I label them with the year to make rotation easier during the summer months. I use it like I'd use any other frozen corn I get at the grocery store. It is a simple process all in all!

After a big day of corn freezing I make sure we have a few ears to enjoy at dinner that night. Nothing like the first ear of sweet corn in the summer! Or in little one's case, the first one of his life. He really enjoyed finishing off my ear. Maybe this is a hot new toy for teething? Hope you enjoyed my little tutorial on freezing corn!

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