Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Missouri Girl's Guide to Corn

...After all, I am surrounded by it!

So I'm sure a lot of you are like me in some respects. You go out to the garden, the farmer's market, or even the grocery store and you get excited at all the wonderful produce and you buy more than you can eat right away. No big deal. That's the great thing about dehydrating, canning, and freezing. You buy a little too much now when it's plentiful and cheap and you have extra later for when it goes out of season. No waste here, folks!

One particular vegetable that can be cheap and easy to get carried away with is corn. In order to prevent yourself from wasting it by letting it hang out in the fridge for a long time (since it loses flavor kind of quickly once it has been picked), it's best to freeze it as soon as you realize you bought too much. If you can't freeze it right away, make sure you stick it in the fridge instead of leaving it out on the table. The tasty sugars break down much more quickly at room temperature.

So let's freeze some corn!

Step One: Get the corn!
Like I just mentioned, get it fresh! The husks need to be bright green and fresh. If they're super dry more than say, the first leaf or two, I would pass them up. The silk (the soft stuff coming out of the top of the husk) should be soft, dark, and moist, and absolutely not moldy. You should be able to feel individual kernals when you give the husk a gentle squeeze. A good rule with corn is to eat it within a day or two of purchasing (at most) and to avoid buying corn that has sat out in the hot sun for hours. Getting it in the early morning off the plant or at the farmer's market is the best way to go. It'll be much sweeter and tastier this way since the sugars break down over heat (even room temp), time, and being exposed to sunlight.

That's some good corn right there.

However if it has been a couple days and the corn's been hanging out in your fridge(or if you bought it at the grocery store), you can revive it by adding 1 tsp. sugar for each quart of water you use when you boil it. This helps compensate for the sugar loss.

Step Two: Prep!
Get a large (as large as you can) pot and fill it with water. You'll need to bring it to a full, rolling boil and that will take a minute (though not literally... it actually takes many minutes...). You'll also need to fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Step Three: Husk!
Husk the corn! All this basically means if you cut of the end, peel all of the leaves, and remove all the silk. You can use a vegetable brush to help remove some of the silk, but you have to be gentle. You don't want to burst all the kernels. I usually just remove it all by hand. After husking, I give them a good rinse. If you see any bug damage you can remove those kernels, but too be honest, if I find full-on worms in my corn I just toss the whole ear out. I know some people who still eat it... blech. I won't.

I love the silk. It's so nice and soft, lol.

Step Four: Blanch!
Corn needs to be blanched before freezing in order to protect its flavor, color, and texture. To blanch, place the prepped ears of corn into the boiling water you got going. Begin counting the blanching time as soon as the water returns to a full boil. For whole-kernel corn (which is what I'm doing here), it takes about 4-6 minutes. Cover the pot while you boil. You can reuse your blanching water a few times, but after that I would toss it out and start over. Also make sure you add hot water from the faucet if the water level starts getting too low (you should still be able to cover the ears).

If it takes too long for the water to return to a boil, you are probably adding too many ears at once or are using too small of a pot. If you're like me and you have to make due with to small pots, you can cut the ears in half.

Step Five: Cool!
Once the corn is done blanching, immediately put the ears in the ice bath (the prepped bowl with ice water) to cool it. This quick cooling stops the cooking process. Once done cooling, drain. I'd recommend cooling it for as long as you boiled it.

Ice...ice pack... close enough!

Also be sure you add more ice and cold water before starting for next batch (if you have more to blanch).

Step Six: Cut!
Cut the kernels from the cob about 2/3-3/4 the depth of the kernel. I always hold the small end and use a sharp knife to cut down to the base. It will come off in nifty little strips. They separate easily into little individual kernels as you put them in a bag. Don't get any of the cob!

Step Seven: Bag!
If you have a vacuum food sealer, that would be awesome to employ here, just put the corn in a seal. If not, just do what I do and place them in a ziplock freezer storage bag and try and squeeze out as much air as you can. Then, make sure the bag is nice and sealed and label it with a sharpie. Done!

Now by the end of this ordeal you have expert blanching skills, I'm sure of it. Also, if you would rather prep the corn and leave it on the ears for corn-on-the-cob. You can, just skip step six. After draining the corn from the ice bath, pat it dry and then bag it according to step seven. I think it takes up too much room in the freezer, but if you have an abundance of freezer space and like it on the cob, then that would be an excellent route.

I hope this was helpful! Now you have whole kernal corn in your freezer for any time you want to roast some kernals for tacos, make cornbread, or just soup up a soup!

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