Processing Fresh Corn - ☺♥

Corn Processing

Depending on where you live fresh local corn may be available at roadside vegetable markets, nurseries, farmers markets, farms, etc. from June through August. This corn is typically very superior in quality/freshness and ear size to the so-called fresh corn sold by supermarkets. If you want to enjoy delicious corn year round you have to buy and process the local corn while it is readily available. Also, the price charged will vary depending on where you buy it and especially how early you buy the corn, for it tends to be most expensive early in the harvest period. Thus, I buy corn in August.

I am writing this recipe for processing corn in the month of August in New England. I found that the best local nursery/vegetable market is selling fresh corn for $6.50 per dozen for stunningly large perfect sweet ears. Coincidently, that price is exactly ten time higher than when I was a teenager during the latter 1950's and early 1960's. Simultaneously a local supermarket chain is selling ears of corn at the price of five for a dollar, but you should see what stale, ugly little runt ears they offer at that price. It is a come-on for fools. My point is that the more expensive corn at the nursery/vegetable market is vastly superior in quality, in particular freshness, which means sweet ears instead of older ears where the corn sugar has mostly turned into starch. In this instance you surely do get what you pay for.

Assuming that you, like me, demand the best the $6.50 per dozen corn is what you buy and process. The only way to achieve real taste and tenderness quality in preserving corn is to freeze it. Canning and drying both seriously degrade the quality in taste and in tenderness. Thus this recipe describes how I process fresh corn and then freeze it. As you might guess, I certainly do vacuum seal packets of blanched corn kernels prior to freezing, for vacuum sealing is the perfect way to avoid any future freezer burn. Thus, the product when used later is most like the original corn in taste and tenderness. And though it might be hard to believe, you can open a pack two years later and have excellent corn.

The best way to process fresh ears of corn is to husk them immediately, before the corn sugar converts to starch, and blanch the ears for exactly four minutes in already boiling water that has salt in it at the rate of one teaspoon per gallon. That means you have a large pot with about 1 1/2 gallons of boiling salted water on high heat and you introduce only four ears of room temperature corn into the boiling water at one time. The lower temperature corn will reduce the boiling for about a minute. Ignore that. What you do is simply cover the pot with a lid when you first put the corn into the boiling water and then set a timer for four minutes. You may/will have to partially remove the lid after about a minute to keep the water from boiling over. After four minutes the blanched ears of corn are removed with tongs and immediately put into a large bowl of very cold water, for that will quickly stop any further cooking and also allow you to hold each ear comfortably to cut off the corn kernels. Allow the ears of corn to cool in the water for two minutes, and change the water after two four ear batches of corn have been processed, so as to have cold water all the time, not water heated above room temperature by the hot corn.

I own a corn kernel removal tool that is supposed to make the cutting of the kernels from the cob fast and easy. It is my experience that the best way is still to use a sharp heavy knife and simply make about six or seven vertical cuts down the ear of corn while you hold the top of the ear at the small end and rotate the ear partially after each cut. The special purpose tool works okay only if you have an auxiliary piece of equipment, a board with a long nail sticking up through it from the bottom, so as to allow you to impale an ear of corn on the nail to hold it stationary while using the kernel removal tool, which requires two hands to use. It also wastes/fails to remove some of the corn. Frankly that is too much effort for little gain in time saved, unless you are processing hundreds of ears of corn.

The size of your family and the individual appetites should be considered when deciding how much corn to put into one vacuum sealing bag. I suggest a minimum of one ear of corn per person, which is fairly generous if you start with the great large ears of corn I discussed earlier. Whatever you decide you vacuum seal the package of corn to a vacuum level of 28 inches of mercury. It is not necessary to go beyond that vacuum level. After the vacuum sealing the contents of each bag should be distributed evenly to form a block of corn of even and minimum thickness, for that will aid in efficient storage and later thawing for use.

I recall as a child that my mother would sometimes add butter to the corn prior to freezing it, so that when the corn was used later it was ready to serve immediately. I prefer not using the butter as how I might want later to use the corn, like in making vegetable soup, it can be inappropriate to have butter in the corn.

My preferred way to cook a packet of frozen corn is to defrost it in a microwave oven and then, if appropriate, place the corn in a serving dish, add butter and salt and possibly pepper, cover the dish with plastic wrap and set it aside until the last few minutes before the meal is served. At that point I microwave the corn only to the point of making it hot, where the plastic wrap starts to swell from internal steam pressure. Recall that the four minute blanching period pretty much cooked the corn, so the reheating later need not entail a long period of cooking for the corn to be perfect.

Follow the above instructions and you can have delicious corn year round.