There are several reasons canning, freezing, and general home preserving methods appeal to me. The biggest reason I looked into it was for the health aspect. I wanted jam not loaded with sugar or extraneous ingredients. I also wanted to take advantage of central Florida’s abundant strawberry season without having to overload my freezer as I did in prior years.
So I internet searched low-sugar jam, bought some low-sugar pectin, some jars, and some strawberries. The pectin jar itself had instructions for how to make the jam. I canned them using a large pot we own for pasta; the built-in pasta drainer made for a perfect grate for the jars to rest on while processing.
People? I made some damn fine jam. Non-jam eaters were asking for seconds. I had friends scrounging their cupboards for old mason jars to give me and transform into jam.
So that brought home for me the second reason to preserve fresh foods myself – they taste a hell of a lot better than any store-bought variety.
If I had thought about it hard enough, that lesson had already been sitting in my freezer. My mother-in-law, NoNo, “puts up” (i.e. freezes) fresh corn every year. I had no idea how addicted I was to it until she had a bad summer and didn’t get around to it.
Corn is also a good example of why to do it for taste. Frozen corn in the supermarket is usually cheap, usually pretty nutritious compared to fresh, and most importantly pretty easy to find with that elusive one ingredient list of “corn”. But once you’ve tried corn that was put up in this method? You’ll never go back to the frozen section again.
I prepare my corn for freezing the way NoNo instructed me to. This isn’t a cooking blog, and especially when I’m sharing things to preserve I am offering my techniques as examples. Do not feel like you can read and learn everything you need to know to go do this yourself. I want to share because it’s become a part of my life and I hope I interest you to pursue more information and education elsewhere.
The preparation method described here yields a sort of half-creamed corn. It is sinfully delicious on its own. I plan to use it also in any recipe that calls for whole kernel corn.
First and foremost when prepping corn to freeze, SET THAT SHIT UP OUTSIDE. Corn is messy to shuck and messier to get off the cob. Don’t try to be neat inside; you’ll only hinder your efforts to extract the most from your corn cobs.
1) A trash receptacle for husks, silk, and cobs.
2) A sharp paring knife. 4” blade works wonderfully for me.
3) A wide bowl to catch your corn. You’re going to microwave it later so if you have plastic/microwaveable bowls that can be used, all the less you have to clean.
4) Something the corn can sit on between shucking and removing kernels.
5) Plastic bowls or Pyrex(?) to parboil the corn in the microwave. (I offer Pyrex as an option to those opposed to using plastic in their food prep. The question mark is because it cooks for fifteen minutes and I’ve never personally used Pyrex that long in the microwave. Definitely need to investigate this before proceeding.)
6) Freezer bags to store the corn.
7) A sharpie.
8) A measuring scoop.
9) A canning funnel. I suppose this is optional, but it helps me put the corn into the freezer bags without mess.
Oh, you’ll also probably want some corn. Buy it in season and on sale. I can find it for 25 cents an ear. My first time I used 16 ears. I wouldn’t bother with less than 8. The second time we prepped 26 and Tom helped me.
Step one is to shuck your corn. That means removing the husk (leaves) and silk (weird silky tassels at the top of the ear). If your corn has a handle, leave it on. It will help you with the second process. Cut off the tip of the corn.
The second step, removing the kernels from the cob, is tedious and difficult and just something you need practice to do well. Your hands will get tired. If you are prepping a lot of corn at once plan on either A) having a helper B) taking small breaks or C) switching between the shucking and removing to give your hands a break from one specific task. Please note I’ve never tried option C firsthand (so to speak. Har-de-har-har) so I don’t know how effective that is. It was just a thought I had while sitting watching Tom cut corn letting my hands rest.
To remove the kernels from the cob, place your blunt, chopped end of the corn down into the bowl. This is where using the handle can be nice. Cut the kernels down the cob lengthwise BUT ONLY ½ way from the tip of the kernel to the inside of the cob. You’re actively trying to leave some of the kernel on the cob, not cut whole kernels off.
Impromptu outdoor kitchen
It will take anywhere from five to ten turns of the cob to remove all the kernels. Now turn your knife upside down, take the non-blade end and press it hard into the cob, then run the knife again lengthwise down the entire cob. If you’re pressing hard enough, you’ll produce a kind of milky, corny goo. THAT’s what makes this all worthwhile. Get as much as you can out of the cob and into your bowl.
Your cob, when it’s done, isn’t going to look like you achieved maximum efficiency. There will be kernels at the bottom and maybe the top. Some will look better scraped than others. IT’S OK. I swear.
The method of cooking used before freezing the corn is technically, I believe, parboiling. You want to stop the sugars from decaying, but not fully cook. Place the corn in a microwave bowl and cook it for five minutes, then stir, then fifteen more minutes.
If you can’t stand the idea of using the microwave in your old-timey food preparation, it’s possible to cook it on the stove. You have to watch it very carefully so it doesn’t scorch though. I have no idea of the time involved but I’m sure you are only a Google away from the answer.
Corn with spoon has been cooked. Other bowl is raw. The cooked looks the teeniest bit more yellow
Write the date on all your freezer bags with a Sharpie. And yes, I suggest writing the entire date. If you do it multiple times while corn is in season, it’s likely you’ll make batches in the same month. If something seems horribly wrong with a bag when you use it, it’s nice to know it was from the 16th and not the 28th.
(Now that I wrote all that, I recall NoNo’s bags just have the year written on it. Either she makes it all at once – a possibility since she does it with their own corn – or my date concerns are paranoia.)
Once the corn is cool, open a freezer bag and put the canning funnel inside it. I like to scoop in 1-cup increments, putting 2 or 3 cups in a 1-quart bag. Since it’s there’s two of us, I can’t see wanting to thaw and use more than that at a time.
You want to flatten the bags like a thick pancake for storage. And, if you’re anal like me, write the cup amount on the bag.
Ready for the freezer
When you want some corn, remember it does need to be cooked a little since you only parboiled it. But since you’ll also want it warm to eat, that’s not a problem. Corn doesn’t need a ton of cooking.
The first 16 ears yielded about 7 cups of corn. The next batch, 26 ears, came out to 18 cups. I believe the second batch yielded more for a few possible reasons. One is that I had help; Tom used to scrape cobs for NoNo when he was little and despite being rusty at it might have more technique than I do. The second is that the corn itself might have been better and bigger. Third is that practice makes perfect and my own technique might have improved between the two batches. And lastly, the first time I did it inside and wasn’t aware how messy I was going to be. There were several things stacked on the table waiting to be stored and I got frustrated that everything needed to be washed again. I think I did a better job outside where I could let the corn fly.
Others benefit from outdoor kitchen prep as well