Summer is FINALLY here and that means it’s time to enjoy all that luscious produce that ripens this time of year! While you bask in feeling of that fresh plum dribbling down your chin, now is also the perfect time to think about the cold winter on the horizon.
What, you say? WINTER??
That’s right! The beginning of summer is a fantastic time to put things up for the fall and winter when fresh produce is either hard to find or absolutely non-existent. (Or gross…you find a peach in the produce section in your grocer in the middle of January and you know it’s going to be awful!) In early summer, produce is plentiful, fresh, and inexpensive. EVERYONE from the grocery store, to the farmer’s market, to the roadside stand is simply drowning in ripe things and you can find a lot for very little cost. The other great thing about preserving food early in the summer is that it’s not too hot yet. If you’ve ever tried canning in mid-August, you know just how brutally hot it can be, so it’s much better to do it now when it’s cooler.
But I’ll save the canning for another day. For those of you that really don’t want to deal with the whole canning process, this post is for you…
Yesterday, I stopped by one of my favorite local farm stands, Sodaro Orchards, with my eye on their scrumptious peaches. I picked up a couple of boxes (which I’ll be canning in another post this weekend), but I also scored some super fresh white corn.
Corn is a great starter vegetable if you’re kinda interested in preserving, but haven’t yet committed to the whole canning kettle thing…yet. The process of preserving corn is super easy, fast, and you probably have just about everything you need to do it already. Best of all, you don’t even need a recipe for freezer corn!
You’ll need a pot, water, a bowl, a knife, cookie sheet, freezer bags (I prefer the 1 quart size), a measuring cup, ice, and of course corn. There are three major steps to freezing corn kernels: blanching, cooling, and cutting. Blanching destroys the enzymes in the corn that make it taste weird or mealy down the road and preserves the sweetness. Cooling the blanched ears keeps them from overcooking and getting mushy. Cutting the kernels from the cob saves a TON of space and allows you to easily use the corn in recipes throughout the winter.
Start by filling a pot about 2/3rds with water and setting it on to boil. Then, take your fresh ears of corn and husk them. Remove as much of the stringy silk as you can and check them for any weird or damaged spots. If you see any, it’s easy to slice those kernels off with a paring knife or a grapefruit spoon. Fill the bowl with cold water and add ice. Once your corn is clean and your water is at a rolling boil, put several ears into the pot. The water should return to a boil in a minute or so (if it doesn’t, add fewer ears next time). Once the water is boiling again, set a timer for 5 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the corn from the boiling water and put it into the ice water for 5 minutes. You can use the boiling water several times without any problems, but you’ll likely need to add additional ice to your cooling bowl for subsequent batches.
After you’ve finished blanching and cooling your corn, it’s time to cut it off the cob! They do sell special tools for this, but really all you need is a knife. I do this step on a cookie sheet as it keeps all the kernels contained easily. Stand your cooled ear of corn on the stalk end, set your knife against the kernels at the top and slice down towards the counter. Turn the ear and repeat until you’ve stripped the kernels. It’s just that easy.
Once you’ve stripped the kernels from the ears, use the measuring cup to put them into the freezer bags. I like to put 2 Cups into each bag as I’ve found that’s what we use most in recipes or side dishes. Portion your corn however works best for you, but I would advise against putting it all in one big bag as that will turn into one big frozen block of corn in your freezer. Finally, squeeze as much air as possible out of your bags, seal them and label them with the date and contents. Place the bags in your freezer and you’re all done! I usually freeze my bags flat on a cookie sheet so they fit nicely in my freezer.
This whole process is actually crazy fast and you have lots of puttering time while the corn blanches. In less than an hour this morning, I processed 18 ears of corn resulting in 14 Cups of kernels, and in between moving batches I folded two loads of laundry, swept the kitchen and had a cup of coffee so don’t be intimidated because you’ve never done it before or feel like you just don’t have the time.
I promise, it’s a easy way to save the fruits of summer to enjoy later this year.