How To Freeze Summer’s Sweet Corn For Winter
When you buy local sweet corn and freeze it to eat when the cold winter winds are blowing, you take part in a win-win process!
Reason Number 1
Golden, succulent, locally-grown sweet corn is one of the summer’s fleeting gifts. For a few wonderful weeks, it is perfect and abundant. It’s so plentiful that roadside stands pop up every few blocks.
Alas, all too soon, the season ends, and it will be many months before we see the beckoning pop-up tents and truckloads of corn again. The same “make hay while the sun shines” philosophy applies to freezing corn as well! Grab it while it’s at its peak! You have about four to six weeks to get your hands on really great sweet corn.
Reason Number 2
Almost every sweet corn stand is a family business. When you make a purchase, you are supporting a local entrepreneur. Each family has a “spot” where they sell their corn. They’re often on the perimeter of a business parking lot that they negotiated long ago. Many times, they’re in the same place for years and years.
When you buy sweet corn directly from the farmer that grows it, you can be sure it is fresh, and the sugar content is at its peak. That means the flavor is as good as it gets. Nothing beats farm-to-table freshness!!
Every morning at first light, those hard-working folks tromp up and down muddy rows of corn, picking each ear by hand. Mosquitos and flies love cornfields, too. Swat. Stomp. Pick. Slide. Sweat. Then, when the truck is full, the harvest is driven into town to sell that day!
I’m completely in awe of the hard work and dedication of these amazingly hardy families. On a busy summer morning when business is brisk, there might be three generations of a family efficiently working their stand like a well-oiled machine.
Reason Number 3
Canning, pickling, preserving, and freezing produce are deeply satisfying activities. One messy afternoon “putting up” corn will reward you over and over again.
Let’s face it. At the end of any ordinary day, it’s often hard to look around and know you have accomplished anything lasting. But, when you open the freezer and see bag after tidy bag of corn neatly stacked and ready to enjoy, you have solid evidence of your labors.
Reason Number 4
Fresh sweet corn, frozen at its peak, hours from the field, tastes infinitely better than any corn you can buy in the frozen food aisle. It’s that simple. The effort is well worth the outcome.
When you serve it at Thanksgiving dinner, they’ll want to kiss you on the lips, trust me on this one. It’s light years better than the store-bought stuff, and they’ll gobble it up before everything else!
Let’s Get Down To The Business Of Freezing Sweet Corn
The sweet corn season goes by FAST! At our house, we enjoy it to the max for a few weeks each year. OK, I’ll be specific. We gorge on it like pigs almost every night when we can buy it fresh and locally grown; the more recently picked, the better. I eat naked corn; no butter or salt is needed when it’s this fresh!
Still, I always like to “put up” some to enjoy during the fall and winter months. Not sure where that expression came from, but here in Nebraska, “putting up corn” means freezing it to enjoy later.
It’s a simple but messy process and somewhat labor-intensive. Do it anyway! Everyone will be SO glad you did!
This Is How To Get Sweet Corn Ready For The Freezer
Freezing corn is a much quicker process for two (or more) people, so grab someone to help you if you can. It’s an excellent team project and makes for a day of fun. Kids are great at pulling off the husks! Some families make putting up corn an annual event. It’s not unusual for a team to put up 15 dozen or more ears of corn in a single afternoon!
Since it’s a messy job, I like to shuck the corn outside. Remove as much of the silk as you can while you’re still outdoors. This time around, I was on my own, so I did five bags from my favorite vendor. Each pack usually contains a “farmer’s dozen” or 13 ears. Five or six dozen ears is a manageable size batch for one person.
Fill a big stockpot with water and start it boiling. Take the corn to the sink and use a soft brush to remove the stray silks. Don’t get too carried away thinking you have to pluck every single silk as if they were grey hairs. Believe me; it’s ok if some are left behind!
Plop six or eight ears in the boiling water and leave them in about 3 minutes, just long enough to let the kernels go from pale to golden yellow. It doesn’t need to cook, just blanch.
Blanching completes the cleaning process, stops the enzyme action that can cause it to lose flavor, makes the corn brighter and helps retain vitamins. See how much more vivid the blanched ear looks?
Silicone tongs are great for removing the hot corn from boiling water. Next, plop those steaming ears into a sink full of very cold water until they are cool enough to handle. You will need to keep adding cold water or even a bag of ice.
Continue working the corn in batches of 6 or 8 ears of corn until all of it has been blanched. As the corn cools, the coolest ears will sink.
Grab one ear at a time, shake off the excess water and start cutting the kernels off each cob. I’ve found a serrated knife works great. Some folks swear by an electric knife for this job.
To corral the mess, place a small bowl in the center of a large baking pan. The deep sides stop the kernels from flying in every direction. Or, you can stand each ear of corn in the center of a bundt or angel food cake pan while you cut the corn off the cob.
When The Pan Is Full Start Bagging
Use zip-lock type bags made specifically for freezing. I like to use quart-size bags because each one holds about 2 or 3 cups of corn. Typically, a serving size of corn is 1/2 cup, but who are we kidding? It’s sweet corn. We like it a lot!
Squeeze as much air out as you can and use a clean, damp dishcloth to wipe off any corn that gets in the way of the zipper. Lay flat, squish out more air. As you do, you’ll be separating the kernels, too.
Make sure the bag is zipped tight. Label each bag and lay it flat in the freezer until it’s frozen solid. Once frozen, you can stand the pouches up like slices of bread, and they will not take up much room.
Each average ear will yield about 1/2 cup of corn. This batch of sixty-five ears of corn became a dozen quart-size bags of frozen corn. It will keep in the deep freeze until next summer but will still be safe to use after that. Cook it like you would “store-bought” corn on the stove or in the microwave.
It’s perfect for adding to chowders, casseroles, soup, or any recipe calling for whole kernel corn. You can use it to make a killer black bean and corn salsa or corn salad using it right from the freezer. Defrost it first and drain.
Every Perfect Ear Of Corn Is A Miracle
Before I leave you, here’s a bit of scientific nerdiness and why I believe everything is a miracle.
Every single kernel on one perfect ear of sweet corn has to be pollinated by the wind. One tiny grain of pollen from the tassel must travel down through one delicate strand of silk to one specific kernel to fertilize it. Over and over and over again! One ear of corn typically contains 800 kernels in 16 rows. A-maize-ing, isn’t it?
So, you can see every perfect ear of corn is a triumph of creation! There’s a good reason that many Native American cultures respected the “miracle of corn” and offered prayers with its pollen. Just another reason to love corn. And life.
What’s your favorite way to eat corn? Butter or no butter? Salt or no salt?
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