Continuing our harvest preservation series, I wanted to cover one of the simplest methods of saving food – freezing! Freezing works great, and is perhaps the cheapest method of food preservation. Perhaps the only downside is the possibility of a power failure, something that happens frequently in our area, ruining your harvest. However, this is one case where the cost savings and convenience outweigh the risk. To simplify things, I’m going to describe the process for freezing sweet corn, but this same basic method can apply to other veggies.
If you like frozen niblets-type corn in the winter, just imagine how good it would taste if you had picked a couple of dozen ears yourself, or bought a couple dozen fresh ears from a farm stand and then quickly froze it at home!
Ingredients and Equipment
- · Fresh corn on the cob – any quantity!
- · 1 large pot of boiling water.
- · Plenty of ice for a cold water bath.
- · Vacuum food sealer or “Ziplock” freezer bags.
- · A large bowl to fill with ice water.
- · A bunt pan (optional) or a cookie sheet.
- · A sharp knife.
Step 1 – Get Yer Corn!
Start with fresh corn on the cob - as fresh as you can get. If there is a delay between harvesting and freezing, put it in the refrigerator or put ice on it. The sugars break down quickly at room temperature.
Step 2 – Get Set Up
Get the largest pot you have and fill it ¾ full with hot water, put it on your largest burner (or straddle two burners) and get it heating to a full rolling boil..
Next, get a LARGE bowl filled with ice and cold water. You may need to buy a bag or two of ice if you are planning to do more than a dozen ears of corn.
Step 3 – Husk the Corn
Husk the corn and pick off as much of the silk as you can. A soft vegetable brush is the fastest and easiest way to get the remaining silk off - just don't be too rough with it.
Step 4 – Blanch the Corn
All fruits and vegetables contain enzymes that, over time, break down the destroy nutrients and change the color, flavor, and texture of food during frozen storage. Corn requires a brief heat treatment, called blanching, in boiling water or steam, to denature the enzymes before freezing. Blanching times generally vary from one to 10 minutes, depending on the vegetable. The duration should be just long enough to stop the action of the enzymes.
Begin counting the blanching time as soon as you place the corn in the boiling water, noting that the water ought to return to a boil in a minute or less. If it takes several minutes or more to return to a boil, you are using too small a pot or adding too much corn.
Cover the kettle and boil at a high temperature for the required length of time. You may use the same blanching water several times. Be sure to add more hot water from the tap from time to time to keep the water level at the required height.
Blanching time varies depending on the type of frozen corn you are making, but the average time is around 5 minutes for sweet corn.
Step 5 – Cool!
Cool corn immediately in ice water. Drain the corn thoroughly.
After vegetables are blanched, cool them quickly to prevent overcooking. Plunge the corn into a large quantity of ice-cold water. A good rule of thumb: Cool for the same amount of time as the blanch step. For instance, if you blanch sweet corn for 5 minutes, then cool in ice water for 5 minutes.
Step 6 – Cut the Kernels from the Cob.
Obviously, if you are freezing the corn on the cob, skip this step.
Whole Kernel Corn – Cut kernels from cob about 2/3 the depth of the kernels. I hold the ear by the small end, and slide the knife down the ear.
Cream Style Corn – Cut kernel tips about 1/2 deep and scrape the cobs with the back of a knife to remove the juice and the heart of the kernel.
You don't need a special tool, just a very sharp knife! However, many people like to stick the cob into the opening of a bunt pan to help stabilize it and also keep the cob above other cut corn. If you opt for this method I recommend using a bunt pan that has not been treated with a non-stick coating. Flecks of Teflon in your corn may not be too healthy.
Step 7 – Bag It Up
For this step you can seal the cut corn in bags using a vacuum sealer, but if you don't have one, Ziploc bags work too. However, it is hard to get as much air out of the bags. Remove the air to prevent drying and freezer burn.
Step 8 – DONE!
Pop them puppies in the freezer!
Later, when you are ready to serve the corn, it just takes about 3 or 4 minutes in the microwave (from frozen) or in the top of a double boiler. It doesn't need to be "cooked", just heated up!
Freezing keeps corn safe to eat almost indefinitely, but the recommended maximum storage time of 12 months is best for taste and quality. The quality of the frozen corn is maintained best in a very cold freezer (deep freezer), and one that keeps them frozen completely with no thaw cycles.