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Endless Summer (Or, How to Freeze Sweet Corn)

Heather Ross2 Comments



The Green Market at Union Square here in New York City is presently overwhelmed with giant piles of extremely fresh sweet corn. I keep buying it, because I grew up in northern Vermont with a mother who gardened but did not can. This meant that when there were fresh vegetables, we gorged feverishly. We knew that come november the party would be over and we would be back to frozen fish sticks and that lone head of broccoli, yellowing at the corner of an otherwise empty produce rack at the Grand Union supermarket. 


Even as a grown woman, I used to get a little panicky around fresh produce. Certain friends refused to go to Farmers Market with me, citing incidents involving me pulling them through the crowd, leaving in my wake horrified children and jugglers, calling behind me "THEYHAVELEMONCUCUMBERS!" as though it justified my rampage. I horded, I gorged, I practically wept when I had to dump something in the compost because I couldn't stay on top of my vegetable drawer. One summer, I was regularly coming home with so much food that I actually considered getting rabbits because the compost bin was so overwhelmed. Inevitably, disaster struck. During one era of simultaneous bumper crops of cherry tomatoes and carrots, I wiped out the entire population of my worm box. They weren't dead, exactly, but they were close to it. The sight of their pale, exhausted little worm bodies was the tragic wake up call that I needed. I had hit bottom.

Then, almost by accident, I discovered freezing. I know, tres moderne. But really, it works, and it works well. By buying fresh, locally grown corn and spending a Sunday evening packing and freezing, you can have fresh local corn year round. That means corn crab chowder in January and perfect corn and chile tamales in December, among other things.... Oh I could go on. Except that it's Saturday morning and I have to get myself to Farmers Market before that artsy lady with the big ugly blue hat gets there before me and buys all the best corn.

How To Freeze Sweet Corn

Below is my recipe for frozen corn, tried and true. It works equally well for lots of other produce, I recommend experimenting a bit in terms of blanching time. The trick is to freeze something immediately after it has been picked, so ask lots of questions at your farmer's market. I go the really small stands first, they often have less hands and less time and do their picking the morning of or evening before market. Really fresh corn has a very tight husk and moist silk. When you pick up very fresh corn, it should feel heavy and cool. If you peel back the husk just a bit and poke a kernel with your fingernail, it should pop, and some liquid should come out. 

You will need at least a dozen ears of Sweet Corn, freshly picked and shucked, Ice Cubes, quart size freezer bags, and a very handy tool known as a  "Corn Stripper", available here.

Fill a very large pot with water until it is deep enough to completely submerge a single corn cob. Next, fill another large pot or large bowl (or even a very clean sink) with cold water, and add a few cups of ice cubes. Cut the stems off of each husk so that the surface is even and flat. Using tongs, submerge each cob in the boiling water for ten seconds, then quickly transfer it to the ice bath. If the ice bath begins to warm, add more cold water and ice. This process is called "blanching", and it helps to preserve the flavor of the corn during freezing, as well as helping it to hold it's shape.

Once all of the corn is blanched, use your "stripper" to remove the kernels from the cob. A paring knife will work, but takes much more time and is a little dangerous. I like to hold the cob upright with it's stem (now cut so that it is flat)  and strip from the top down.

Vegetables expand a bit when frozen, so when you transfer the corn into freezer bags, leave a bit of room at the top. Then, add just enough water to the bag completely cover the corn, leave about two inches at the top, squeeze out most of the excess air, and seal. I like to mark the bags with the name of the farm that I bought my corn from, so I can remember which one to go to next year. 

oooo, look at this....