Sunday, August 24, 2014

Freezing Corn for winter, and Good Tips for while you're at it!

This whole process took no more than a couple of hours, and was a perfect task to take care of with the cooler weather we've been experiencing.  For only two dozen ears of corn you'll end up with more than 6lbs of plump kernels in your freezer, making for super delicious summer-fresh chowder, or perhaps a scrumptious shepherd's pie, this winter.  That alone, I think, is worth two hours.

TIP: First, start with impeccably fresh corn--which you'll only find at farmers' markets or a well established farmstand.  Be wary of those roadside set-ups where corn is sold out of boxes from the back of a truck.  They're not always what they claim to be, with goods bought from out-of-state distributors and sold as "local" produce.

Barker's Farm corn.  So sweet and tender!

This corn was selected at one of our local farmers' markets on the day it was picked.  Two dozen ears were purchased, which actually amounted to 26 ears thanks to Barker's 'farmer's dozen' principle.

Perfectly crisp and fresh corn kernels will burst their white milk with the slightest prick of a thumbnail. 
Next, get your cooktop set-up in place before husking.  To remove the silk effortlessly, use your hands in a light-handed wringing motion, as if you were wringing out the cobs (a soft brush works for some):
  • Fill a very large canning or lobster pot (one that will easily hold 3 gallons of water) two-thirds high with tap water for blanching the corn
  • Add 1/4 cup of kosher salt to the pot before bringing to a boil
  • In another large pot (similar size), fill half way with cold tap water
  • Have on hand at least one big bag of ice cubes, either purchased from a local convenience store or collected from at least a dozen trays from your own icemaker
  • Have ready a couple layers of tea towels (hand towels) laid over a couple 17" cookie sheets for draining the iced corn
  • You'll also need a pair of tongs and a couple good potholders
TIP: It will take time for the canning pot of water to come to boil; husk your corn during this time for maximum efficiency.

Step 1:
Once your blanching water has come to a rapid boil, and working in at least three batches (depends on your water level and how much corn you're preserving of course), add 8 or 9 ears of the husked corn to the boiling water.  Blanch for 4-5 minutes.  Ideally, your water will quickly return to a boil.  If you find it takes longer, try adding fewer ears on your next round.

While the first batch of corn is boiling, add half of your ice to the pot of cold water...enough to fill the pot two-thirds of the way up.

Step 2:
At the 4 minute mark, remove the ears from the boiling water one by one using your tongs and plunge into the iced water.

Repeat the two steps above, replenishing you ice as needed (you might have to drain off water from the ice pot to do so).

TIP: Ice the blanched ears for the same amount of time they cooked for, about 4 or 5 minutes.  You should feel no warmth radiating from the cob as you hold it in your hand.

Once chilled, remove the iced ears to drain on the toweling.  If you're clever, one cookie sheet will suffice as you shuffle the cobs around, batch to batch...

Once all the cobs have been blanched, shocked in ice water, and drained, you'll be ready to shave off the kernels!  Grab your best, sharpest chef's knife.

Sweet, snappy blanched corn ready for de-cobbing.
The video below is of a good demonstration of the shaving process.  Use a cookie sheet to work over; it will be effective in collecting the kernels as you work.  Cut downward from the top, narrow end of the cob:

You can freeze two ways:

1. Individually quick frozen (IQF), in which you'll need to layer kernels on a sheet pan and then freeze for at least 20 minutes per pan... or,
2. Fill ziplocks with 8oz or 16oz quantities. I opted for the latter, as I will easily use one pound in any given recipe (which is a lot of corn, but chowder for a crowd is a given in this household).

TIP: Use a digital scale to weigh out your bags as you fill them, and be sure to label each one with the date.

Very generous 2lb bags of kernels ready for the freezer.
Now, let's make the most fabulous stock for that upcoming winter corn chowder, shall we?

After you've shaved off the kernels as shown in the video, add the cobs back to the pot in which you blanched them.  Once they're all tucked in, ladle off enough water to leave 1" over the submerged cobs (or keep all the water; you'll just have that much more stock to freeze up).

Bring the pot of cobs to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes. Add a couple bay leaves or sprigs of thyme or whatever moves you at this point, if desired.

I let the cobs cool in their cooking water at this point, then wring out each and every one right over the pot so as to collect every morsel and drop of sweet corn goodness. You will be amazed at how much more you get from these cobs, from creamy white milk to little bits from the kernels. Alternatively, forego the wringing and remove the cobs and reduce the liquid by simmering longer. A gallon of liquid when done will be a job well done.

(While commercial compost systems can easily break down corn cobs, "backyard composters" cannot reach the heat levels necessary for effective decomposition in a timely manner, so into the trash they go. Regardless, You are advised not to feed them to Fido!)

Season your corn stock lightly with salt, and then fill freezer-safe tubs with it (1/2 gal ice cream containers are perfect for this).  I filled three, each labeled accordingly before placing them first into the fridge to chill.

TIP: For anything that's heading for the freezer, first chill overnight in your refrigerator (or use an ice bath to very quickly cool things off).  This is better for your appliances' energy efficiency, but more importantly, better for the frozen foods already in your freezer.

Want a yummy corn chowder recipe?  Of course you do!  Enjoy! :)


  1. Those are great time and money saving idea. Thanks for sharing those useful tips.

  2. Your article advises about various types of vacuum food sealers and freezing tips. Thank you very much.