Freezing Corn

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Freezing corn is the easiest, fastest, and most effective way to preserve fresh sweet corn for long term storage and use.

Fresh sweet corn packed and ready to freeze

I've been using this technique for several years now, and it allows me to eat fresh tasting corn all year round. It doesn't matter whether you buy a few dozen ears from a local farmers market or roadside stand, or if you grow your own in your garden. This method is the way to go.

Timing is Everything

Freezing sweet corn involves a lot of waiting followed by a sudden flurry of activity. If you grow corn in your garden, you have to be ready to freeze it when it's ready. You can't pick your corn and refrigerate it for a week, and then freeze it. Well...technically you can, but you will be disappointed with the flavor.

Enzymes in the corn quickly convert the natural sugars to starch, which takes away that wonderful fresh sweet corn taste. Basically you have to work on the corn's schedule - not yours, which really isn't as bad as it sounds.

The fresher the corn you start with the better it will taste. Make it a point to buy or pick the ears the same day you'll be freezing it. Next day at the latest. The longer you wait, the more disappointed you'll be.

Start by removing the shucks and silks from the ears. Get them as clean as you can, but don't worry about a few remaining silks, because they should mostly come off when you blanch them.

Freezing Corn - Blanching & Chilling

Blanching corn before freezing

Before you can freeze fresh corn, you have to blanch it to destroy the sugar converting enzymes. Prepare a large pan (or two) about half full of water, and bring it to a rolling boil.

As the water comes to a boil, drop in enough ears to raise the water level to nearly full and return to a boil. Blanch the corn for five minutes, then remove the ears with a pair of tongs.

Chilling blanched corn stops the cooking process

Place them straight into ice water to stop the cooking process. Continue this until you've blanched and chilled all of the ears you have.

Freezing Corn on the Cob

If you want to freeze your corn "on the cob", you can drain most of the water from the blanched and chilled ears, and freeze them whole.

I recommend that you vacuum package corn on the cob, but you can use zipper seal bags as well. All you really have to do is decide how many ears will be enough for a meal and package accordingly.

If you'll use zipper seal bags, press out as much air as possible before closing the bags. Frozen corn that has been vacuum sealed will keep much longer than corn frozen in zipper seal bags. The more air that remains in the bags, the more chance you have of getting freezer burn.

Freezing Corn - Cutting the Kernels

Use a cutting board and sharp paring knife to cut the kernels away from the ears. Be careful not to cut too deep or you will wind up with pieces of the cob in with your corn. You'll get a feel for how deep to cut after just an ear or two.

Use a sharp knife to cut corn off of the cob

If you have access to a corn cutter, you might try it out. A corn cutter works pretty well...If you keep the blade razor sharp. If the blade is dull, you'll crush the kernels instead of cut them off. Some people I know swear by them, but for me a good sharp knife works just as well.

As you cut the corn from the cob, place it in a large bowl until you're done and ready to package the corn for freezing.

Freezing Corn:
Packaging and Freezing

Corn can be packaged in freezer bags, zipper seal bags, or freezer boxes. If you have a vacuum packager that allows you to turn off the vacuum feature, you can even heat seal the bags.

My preference is zipper seal bags. Storage method isn't so important, because freezer burn shouldn't be a concern, since you will be covering the corn with a packing juice.

Prepare packing juice by dissolving 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water. Depending on how much corn you will be freezing you may have to double or triple the batch.

Decide how much corn you will need to make a serving size for your family. For my family of three, we pack a quart (4 cups) as a family serving size.

Measure out corn in serving size quantities

Pack the appropriate amount of corn in freezer containers, and add enough packing juice to just cover the corn. Squeeze out any excess air and close the container.

Freezing Corn:
Storage and Identification

Label each package with what's in the bag and when you processed it. When we freeze corn, we like to put the variety of corn that we grew and froze that year. That way if it's exceptionally good, we'll know to grow it again. Our favorite sweet corn variety is "Incredible".

Fresh sweet corn packed and ready to freeze

Lay the bags out flat on baking sheets and place them in your freezer. Freezing them flat makes them easier to store.

Once they are frozen solid, remove them from the baking sheet. The bags of corn can then be stacked neatly for ease of access.

Frozen corn prepared this way will keep in your freezer for 3 or more years. If your family is like mine, it will never last that long, because we eat it all within the first year!

Preparing Frozen Corn to Serve

Preparing frozen sweet corn is simply a matter of removing it from the bag, and placing it in a saucepan with a small amount of water. Bring it to a simmer and it will thaw quickly.

Remember, the corn is already cooked, so all you need to do is warm it up. Add salt and pepper to taste. I like also to add about a tablespoon of butter or margarine for flavor.

Not much tastes better than fresh tasting corn in the dead of winter. If you have access to fresh corn in the summer, try freezing a big batch for winter eating.

It's easy to do, costs less and tastes better than store bought, and the feeling you get from "putting up" your own food is so satisfying. Freezing corn is just one more skill you can learn to increase your self sufficiency.

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Related Links:

Growing Corn

Vegetable Gardening

Freezing Food

Freezing Basics

Making Cornmeal & Grits