Ahhh, the flavors of summer! What's better this time of year than fresh sliced tomatoes, a sweet, juicy cantaloupe and hot, buttery ears of sweet corn?
Corn is the most widely grown crop in America, but only 10 percent of it ends up on the dinner table. But, this time of year — when the sweet corn is just beginning to be picked in local fields — is the ideal time to freeze corn for dinner tables into the future.
Columbus and his men are considered the first Europeans to have seen corn. All the early explorers to the New World reported seeing this new grain growing in fields from South America to Canada.
Genetic evidence indicates that corn was domesticated from its wild grassy origins in Central Mexico in about 7,000 BC. Corn became a staple in the native diet and it was so important to the Incas, Aztecs, Mayas and tribes of the American southwest that it entered into their mythology and religious practices.
Corn came to be as universally accepted by the Europeans as it had been by the Indian tribes throughout the country, and today, corn is one of America's favorite vegetables, either fresh, frozen or canned, and eaten by itself or in combination with other foods.
A bushel of ears weighs about 35 pounds and yields six to 11 quarts of prepared whole kernel corn. It takes about two and one-half pounds to make two cups of corn kernels. When preserving corn, select ears of ideal maturity for fresh eating and process promptly for best quality.
It is possible to can corn at home; however, the sugar in sweeter corn varieties may turn brown when canned, and the processing times are quite long in a pressure canner. Freezing is my preferred method for preserving corn for future meals. It is easy to do and keeps the corn at its flavorful best.
To freeze sweet corn, husk the ears, remove the silks, trim any insect-damaged or diseased areas and trim the ends off to remove the small, fibrous kernels. Corn should be blanched in boiling water to inactivate the enzymes in the corn that can give it a musty, "cobby" flavor in the freezer. (Some people will argue this point and opt to throw the corn into the freezer untreated — which may give decent results if eaten within a few months, but for longer, higher-quality storage, Extension experts recommend the blanching procedure.)
To freeze corn on the cob, blanch the ears in boiling water long enough for the heat to penetrate to the center of the cob — small ears for seven minutes, medium ears nine minutes and large ears (more than one and one-half inches in diameter) for 11 minutes. Cool in several changes of cold water and drain well. If desired, cut ears into uniform lengths (four-, six- or eight-inch pieces) and place into freezer bags. Squeeze out the air, label and freeze.
For corn kernels to be cut off the cob, the blanching time is shorter because the heat only has to penetrate the kernels, not the entire cob. Immerse the ears in boiling water for three to four minutes, cool in cold water and cut the kernels from the cob. Measure the amount of corn needed for a meal or favorite recipe, place into freezer bags, squeeze out the air, label and freeze.
America is the world's largest producer of corn, and this is the time to take advantage of our delicious bounty of sweet corn, for meals now and into the future.
For more information about home food preservation, see the resources of the Extension Rapid Response Center at www.rrc.ksu.edu or call me at the Finney County Extension Office, 272-3670.
For related information on home canning, see my blog at www.swktalk.com/livingwell.