How to Store, Cook, and Preserve Sweet Corn

How to Store, Cook, and Preserve Sweet Corn

When I was a child the summer song was, “Knee high by the Fourth of July.” However, newer hybrids have made it possible for us to enjoy our favorite summertime treat much earlier, and for much longer, than we did in the 1970’s. It’s always a happy time when it is sweet corn season.

Despite its nearly ubiquitous appearance at picnics and family dinners, many people still have questions on how to store, cook, and preserve sweet corn.

This post is sponsored by Garden Spot Vegetable Farm. Located in Princeville, Illinois, owner, Jim Buckley and his family, cultivate 34 acres of vegetables and 375 fruit trees. Garden Spot is a no-spray farm, offering a variety of CSA packages. Check their Facebook page for current programs and options for available produce.

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Let’s answer some common questions.

How do you know when corn is ripe?

There are several ways to determine that you are buying corn, which is a the peak of perfection.

Look at the silk.

The silk, also called tassels, should be uniformly brown and still a little moist. If it is still yellow and has a lot of moisture, the corn inside will not yet be fully ripened.

Feel it.

There are actually several ways to check for ripeness without opening the top of the corn. Look for holes in the husk. These are worm holes. Squeeze (not too firmly) from the bottom to the top. Does it feel uniform? There should not be any soft spots or areas which seem to not have fully formed kernels underneath.

Look at the kernels.

If you peel back the protective layer of the corn a few inches, the interior should be more or less fully populated with plump, full kernels, containing a white liquid. No fair jabbing a finger into the kernel unless you are buying it!

Be aware, that unless you feel compelled to check for worms or other deformities, you are unnecessarily exposing the interior to air, resulting in that ear drying out and turning the kernels starchy far more quickly than if you had left the husk in tact. It also makes is super hard for that farmer to sell those ears later in the day, when they have sat in a hot stall for several hours after you opened the top.

Rather than having customers rummaging through every ear (especially in light of COVID-19), many farmers will deliberately leave a few tops exposed a few inches to show customers several sample ears. They really do try to give you a sample. Take their word for it: the rest of the corn was picked the same morning from the same field.

How do you store corn?

First, you need to know that sweet corn is best eaten 24 – 26 hours after it is cooked. As corn ages, it dries out, becoming tougher and losing flavor. The longer you wait, the more pronounced these distinctions become.

The gold standard is to keep sweet corn wrapped in plastic in your refrigerator for up to three days. If there’s not enough room in your fridge, leave it covered at room temperature, but, be aware that it will lose its flavor very quickly.

What parts of the corn can be used?

You can pretty much use the entire plant! I am a huge advocate in not wasting anything.

Corn silk and/or cobs can be brewed into a tasty and nutritious tea. Used by Native Americans to aid in healing a number of conditions, this tea is believed to be helpful in managing health issues like high blood pressure and urinary tract infections.

Corn cobs can be repurposed in several different ways. They add an interesting flavor and color to my homemade vegetable stock. Cobs can also be used in making lovely, lemon colored, corn cob jelly. Dried cobs make excellent animal bedding or fire starters.

How do you cook corn?

Corn can be boiled, microwaved or grilled.

Boiled

Bring several quarts of water to a boil. Shuck corn, add to boiling water and cook for 5-7 minutes.

Microwaved

We use this method all summer long! Don’t shuck the corn. Leave it whole and pop into the microwave for 3 minutes per ear. We generally microwave two ears for 5 minutes and then check to see if it is done. If the ears are not hot, return to the microwave, checking every 30 seconds.

Grilled

There are two schools of thought when it comes to grilling corn: shucked or non-shucked. You can leave the corn (basically) in tact, peeling back the outer layers enough to remove the silk, then returning the husks to their previous position . Alternately, you can shuck and de-tassel it, removing all the silk. Cooking time is the same for both methods: medium coals for 10 minutes.

How do I freeze corn?

Once again, there is a disparity of opinion with, basically, the same net result. I have successfully used several methods. Yes, freezing changes both the taste and the texture. However, there’s nothing like serving up a little bit of summer to our family in the middle of winter!

Materials Needed:

Using an Angel food cake pan

I have a several, 1-piece angel food cake pans on hand to aid in removing the kernels and yet, keeping them in one area.

Place the end of the corn in the small, middle hole of the pan. Then, simply use a sharp knife to remove the kernels. They fall naturally into the enclosed portion of the cake pan!

Method #1: Corn Kernels – with blanching

This is the most traditional method, and the one I’ve used most often.

  • Bring several quarts of water to a boil
  • Shuck and wash corn
  • Add to boiling water and cook for 3 minutes
  • Remove from water and let cool for a few minutes until you can handle them
  • Using a sharp knife, remove the kernels. (It helps to hold the knife at about a 45 degree angle). *See angel food cake pan method described above.
  • Keep cobs for making jelly, tea, broth, or dry as fire starters.

Method #2: Corn Kernels – no blanching

I have a corn peeler, which although it does require a bit of muscle, really does work well. I got mine for about $10.00.

  • Use a sharp knife or a corn peeler to remove kernels from the cob
  • Place in 1-quart freezer bags
  • Remove as much air as possible
  • Label and freeze
  • Keep cobs for making jelly, tea, broth, or dry as fire starters.

Method #3: Freezing whole – no blanching

  • Shuck and wash
  • Place in freezer bag
  • Remove as much air as possible
  • Label and freeze

Recipes

There are a million (probably not an exaggeration) recipes for corn. However, let me leave you with a few of my favorites.

What’s your favorite way to eat corn?

Drop your answer in the comments.

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