I first visited the home Adam grew up in about five years ago. We were about to go on a canoe trip and he needed to pick up some of his camping supplies. While there, he also decided to change the oil in his truck.
(… I have said it before and I will say it again: The guy is handy.)
It was pre smart phones so I got bored rather quickly. While he was elbow deep in his truck, I decided to walk around. His childhood home was surrounded by fields that are farmed each year rotating between soybeans and corn. That year it was corn. We were there in late August and the corn was as tall as Adam.
As I walked towards the edge of the driveway and up to the start of the corn field, I remember being so surprised. Each stalk only had one ear, maybe two, of corn.
Really? That’s it?
As a Midwestern girl, born and raised, I have driven on highways surrounded by corn fields all my life. I could have sworn there were at least six ears to a stalk.
I walked back into the garage and squatted down to Adam’s level.
“Hey Bud. Random question… Are there really only one or two ears of corn on a corn stalk?” I asked.
Adam slid out from under his truck with a confused look on his face.
“Well, I thought there would be, like, six or seven ears. The corn out there only has one.” I tried to explain, what apparently was, a weird question.
“Yep. Just one. Sometimes two. Depends.”
Hmm, I thought looking back at the field.
Now I was the confused one. “It seems kind of inefficient. It’s just, a stalk takes up a lot of space. And you only get one ear?”
“Yep,” Adam said, sliding back under the truck.
Still looking out at the corn, still perplexed, I asked another question: “So, when can we eat it?”
“Babe. We won’t eat that. That’s not sweet corn. It’s field corn. Sweet corn is a different kind of plant. It’s mainly grown in the south.”
All these years of driving around Illinois, Indiana and Ohio I thought I was looking at what would wind up at a picnic and here I am, at twenty-one years old, learning all this?
Later, I shared my newfound knowledge with my east coast raised father. In his mid fifties, he had the same reaction to the news that corn stalks only have one or two ears: “Really? Never knew that. That seems inefficient.”
That’s what I am saying..!
However, he was in on the sweet corn versus field corn thing…
And while Indiana is home to acres of field corn that will eventually become oils or ethanol, many farmers and home gardeners in Indiana do grow sweet corn.
However, this year, Adam and I were not one of them.
Sweet corn is a little challenging to grow. Its success relies on the amount of rain during the growing season and the amount of attention the grower is able to give it. Two things we couldn’t guarantee at the beginning of the summer.
But, it was okay. We also knew we wouldn’t be without corn. Everyone around us grows sweet corn. It pops up on every other corner within ten miles of our home at temporary farm stands throughout the late summer.
Fortunaly, rain was not an issue this summer. Everyone who grew sweet corn had success. Many of Adam’s clients grew sweet corn and he would receive ears of it by the bushel every day. Free of charge.
We couldn’t eat it fast enough so we decided to freeze it. Freezing any vegetable, especially corn, is a great way to lock in fresh, natural flavor.
Here is how we did it:
Note: You want to either eat or process corn as soon as possible. The longer ears of corn sit untouched the more nutrients and flavor are lost.
Step One: Shuck all the corn. Pull all greens and silks from the ears.
Step Two: Get set up. Bring a pot to a boil and get a bowl of ice and water ready. We actually used a clean cooler filled with ice water because we were working with so much corn.
Step Three: Boil corn for about five minutes.
Step Four: Remove corn from boiling water and immediately place into ice water. This will stop the cooking process and ensure all the sweet corn flavor that you know and love will remain with the corn.
Step Five: Remove corn from ice water after about five minutes. Remove kernels from corn cob.
There are a lot of neat gadgets out there to make the removal of corn kernels easy, but a knife works just fine. What we did here was turn a small bowl upside down and place in the center a large skillet. Running the knife along the cob as it’s held on top of the small bowl, the kernels will fall into the skillet making collecting the kernels (and clean up) easy.
Step Six: Place corn onto baking sheets and freeze. Once frozen, use a spatula to remove corn from baking sheet and fill into freezer bags, squeezing out as much air as possible. Keep in the freezer for up to a year.
The flavor of sweet corn frozen at home is so much sweeter and authentic than corn from major frozen vegetable companies. This is because those companies remove so much of the corn’s natural sugars in their processing as it can make their continually used equipment very sticky. Not to mention, they would have to get the corn frozen much more quickly than they do. Otherwise, they are going to go into whiskey making business fast.
But there are some businesses trying to break the traditional manufactured sweet corn mold.
Last week, I had the opportunity to meet two incredibly inspiring Indiana entrepreneurs who are trying to bring the “Home-Preserved” fresh flavor of sweet corn to the commercial market. I even got to tour their brand new processing facility.
Through their new business, Husk, they are purchasing sweet corn straight from farmers just around the corner from their processing plant. With a little creativity (Example of this? French friers full of boiling water versus oil to cook the many corn cobs received every day.) and a ton of motivation they are changing the frozen corn market in Indiana.
Since their inception at the start of this year’s sweet corn season, they have cut and frozen 60,000 pounds of sweet corn. Check them out: http://huskfoods.com/
And, Hoosiers, If you can’t find their product at your favorite grocery store, request it!