Preserving Sweet Corn

Preserving Sweet Corn

Reading Time: 4 minutes


A guide to preserving sweet corn

By Jenny Underwood   Whether you’ve grown it yourself (see Countryside, May/June 2022 for detailed directions on that) or found a wonderful deal at your local farmers market, fresh sweet corn is an absolute delight! But while I could personally eat several ears a day for quite some time, unfortunately that’s not an optimal way to keep your corn. After about a week in the refrigerator, it will lose a very large amount of its sweetness and even start to taste a bit sour. You definitely don’t want to waste all of your hard work (or thrifty pennies) so, how do you preserve all that goodness for the winter?    

First, shuck your corn as soon as possible and get it into a cool location. Do not leave your corn in a hot, humid place if you want to enjoy it later. It is possible to put it in a cool location with the shucks on but make certain you get to it quickly for optimal sugar content. We found that picking our corn, then shucking it as soon as we got home worked well for us. Then we layered the corn in coolers with frozen jugs of ice. The next morning when I began processing them, they were still nice and cool. Another option would be an extra refrigerator, walk-in cooler, or root cellar.  

After they’ve been shucked and the silks removed, it’s time to decide exactly how you want to preserve your bounty. There are many different ways, but my favorites are freezing the cut-off kernels, canning corn relish, and fermented corn relish. You can also pressure can the kernels, dehydrate them, and pressure can them as a part of stew or salsa.  

To prepare them for freezing, you will need freezer bags or plastic or glass containers (you can also use canning jars for freezing, but I personally don’t), a large pot for blanching, a large container to cut off the kernels into, permanent marker to label with or pre-made labels, and a sharp knife.  

Blanch your corn on the cob in boiling water for 2 minutes, then plunge it into ice water. I found that frozen jugs of ice worked great to keep the water bath cold as the ice cubes melted too quickly. After cooling, cut off the kernels into a large container. Fill freezer containers with the corn, remove air, seal and label. If you put them into freezer bags, make certain to flatten the bags to freeze. This allows for much easier storage. To use, simply heat a small amount of fat such as olive oil or butter and lightly saute the corn. Then add 1/2 cup water per quart and simmer for 5-8 minutes.    

To can corn relish, you will need cut kernels, vinegar, onions, peppers, sugar, salt, and water. Cut your corn off the cob, measure your ingredients into a large pot or Instant Pot. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook an additional 15-20 minutes or until its to your desired thickness. To use your Instant Pot, cook on pressure setting for 15 minutes, then allow to depressurize naturally.  

Ladle hot mixture in hot, sterile jars. Remove bubble, wipe rims, and place hot, dry lids and rings on. Water-bath can for 15 minutes on a rolling boil. Turn off heat, allow to sit 5 minutes, then carefully remove jars with jar lifter onto towels. Allow to cool naturally for 16-24 hours. Label and store.  

Easy, Delicious Corn Relish:  

  • 2 cups white vinegar  
  • 2/3 cup sugar  
  • 1 tbsp salt  
  • 4 cups corn kernels  
  • 2 cups diced red and green peppers  
  • 1/2-1 cup chopped onion  

(You may also add 1 Tbsp dry mustard, 1 tsp. celery seeds, 1 tsp. ground tumeric)  

Makes 6, 1/2 pints. I personally double or triple this recipe because we love corn relish!  

Fermented corn relish is another wonderful treat. Not only is it delicious, but its full of probiotics. You could can this, but that would kill off the beneficial bacteria, so I recommend instead storing it in a jar in your refrigerator. All you need is a canning jar (wide mouth is best), a stomper of some kind, a lid or airlock system, and your ingredients!  

Lacto-fermented Corn Relish:  

  • 1 onion, chopped  
  • 1 large pepper, chopped  
  • 3 cups fresh, washed corn kernels  
  • 1 Tbsp. sea salt  
  • Room temperature water  

(Makes 1 quart)  

  1. Mix all ingredients except water and crush gently with a cabbage stomper or mallet.    
  2. Fill jar, pressing slightly to pack vegetables.    
  3. Pour in water to completely submerge vegetables.  
  4. Place a weight on top and either place a lid or an airlock system on top.  
  5. If using a lid, be sure to burp your ferment each day.  
  6. Make sure your vegetables stay completely under the liquid. Add more salt water if necessary (1 tsp. per cup of water).  
  7. Allow to ferment in a moderate temperature location (60-70 degrees F) for 3-7 days until desired flavor is achieved.    
  8. Remove your weight and store in the refrigerator with a lid.  

There are several different methods for dehydrating corn. The easiest is to blanch the corn on the cob as described above. Then cut off the kernels and spread on dehydrator trays in a single layer. Dry at 120 degrees until crisp. Store in the freezer or airtight containers. Another option is to let the corn dry on the ears in the field. This is suitable for cornmeal but will not rehydrate to a tender kernel like the blanched and dried will.  

I hope this encourages you in other great ways to preserve summer’s bounty and provide delicious, healthy meals for the rest of the year! Happy preserving!  

Originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of Countryside and Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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