How to Freeze Sweet Corn
One of my most favorite experiences of the summer is that first bite of sweet corn on the cob around the 4th of July when the sweet corn is just starting to be ready. The sweet corn crop continues through the rest of the summer up here in Minnesota and this past week, the farmers market was abundantly overflowing with sweet corn. I scored an amazing deal by purchasing in bulk from the local farmer whom I bought corn from a few weeks ago and it was super delicious. Needless to say, I returned for more of those white and golden ears of goodness. Man, was that bag heavy with five dozen ears of corn in it!
I had my work cut out for me that evening after farmers market eating and then freezing sweet corn so all of the awesome sweet flavor can be preserved for winter meals. There is NOTHING store bought that can even come close to the taste of freshly frozen sweet corn picked that same day. Or at least, I haven’t found it yet, and I expect I never will, which is exactly why I always freeze sweet corn each year for my family. Plus, it’s incredibly easy!
How to tell if sweet corn is really fresh
Do the poke test… expose the very top of the corn cob kernels and poke your fingernail into a developed kernel. If it releases clear liquid, it’s not ready to be picked yet. If it releases milky liquid. Pick it now! It’s at it’s peak sweetness which also means it’s ideal to eat or freeze it that very same day. If you can’t eat or freeze it the same day you purchase or pick it, store it refrigerated and use within 2-3 days for best flavor. Sweet corn declines in sweetness starting the moment it’s picked. If the kernels don’t release any liquid when you poke it, it’s past it’s prime. You can still eat it, but it will be more starchy. I end up giving these ones to my chickens, which they LOVE.
How to Freeze Sweet Corn
The first step is the same as eating it right away (which I highly recommend doing as well!). Grab your expert corn shuckers (thank you, dear daughters!) and shuck all of the husks.
Take care to get as much of the corn silk off as well. Don’t worry if you can’t get absolutely all of it, some will come off when the corn is blanched in a moment. Next up, prepare your space. This whole process goes fairly quick so it’s beneficial to have your space organized. You’ll need a large stockpot (I use my waterbath canner so I can fit about a dozen or slightly more ears in at one time). Heat your pot to a full boil. While your pot is boiling, fill a sanitized sink with cold ice water and be sure you have a pair of tongs handy. Note, if you’re preparing multiple batches, be sure you have lot of ice handy so you can continue to replenish the ice bath to keep it cold.
Next, immerse your corn in the boiling water. This is called blanching. You’ll want to get all of the corn you’re putting into the pot as quickly as possibly so it blanches evenly and you don’t end up with a few that are overcooked. Same goes for removing it. When you add the corn to the pot, the water will briefly stop boiling. That’s okay. Quickly cover the pot with the lid and set your timer for TWO MINUTES. Why blanch it? This will help keep the flavor, color and texture as well as cleanses the surface of dirt and organisms. It also makes it nice and brightly colored while preserving more of the vitamins and sweetness present in the corn. Because it stops the enzymes and cleanses it, freezing sweet corn after blanching allows for longer storage up to 6-9 months especially if vacuum sealed.
When the two minutes is up, use a tongs and QUICKLY remove the corn and transfer into the ice bath. This will stop the cooking process.
The corn can remain in the ice bath until it is cool enough to handle. This also means that if you’re making some for dinner, you can keep the ones you’ll be eating in the boiling water just a few minute longer while transferring the ones you’re planning to freeze to the ice bath. While you’re enjoying your dinner, the corn in the ice bath will be fine waiting for you for a small amount of time. You may need to stir the ears around a bit in the ice bath with your hands to be sure the full ear is getting cooled.
Next, you’ll want to remove the kernels from the cob. To do this, I use an angelfood or bundt pan with the cob placed upright. If you don’t have one, no worries, you can just slice it off into a baking dish to catch the kernels. Slice the kernels off using a sharp knife or a super cool corn cutter. I just bought this cutter (in the 2nd image) and it’s AMAZING!!! It makes cutting corn off the cob 2-3 times faster so if you freeze a lot or freeze it often, it’s well worth having.
Then, be sure you have freezer proof ziptop bags or a vacuum sealer ready and scoop kernels in desired amount into the bag. I usually pack about 2-3 cups of kernels into each bag for my family of 5. I figure about 1/2 cup for each person since we love sweet corn 🙂 Once it’s in the bag, remove as much air as possible, seal, label and date the package, and place in your freezer until ready to use!
How to use frozen sweet corn? I use it most often simply reheated in a saucepan with butter, salt and pepper. Sometimes I add cilantro to achieve a flavor similar to this recipe for cilantro grilled corn. The other way I use it is in soups like chicken tortilla soup or this southwest chipotle salad!
Why not can it? You totally can. But for me, it’s a matter of preference and ease. There are definitely benefits to canning corn, like the fact that it doesn’t take up freezer space, it can keep much longer and isn’t susceptible to spoilage if the electricity goes out and renders your freezer inoperable. The taste is much more similar to fresh sweet corn if it’s frozen, however, so that will always be my preferred method. Freezing sweet corn is also a lot faster. Canning corn takes an extended waterbath time to can it or it requires a pressure canner because it is not an acidic food.
I’ve been freezing sweet corn since I was a child and it’s part of my late summer routine. I’m so happy that now, you too, will be able to enjoy “fresh” nutritious sweet corn well into the winter months!