Efficiently Processing Sweet Corn for Freezing

For years we have been processing our corn outside – from start to finish, keeping the sticky mess out of the house.  We save a lot of time and energy by setting up “stations” to move the corn through our “production cycle”.

Our goal is to get the corn picked and blanched in the fasted time possible – the longer the corn sits around after picking, the more of its sugar content will turn to starch.  So while half the team goes out into the field to pick sweet corn, the other half gets the stations ready for processing in a shady spot in the back yard.

Station # 1:  Husking and Brushing
We set up several chairs (depending on how large our group is), a wheelbarrow and old clothes baskets for the husks, and  several buckets turned upside down for keeping sharp knifes and brushes.  (Knives for cutting out bad spots, soft brushes to remove extra silks.)  We also have a couple of large stainless steel bowls ready for the ears of corn. 

Station # 2:  Blanching and Cooling
For this station we have a patio table, a turkey fryer with propane (we use a heavy duty burner, like the kind you would use for making beer), a large pot with basket insert (usually comes with a turkey fryer), the gadget to lift out the basket from the pot and potholders.  We have stacks of dish-towels to cover up the husked corn bowls.  This station also has several large tubs and coolers, as well as a water hose with shut-off valve at the end, and several bags of ice on hand to help keep the water cool.  We also have colanders with bowls ready.

Station # 3:  Cutting Corn off the Cob
Another patio table that can easily be washed off with a water hose, covered with thick towels and another stack of dishtowels.  Several sharpened knives and a steel are on hand, as well as more stainless steel bowls or pots.  Also have empty buckets for the left-over cobs.

Station # 4:  Bagging
Depending on how many people are helping, we either set up another patio table or we use the table for the blanching station.  For bagging, we use quart size freezer bags, a measuring cup and a canning funnel – as well as broiler pans or trays for moving the bags to the freezer.

As soon as the first load of corn arrives (back of the four-wheeler  or on a small wagon), the first group starts husking.  At this point, we start filling the pot with water and bring it to a boil.  Meanwhile, all the tubs get filled with cold water as well. We move filled bowls of husked corn to the blanching station, where about a dozen ears of corn get blanched at a time.  As soon as the corn is blanched, it gets dumped into the first tub of water.  While the next batch is being blanched, we move the cooled ears of corn from tub to tub, adding ice to keep the water cold.  The faster we can cool down the corn after blanching, the better.  No corn leaves the cooling tubs until it sinks to the bottom and is very, very cold. We usually dump out the first tub and refill it frequently – while we may just add ice to the other tubs, making sure the water stays very cold. Then the corn gets moved into colanders, with bowls underneath and carried to the cutting table, where it sits to drain-covered with a dishtowel.  Once the corn drains off, we just lay them on the towel covered table – again covering our piles with dishtowels to keep flies and falling leaves off.  The corn is cut off the cob into large bowls.  As soon as we have a bowl full, it goes to the bagging station – where we usually use 4 cups of corn per quart size bag.  We use actual measuring cups to fill each bag – and we use a canning funnel (the kind that has a large bottom opening to fit on a quart jar) to get the corn into each bag without making a mess.  We squeeze out any extra air and zip the bag shut.  As soon as we have 10 bags filled, we carry them to one of our freezers.  (that way we can kind of keep track of how many bags we filled).  We spread out the filled bags across different freezer shelves – and several freezers, never more than 2 bags high – to make sure that the corn freezes quickly.  If the corn is not cold when it is bagged, and too much new corn is placed in the freezer at the same time, there is a definite risk of spoiling – the corn will turn sour before freezing – which will be a sad surprise later on.

We froze over 50 quart sized bags this weekend, and sold an additional 75+ dozen.