Elizabeth here. Anna’s most recent post suggests low pressure ways to introduce children to foods. One of those is cooking with children. Our family’s Annual Corn Fest provides just such an opportunity. It's another family tradition and an opportunity to gather multiple generations. And it’s also FUN!
What a Job!
I won't forget the time my father-in-law told us about one of his jobs as a child growing up in Eastern North Carolina. Because he was always so tall, he had a job walking through the rows of corn and opening the pods (anthers is the actual term) on top of the stalks to distribute the pollen they contain. Who knew there was ever such a job?! And a little plant biology - the pollen fertilizes the silks. There has to be a fertilized corn silk for each kernel of corn to develop on the cob. Fascinating!
Since Caroline (14) was 4 months old, we’ve gone to Lancaster, PA to freeze fresh corn. Why Lancaster you’re wondering? Chad’s parents live there. And the fresh Silver King corn we get each summer is out of this world. It’s incredibly tender and sweet. It’s well worth the trip!
Here's Caroline eating corn on the cob when she was around 14 months old. She has always loved it! I put the corn on the tray and she decided whether or not she was going to pick it up and try it. She knew exactly what to do! She had seen us eat corn on the cob and children have an innate sense of how to feed themselves.
Each year, my mother-in-law scopes out where to get the summer’s best tasting corn. We find a weekend that works for both of us. She orders the corn and off we go - our empty cooler ready to fill with bags of frozen Lancaster County corn.
Every year we get 10 - 11 dozen ears. You don’t have to get this much!
The Simple Version
You can buy a few extra ears of corn next time you buy it to cook with dinner. After dinner, cut the kernels off the leftover ears, put it in a plastic ziplock bag, date it and stick it in the freezer.
A Tradition Within a Tradition
My children sometimes grumble about all the shucking, but they have developed their own tradition within the tradition - setting aside all the ears of corn that contain random yellow kernels (Silver King corn has white kernels) to cook for dinner that night.
We gather around some large trash cans and shuck away while chatting and listening to music. This year we listened to Caroline’s Broadway playlist. Lots of fun! Have some trays on hand to stack and transfer the shucked corn to the kitchen.
Once all the corn is shucked, we set up to blanch the corn, cut it off the cobs and fill the bags to freeze.
Setting Up, Blanching and Cutting the Corn Off the Cob
First, we place a couple of pots on the stove that are big enough to hold about 4-6 ears of corn each. We fill each about halfway with water and set the heat to high. We also fill a tea kettle and keep that hot to add to the pots as water evaporates after we’ve blanched a couple rounds.
Second, dampen a dish towel and lay it on the counter where to you want to cut the corn. Place your cutting board on top of the damp towel. The towel is there to keep the board from traveling around the counter while you’re cutting!
Ask one of the corn huskers to write the date on plastic quart-size Ziplock freezer bags with a Sharpie. Each bag will hold the corn kernels from 4-6 ears.
Gently place 4-5 ears of corn in each post of boiling water. After 2-3 minutes, using tongs, turn the ears over. Boil for another couple of minutes.
Using the tongs, remove the blanched corn and place it in a colander in the sink under cold running water. This cools it off so it stops cooking and you’ll be able to handle it.
Stand the corn up on one end. Cut the kernels off from top to bottom. Be careful not to cut too close to the cob or you’ll end up with cob too. Turn the cob ¼ turn and cut from top to bottom again. Repeat 2 more times for a total for 4 times. Anna's family likes to use this corn cutter tool instead of a knife.
Then take the back of the knife and run it from top to bottom along the cob to get any random kernels and corn juice. Discard the cob.
Once you’ve cut the kernels off 4-6 cobbs, scoop up the kernels and place them in a quart size ziplock bag. Fill the bag ¾ of the way full. When you freeze food it expands a little, so you want to leave some room in each bag. Then seal the bag, pressing the air out as you seal it.
Over the course of the year, once corn season has come and gone, we're so thankful we took a weekend afternoon to freeze all that corn. It takes only a couple minutes to defrost in the microwave. Then I place it in a saucepan with a little water or milk and some salt. Place a lid on the pan. Bring it to a boil over medium high heat. Boil gently for 5 minutes. You have corn that takes you back to summer and takes only a few minutes to cook. I also use it in salads, salsas, soups and risotto.
I hope my children grow up to think about our Annual Corn Fest the way Anna reminices about blackberry picking.
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It sure is!