Monday, August 2, 2010

Home Canning - Corn!

'Tis the season in Iowa, sweet corn season that is. While I am not a huge fan of corn or corn products (e.g. corn syrup, corn sweetners, etc.), I do find the occasional ear of sweet corn satisifying. In July and August every year, we are inundated with sweet corn. The grocery stores start having 5 ears/$1 or better sales; road side stands go up all over the place; and, farmers sell the stuff from their homes via child-made signs at the main blacktop which point down gravel county roads. This is the time of year when my mother-in-law calls and says, "Cousin Jim's corn is ready. How many dozen you want?" Two weeks later she calls again saying, "The Tomash's corn is ready. How many dozen you want?" We've lived in Iowa for 7 years now and I have never met any member of the Tomash family but I can tell you that they have green thumbs for growing excellent sweet corn because it is perfection every year.

In the past, I have always been cautious with how many I buy at one time. My fridge gets pretty crowded and I just don't have the space for more than 1 dozen ears. I have always thought how nice it would be to have Cousin Jim's or the Tomash's corn in the winter as well. Last year I tried blanching and freezing some, which works fine but the process takes up a lot of freezer space, which is a premium commodity for us. So this year I decided to can it.

I received a pressure canner for Christmas last year but I had not had occassion to use it until now. I got 3 dozen ears from the Tomash's this year and canned it - 11 pints. I have never pressure canned before. Like my mom, I have only water bath canned; but you can't do that safely with low-acid foods, i.e., most vegetables. For low-acid foods, a pressure canner is necessary to get things hot enough to destroy the nasty microorganisms that would otherwise thrive. Mom always blanched and froze her garden veggies. I remember her saying she was too leery of botulism to try pressure canning; but then she never had a freezer that was packed full with hubby hunted meat, fowl, and fish, so processing and storage space in the freezer was never a big issue for her.

I elected to can the corn cream style. My theory behind this decision being that cream style preparation harvests more corn off each ear than simply cutting it, so you get more serving for the same number of ears. I am all for maximizing production. So following the directions in the Ball Blue Book of Preserving and using a Lee Corn Cutter Tool, I set to work. It took about 5 hours start to finish.

Here is the nutshell version of the process. First scrape/cut/milk the the corn off the cob using the corn cutter. Be careful of your hand placement as the scraper and shedders are hard on the fingers and knuckles. Capture everything in a large bowl. Be sure to hold your off-hand behind the cutter as a back stop to the juices that shoot out, so that they drip down into the capture bowl instead of coating the kitchen wall. Add 1/2 tsp salt and 1 1/4 cups boiling water for every pint of corn. Bring to boil for 3 minutes and then ladle into prepared/sanitized hot pint jars, leaving 1-inch head space. Cap and then process for 85 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions for using your pressure canner.

Being a chemical engineer, I am very leery of heating a closed system, even one with a pressure gauge and and relief valve. So, I banned the kids out of the kitchen kept an eagle eye on the pressure gauge. Everythng worked out of course but you never know. Anyway, I am up for round two; some time this week, I'll be picking up another 4 dozen ears from a road side stand and try canning them as cut corn.

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