Putting Up Sweet Corn at Morgan Farms
Blog post by Kaitlin Donovan, Communications Coordinator and Western Kansas Representative
For more than 60 years my family has “put up” sweet corn in August to enjoy the rest of the year out of the freezer. You could say it’s somewhat of a family tradition on Morgan Farms. This year was no different, well other than I decided to share the fun with you, our readers.
Every family does it a little different. For example, my mother-in-law likes to freeze her ears husk and all. Some people clean the ear and freeze the corn still on the cob. For as long as I can remember, my family has always boiled the corn, cut it off the cob and froze it in baggies with nothing else in it. We eat it just warmed up with some butter, added into a cream cheese corn or even mix it with some corn-fed ground beef and Spanish rice for an easy tortilla filling.
Our day starts in the field to pick the corn ourselves. I am usually lucky enough to hang out in the field picking while my brother has to carry the buckets in and out of the field. We usually only plant about 8 rows of sweet corn alongside our irrigated field corn. You want to avoid picking field corn because in one bite you’ll realize you have made a terrible mistake. In case you didn’t know, field corn has a greater starch content making it taste really gross off the cob to humans, but very delicious to the cattle. You can normally differentiate which row is what by the height. The sweet corn is much shorter than the field corn, unless you have pesky raccoons like we do that like to come in and knock rows down to get to the sweet corn. Our goal every year is to pick about a pick-up bed full of corn, although by the afternoon we always say we’re going to pick less the next year.
We get the corn back to the house and begin the shucking party. We get all the husk and silks off and cut off any bad ends. We weren’t able to spray the sweet corn for ear worm this year so we had a lot of little friends to get rid of. But they don’t do too much harm and usually just stick to the top of the ears so they can be easily removed. My grandpa and sister enjoy throwing the worms at me as they find them.
My family has developed a system to make the process flow the most efficient way possible. We have propane burners heating large stock pots of water outside. Each pot can fit 30-40 ears of corn at one time. My dad puts the ears into the pot for about 15 minutes or until they sink and then pulls them out with tongs and takes them over to a large stock tank with cool fresh water. My grandma says this is a lot more efficient than how they had to do it when she was younger. My Nano (my great-grandma) would boil the corn in a pot on her kitchen stove, then they would have to wait 15 minutes in between batches for the water to heat back up.
While the corn is still warm, we cut it off the cob. We’ve learned a few tricks over the years such as cutting it into the 9×13 baking pans because it holds all the juices and corn in. Then as your pan gets full you dump it into a large bowl where it is scooped out into plastic freezer bags labeled with the year. My grandma says it’s better if you take the bags to the freezer while they are still warm and make sure you lay them out flat so they stack better. This year we put up 212 quart-sized baggies for the winter, which will be separated out among our family.
For those creamed corn lovers, check out the recipe below for, retired Kansas Corn staff member, Sue Hardman’s famous freezer creamed corn!
Sue Hardman’s Freezer Cream Corn Recipe
Cut corn off 35-45 ears. Put corn in roaster and add 1 pint half n half and a pound of butter (Sue just uses 3 sticks). Cook for an hour at 325, stirring once in a while. Then just put it in freezer bags, give them an ice bath if you want, and stick them in the freezer. Then add salt and pepper later when getting ready to eat it.