Keep it fresh and sweet – but hurry.

By Patricia S York
July 24, 2020
Advertisement

There are so many ways to enjoy the sweet goodness of fresh summer corn – grilled over an open fire, slathered in flavored butter, cooked into a skillet of old-fashioned creamed corn, or mixed with fresh okra and tomatoes to create a delicious succotash. The problem with corn is that, when purchased fresh, it tends to quickly dry out and loose flavor. Here is how to choose the best corn and keep it fresh until you are ready to eat it.

How to Choose a Good Ear

When purchasing corn at the grocery store or farmers’ market, look for husks that are a healthy green color, still tight on the ear, and not dried out. It’s also a good sign if the tips of the silks poking out feel moist. Check for little holes in the husks, which could be insects or worm holes; avoid those ears and move on the next one. One more thing - give the ear a good squeeze from the bottom all the way up. It should feel solid and covered with firm kernels from top to bottom. As tempting as it may be, don’t pull the husks back to look for worms or check for freshness. Why? Once harvested, corn begins to dry out and its natural sugars start turning into starch. When kernels are exposed, the process just speeds up that much more.

How to Store Fresh Corn

The longer corn sits between being picked and being eaten, the more it will dry out and the less sweet it will taste. Corn is best eaten the same day it's purchased. If that isn’t possible, store unhusked ears of corn loose in the refrigerator – don’t bunch them together in a plastic bag. For best flavor, use corn within two days. Keep husked corn refrigerated, in plastic bags, and use within two days.  If you don’t plan on eating your corn within two days of purchase, you can freeze it.

How to Freeze Fresh Corn

Shuck, Silk, and Freeze: The easiest and fastest way to preserve your summer corn is to shuck, silk, and package whole ears of corn for the freezer. Use appropriately-sized freezer bags, remove air, label with the date, and freeze. Even frozen fresh ears taste better than store-bought frozen ears.

Freeze Cut Kernels: If you want to put up corn to be used in skillet corn or corn pudding, cut the kernels off the cob before freezing. To do this, stand corn upright on a large cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut straight down across the base of the kernels. Go back over the cob with the back side of the knife to extract the sweet corn "milk." Get cup measurements as you package the kernels, notate the amount on the freezer bag and the date you froze the corn. Place bags in the freezer in single layers to allow the corn to freeze completely. Once frozen, you can stack the bags to make the most of freezer storage space.

Blanch and Freeze: Blanching is a process where fruits and vegetables are plunged into boiling water briefly, then placed in cold water (sometimes called a water bath) to stop the cooking process. Blanching works to heighten and set the color and flavor when freezing produce.

To blanch corn on the cob, bring a pot filled with water to a rolling boil, add ears of corn (do not crowd in the pot) and blanch from 6 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the ears. Blanching starts as soon as you drop the corn in the pot; you do not need to wait for the water to reach the boiling stage again. Remove the cobs with tongs and place them into a bowl or sink filled with ice water. Once cooled, set the corn on paper towels, a cutting board or a cooling rack and let dry.

Make sure the cooled ears of corn are completely free of water droplets, package them in freezer-safe plastic bags, remove excess air and store in freezer.

To freeze blanched cut kernels, follow the cutting and freezing directions for unblanched corn; just make sure the blanched ears are cooled and dry before you start cutting the kernels.

Rather than tossing the corncobs into your compost bin, consider freezing them, as well. There is still delicious flavor to be found in the cobs, even once the corn kernels are gone. Make a pot of Corn Broth and use it in place of chicken or vegetable stock. If you don't have enough cobs to make a batch, just freeze them until you have more cobs.