Watching the corn grow in the garden while crossing your fingers that it is “knee high by the Fourth of July” is one of my favorite summer homesteading chores.
We grow multiple varieties of corn, including field corn for the livestock – which grows taller than typical sweet corn that is lathered with butter, and cheerfully consumed at cookouts.
The growing and picking of corn on the cob is the easy part of the process. The preservation of garden fresh corn, although not difficult, on the cob is the but most time consuming portion of the harvest season.
There are multiple ways to preserve corn, and a few shortcuts that will save you at least a little bit of time without sacrificing any of the sweet goodness when corn is pulled off the pantry shelf and consumed a year or so later.
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When I first started canning and dehydrating the food we grew often became quite frustrated when a recipe called for “average” or “medium” amounts of vegetables that came from any given plant.
My daughter, Brea, and I once sliced at least twice as many cucumbers as we needed because, apparently, the ones from our garden were all of a large variety.
Nothing can ruin a canning recipe quicker than starting with the wrong amount of the foundational ingredient.
I sure wish all of the recipes I had in books and that were handed down to me listed ingredients by weight and not number of a particular fruit or vegetable.
Below you will find my best and most reliable estimates of corn needed for any type of corn preservation recipe, based upon my past trial and error experience.
- One bushel basket of corn on the cob should weigh about 35 pounds.
- It takes approximately two and a half pounds of unshucked corn to make one pint of frozen corn – whole kernel style/
- One bushel of corn yields about six to 11 quarts of whole kernel corn.
- A bushel of corn yields approximately 12 to 20 pints of cream style corn.
- Typically, 31 pounds of picked corn (not yet been shucked) is required for a full seven quart canner load when preserving whole kernel style corn.
- About 20 pounds of picked corn (not yet been shucked) is necessary for a 9-pint pressure canner load when preserving cream style corn.
A bushel of ears weighs 35 pounds and yields 6 to 11 quarts of whole-kernel style or 12 to 20 pints of cream-style corn.
An average of 31½ pounds (in husks) is needed for a 7-quart canner load of whole-kernel corn. An average of 20 pounds is needed for a 9-pint canner load of cream-style corn.
Corn Preservation Tips
- Always begin preserving picked corns no later than four to six hours after plucking it from the stalk for best quality and taste results.
- Especially sweet varieties of corn can turn brown when placed inside of a smoker of when canned on the stove at 15 pounds of pressure or more.
- White varieties of sweet corn can sometimes develop a slight gray cast after canning, but that does not make the corn unsafe to eat or decrease either its taste or nutritional value.
- Corn can be canned in either quart or pint Mason jars when preserving whole kernel style, but when preserving cream style corn it is highly recommended to tightly pack in only pint or half-pint canning jars.
Corn Preservation Preparation
No matter how you choose to preserve freshly picked corn, the prep work is all the same.
- Remove the corn from the husk.
- Remove the silks from the ear of corn – use a damp cloth to help pull away any sticky or tangled silks. Do not pitch the silks, check out my report on Dan’s New Life On A Homestead blog to learn how to make a powerful medicinal tea from corn silks as well as how to use the entire plant for eating as well as making toys and decorations.
- Look for corn kernels that are not mature or ones that have been damaged by bugs. Cut any bad kernels out of the cob before moving to step four.
- Wash each ear of corn in Lukewarm water.
- Wash the corn on the corn on the cob.
- Blanch the corn in boiling water for at least two but up to four minutes. Blanching the corn for seven minutes is highly recommended if freezing the corn.
- Dunk each corn cob into a sink or bowl of cold water until it is cool to the touch – about two minutes. If freezing the corn, allow it to remain in the cold water several extra minutes until they are completely cooled.
- Now, unless you are going to freeze the whole ear of corn – a great time saver that does not decrease taste but takes up more space in your freezer, the corn must be shaved from the cob. You can also cut up an ear of corn into two or three pieces to make them an easier fit into a freezer.
- Adding salt to the corn and mixing it in instead of pouring it onto the corn during hot processing seems to eliminate the toughness the salt can cause in the preserved corn.
- Use a corn cutter or a sharp knife (without a serrated edge) to shave the corn into a bowl (see below).
- Optional – sprinkle in 1 pinch of salt and a half a pinch of sugar into the bowl and stir to thoroughly combine.
- To properly freeze corn you will need approximately 1 cubic foot of space for every two pounds of corn placed in a plastic freezer bag or in a similar vacuum sealed bag.
- Fill the bag about half full of the cut corn kernels then lay it out flat (without sealing) to make sure there is enough space for the corn to lay out only one layer deep in the bag.
- Close the bag firmly, and place laying flat on a freezer shelf. You can stack multiple bags on top of each other on a shelf.
- When freezing whole ears of corn, place them in a bag only one layer deep, remove as much air as possible with either a vacuum sealing bag or by closing a bag as tightly as possible around a straw and sucking out the air before quickly removing the straw and sealing the bag the rest of the way up. Bags of whole ears of corn can be stacked on top of each other on a freezer shelf.
- Always write the date on the container of corn, and rotate out as needed to prevent it from getting too old to use. Typically, frozen will last up to at least 12 months, when properly processed and stored.
Hot Processing Frozen Corn
You can also hot process corn before freezing it. Some folks, my expert cook of a mother, far prefers this method of corn preservation above all others.
- Melt two sticks of butter (real butter, not that margarine stuff that is only one or two ingredients away from being plastic!) in an electric skillet or medium skillet over low to medium heat.
- Pour in the corn and stir constantly for about three to five minutes – you do not want to pour in any more corn than can be completely coated by the melted butter, approximately six cups. If too much butter remains in the skillet, simply strain it off or add more corn. There should be no butter still sliding around in the skillet when you complete the cooking through process.
- Turn off the stove or electric skillet.
- Sprinkle a few pinches (to taste) of salt onto the corn and stir to completely combine.
- Allow the corn to cool at least enough to touch and place in plastic freezer or vacuum sealed bags as noted above and store.
- Shuck the corn and wash each ear in cold water.
- Shave the kernels from the cob.
- Spread the kernels out onto dehydrator trays – using a mesh liner insert or similar liner that goes with your machine to prevent small dried kernels from falling through the trays is highly recommended. Make sure the corn kernels are separated from each other to facilitate proper airflow during the dehydration process.
- Dehydrate the corn at 125 to 135 degrees F for eight to 12 hours. Humidity and machine quality affect drying time. The kernels should be hard as little rocks when they are completely dried.
- Allow the dehydrated corn kernels to remain in place on the trays after placing them onto a counter or table for at least 10 minutes to ensure condensation is no longer present on them that could decrease their shelf life once stored in Mason jars or vacuum sealed bags.
- Store in a cool dry place until ready to use. Storing the dehydrated corn in small containers is advised to limit the amount of air and possible contaminants the kernels are exposed to when a storage container is opened multiple times.
- If the dehydrated corn is being used in a hot dish, like a soup or other liquid-based recipe that will be cooked or baked for at least 15 minutes, you do not need to reconstitute (rehydrate) the corn first. In all other recipes or to eat the corn as a side dish,soak the kernels in boiling water for about five to 10 minutes – it will closely resemble fresh corn kernels when it is complete. You can also rehydrate the corn in cold or warm water, but the processing will take longer, usually more than double the time.
Pressure Canning Corn
Corn must always be pressure canned and not water bathed canned. Wash the jars, and prepare the lids to get them ready to receive the corn. If you are new to canning, the provided manufacturer instructions will guide you through this simple and relatively quick process.
I always put my Mason jar onto the oven rack at 200 degrees F at least five minutes prior to starting to can anything. I use a can lifter tool to remove them one at a time as needed.
This process not only eliminates any possible bacteria in the jars, but also warms them enough so they will not (rarely) crack when placed into boiling canner water.
Hot Packed Pressure Canned Corn
- Pour 1 cup of hot water per each quart Mason jar to be used into a large pot and stir in your corn. Bring the mixture to a boil for one minute, when making whole kernel style corn. If preserving cream style corn, pour in one cup of hot water per pint of corn and bring the mixture to a boil for one minute.
- Fill the jars with corn and the hot water – leaving 1 inch of headspace in each jar.
- Use a mixing spoon to push down on the mixture to eliminate any bubbles.
- Wipe the lip of the jar with a clean and dry towel to make sure no residue is present that could prevent a secure seal.
- Place the lids on the jars and secure them in place firmly with a jar ring.
Raw Packed Pressure Canned Corn
- Fill each jar with corn – leaving one inch of headspace in each.
- Pour boiling water (in the same amounts noted above) over the corn in each jar and remove air bubbles as noted above.
- Wipe away the lip of the jar and place a lid and ring onto each firmly.
The Pressure Canning Process
- Put the canning jar rack inside the pressure canner.
- Pour enough water into the pot so that it reaches two inches high.
- Place the sealed jars into the pressure canner.
- Place the lid on the pressure canner, and fasten it firmly.
- Turn the pressure canner to the high heat setting.
- Exhaust the steam from the pressure canner for 10 minutes before adding the weight gauge to the lid and closing the petcock to pressurize the canner.
- Do not start timing your corn processing until the right temperature has been reached. You must constantly regulate the heat to ensure uniform pressure is achieved.
- Turn off the heat, and remove the pressure canner from the stove.
- Allow the cooker to air cool until the canner has been completely depressurized. Refer to the owner’s manual for detailed instructions relating to usage and time guide.
- Remove the weighted pressure canner gauge slowly. Some models of pressure canners advise opening the petcock instead – again, refer to your owner’s manual for detailed usage instructions.
- Wait about 10 minutes (refer to instructions’ manual) before unfastening, and removing the pressure canner lid.
- Lit the jars from the canner, and place them on a cooling rack or towel to dry – do not permit the jars to touch, or unscrew the rings.
- Allow the jars to cool in place for at least six, but up to 24 hours – until they are completely cool to the touch.
- Remove the rings and checks to make sure all lids are completely sealed. If a jar did not seal, dump the contents in a food storage container, place it in the refrigerator and use within the next several days.
Pressure Canning Processing Times
Refer to you pressure canner user guide to best determine processing times. The processing times will vary slightly by model and elevation.
- On average, it takes approximately 55 minutes to process a full canner of pint jars.
- Typically, it takes about 85 minutes to process a full canner of quart jars.
What are you favorite corn preservation recipes? Feel free to share them in the comments section below.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.