Wednesday, August 19, 2009

May We All Can On...

....with the moon and the stars and the sun. Well, it is August; Canning season. That means two things in our household: 1) the kitchen (and sometimes the house) will never really be completely clean or un-sticky, and 2) there are never, ever enough jars. We need to take our stock in Ball, because the local canning supply store already knows us on sight.

Much of our canning this year has been a bit experimental as we don't really know what it is we are going to love and what we are going to want to change next year. A few things have become quite apparent right away. We will definitely be picking more blueberries and strawberries to can into preserves rather than just yogurt and ice-cream mix-ins. However, two items have become instant hits: peaches and corn. These two are definitely keepers! Not only are they fabulous canned up, they were relatively cheap and easy to can.

At this point, any people with whom we knew before the simplicity move deem us crazy. I can't say that I blame them. When you walk into a house and have to ask, "Is that a garbage can full of corn in the living room?" you tend to believe your friends have gone off the deep end. However, there really aren't very many good ways to get eighty or ninety ears of corn home from the grocery store (where it was on sale) without using the giant garbage can you just purchased at Home Depot.

Telling my coworkers I couldn't have a round with them after work because I needed to go home elicited the question of "Why?" My excited response "Jules and I are going to shuck corn!" isn't exactly the most normal after-work past time. My father was also a bit disheartened when he came to pick up his grandson and the Spicy Barracuda pouted, "I don't want to go, I want to say and shuck the corn." But honestly, it was all quite a bit of fun! We all sat around the living room coffee table yanking the husks off and throwing them in brown grocery bags to be hauled out to the compost bin. We slowly stacked all the ears in large Tupperware containers to be boiled up over the next couple of days. We laughed along and got silks stuck to us, marveling on how much corn we had and how we might have over purchased just a bit. Jules and I will forever have fond memories of the grocery store man's shock at the idea of us purchasing eighty some ears of corn. "Are you serious?!" he declared and led us into the back of the store because he wasn't going to bring that much all out to us.

At a quarter a piece our yearly allotment of corn cost us 20 dollars and we can recycle the jars over and over. Considering that a can of corn from the grocery store is about a dollar and contained close to half as much as one of our jars, the math worked out and we should have been fine. All stacked up, however, it seemed like quite a bit! (Next year we are going to go to U-Pick because they are six for a dollar!)
Once shucked, it was off into the boiling water. This is the reason you leave the long stems on the corn. They are wonderful handles! I was able to place fifteen ears of corn up on end in my gynormous stock pot. I filled it up with water once they were all in and cranked the stove up to high. The corn was boiled for only three to five minutes. This was basically enough time for it to turn brilliant yellow, but not be fully cooked. Since corn is low acid enough to require pressure canning, you don't want to cook it all the way through. The canner will do the rest and still leave the consistency nice and firm. Much more cooking and your corn will be really mushy when you take it out of the can for dinner.

Out came the casserole dish and the knife because it was time to start kerneling. Using a non-serrated knife and a bit of a sawing motion, cut the kernels off the cob about three quarters of the way through. You don't want to scrape the cobs or cut the kernels so low that you get any bits of cob into your jars. The cob won't soften up and you will have a very nice crunchy chunk in your corn. Eww! Later, we stumbled onto a great tool in the canning section of the store which kernals the corn for you! With handles on the sides and a sharpened metal circle in the middle you slide it down the shaft of corn and it does all the work for you. No sawing, slipping, or rotating necessary. It was only four dollars and awesome; next year it will go much faster. This kitchen gadget is completely unnecessary, however, the knife worked just fine.

I could kernel about three cobs before the pile became too large. A 1/2 cup measure was just perfect to fill my wide-mouth quart jars, and then to put 1-1/2 cups of hot corn-water on top. They were processed for 85 minutes at 11lbs of pressure. (For pints, process for 55 minutes at the same pressure.)

Then it was off to the local canning supply for more quarts because we soon realized that it takes about four ears of corn to fill one quart and we dramatically under purchased. The kernels look so small you would think that so many would fit in one large jar, but alas, not the case. In total, I did all eighty ears in two different sessions over two days. Leaving the husked corn out for a day didn't do much at all to dry it out. More than a day of drying and I might be a little worried the flavor might be effected due to sugar to starch conversion. We yielded 23 quarts of corn total leaving us at just under a dollar a quart. No sodium, no high-fructose corn syrup, and way better tasting!

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