Preserving More Than Just Food

September 25, 2007 at 8:49 am 37 comments

Bag of dried corn 

Continuing in my mission to preserve my family’s tradition of stashing away the garden/farm produce to continue summer’s bounty into winter, I decided to try drying sweet corn.  The last time I visited home, I was talking with my mom about wanting to preserve food but not having the storage or kitchen space to do full-fledged canning of the sorts she does.  It was then that she mentioned that in the “old days”, a lot of vegetables were dried instead of canned or frozen.  In fact, my grandmother (who is also an incredible cook, even at the age of 87) seems to have been of the generation to do just that.  When my mom pulled out a dusty tin of dried corn that my grandmother had put in our basement some 45 years ago, I was intrigued to find out more about this method.  While I wouldn’t have necessarily eaten the contents of that dusty tin, the corn was in some mighty fine shape considering its ripe old age. 

Fresh Sweet Corn

Later that day, we visited my grandma and soon were talking about all the old methods of preserving before the days of fridge, freezer and even the modern stove.  When I hear these kind of stories, I’m always amazed at how far humankind has come and yet, somehow, how we still managed to miss the target.  Modern life is meant to make living better and easier – how did we lose some of the simpliest and best culinary (and no doubt other) pleasures along the way?

Golden Ears of Sweet Corn

For instance, along with dried corn and pickled pears(!), my grandma also told us about quince jam.  Her eyes twinkled as she explained in response to our puzzled looks that quince trees use to be abundant and produced small sweet fruits shaped like pears that melted into the sweetest nectar when made into jam.  I’d never heard of a quince before that day and now can’t wait to get a tree growing at the farm!  Just another example of how mass production and modern demands have filtered out the diversity in our food chain. 

Dried Corn

So, here is the method for drying the corn. Ridiculously simple and requiring very little effort, I’d say it beats canning any day.   Come back in about two months (when the farm is no longer in full harvest mode) for some recipes on how to use the dried corn in savory puddings, soup and casseroles.  Here’s the first recipe for a creamy casserole using dried corn.  And if you care to, ask someone close to you of an older generation what some of their food stories are.  It’s fascinating what memories they’ll conjure up. 

DRIED CORN

Use fresh sweet corn, husked and silk removed with a brush.  Six ears will fill up one standard baking sheet and yield about 2 cups of dried corn. 

Fresh Corn Kernels

Cut corn off the cob using a sharp knife and a shallow bowl or cutting board.  Be sure to cut as close the cob as you can to remove all the kernels and juice possible.  Line a baking sheet with foil and give it just a very light coat of nonstick spray.  Spread corn kernels out on the baking sheet into an even layer. 

Turn oven onto 150 F and place tray on the middle rack.  The drying process will take several hours (up to 12, depending on the freshness and juiciness of your corn) so be sure to check on it every 2 hours or so, turning it and shaking the tray gently to loosen any kernels that are sticking together or to the tray.  You’ll begin to notice the kernels shrinking and eventually becoming much darker and hard.   When all the moisture appears to be out of the corn, remove the tray from the oven and allow to cool off completely. 

Pat kernels out into one layer on a baking sheet

By the way, if you don’t really feel like monitoring the stove for 12 hours straight, you can turn off the oven, letting the tray sit inside, for several hours and come back to it later.  Or, if you have an older gas stove with a large oven pilot light, you might not even have to turn the oven on – just leave the corn sit in there for a day or so to dry on its own. 

When the dried corn is cool, place in a paper bag and hang in your kitchen to dry out any remaining moisture.  After about a week or so, transfer dried corn to a ziplock bag and store in your cupboards for use later this winter.

Dried corn kernels

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Entry filed under: Preserves, Recipes. Tags: .

Jackpot in the Soup Pot Thinkin’ Outside the Rind

37 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rachel  |  September 25, 2007 at 11:23 am

    Love your apron! ;)
    That’s so neat that you tried this and it will be a treat later on for sure!

    Reply
  • 2. Jennie  |  September 25, 2007 at 11:27 am

    Yes, the apron was a wonderful handmade gift from my favorite sister-in-law! I wear it constantly! :)

    Reply
  • 3. taylor  |  September 25, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    I vote for savory corn pudding, ’cause I’ve never made it, but I’m not drying corn – you’ll have to donate that 45 year-old tin to me…or maybe the seed savers exchange!

    I also was going to comment about my love for that apron.

    Oh, quince is not sweet. It is very sour – puts hair on your teeth. What it is good for is jam – like your grandma said – because it has extremely high pectin levels.

    Reply
  • 4. Jennie  |  September 25, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    You can have some of the savory corn pudding when I make it. :)

    Ah, so it’s not the fruit itself that is sweet but the jam that comes from quince. She did not make that distinction. Or rather, perhaps I didn’t pay close enough attention. In any case, having a quince tree sounds like a cool thing to have.

    Teehee, I love my apron too. :)

    Reply
  • 5. Jennywenny  |  September 25, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    Quince has the most beautiful flowers in the spring too, when I went home to England in March, I saw quite a few little quince bushes. It would make a lovely addition to a garden.

    Reply
  • 6. Jennie  |  September 25, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    Jennywenny – I have heard you can use their flowers in cut floral arrangements. I can’t wait to just get chummy with this lovely plant! :)

    Reply
  • 7. therealpotato  |  September 25, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    What a great idea. You could even make your own cornmeal!

    Reply
  • 8. Jennie  |  September 25, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    I hadn’t thought of that, Realpotato…. Hmmmm…do you think it would work if I used my mortar and pastal?

    Reply
  • 9. therealpotato  |  September 25, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    It might take a while, unless you have one of those massive ones they use in Mexico. I’d throw it into the Cuisinart, personally!

    Reply
  • 10. Lisa (Homesick Texan)  |  September 25, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    When I visited my grandparents’ farm in August, sadly the pears weren’t quite ready for picking so I missed out on a chance to learn how to pickle pears, but they are delicious aren’t they? Never heard of drying corn, but it doesn’t surprise me.

    Reply
  • 11. Jennie  |  September 25, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    Yes, I’m looking forward to trying my hand at pickled pears, Lisa. I hope you’ll check back to see when I get the attempt posted here. :)

    Reply
  • 12. Jennie  |  September 25, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    Realpotato – alas, I don’t have a cuisenart (no counter space in my tiny kitchen) so I’ll have to make just a tiny bit by hand, if only for curiosity sake. :)

    Reply
  • 13. C--  |  October 18, 2007 at 10:10 am

    My Canadian mother used to make this. She would add a little sugar and salt and dry it in the oven. When it was mostly dry she would hang it up in flour sack (cloth kind) on the clothesline to dry in the sun and that may have evened out the moisture content. I wouldn’t recommend that though in a climate which tends to be damp in the fall.

    It was very chewy and we all loved it as a snack. It never lasted long though. A great substitute for candy. I’m going to try making some in my food dehydrator.

    Reply
  • 14. C--  |  October 18, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Regarding quince. It is not sweet at all! Extremely tart so you have to add sugar or honey or some other sweetener.

    There used to be a wonderful Russian-Greek restaurant in San Francisco near Golden Gate Park that had the most amazing quince pie. I was so disappointed when they closed. It was to die for–well, maybe not quite, but perhaps worth suffering a long torturous wait before being revived from near-death with a fragrant piece right from the oven.

    Reply
  • 15. Jennie  |  October 18, 2007 at 10:30 am

    C– You ate dried corn without any re-cooking steps? Interesting! I hadn’t thought to nibble on it yet, but I just might have to try that when I get home to my kitchen tonight. I like the idea of drying it on the clothesline in the sun, but, as you said, I doubt it would work here.

    As for quince, it was brought to my attention that it’s tart as a fruit – it’s the sweet treats you create with it that I’m dying to try. I still haven’t found any in Philadelphia but the day I do, you’ll all be the first to hear about it. :) The pie sounds divine!

    Thanks for sharing all your great stories!!

    Reply
  • 16. Comfort Food, Of A Sorts « Straight from the Farm  |  December 29, 2007 at 9:06 am

    [...] thing that did go right was my first attempt at using the sweet corn I’d dried back in September.  Hopefully you gave drying your own corn a shot since this dish met with rave reviews and [...]

    Reply
  • 17. dana  |  January 1, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Hi, I’m really looking for a recipe on how to dry quince. As a child in South Africa I remember eating preserved quince from my great grandmother, and it was the most incredible thing, my brother and I still talk about it! In South Africa we dry a lot of different fruits, but I’ve never since dried quince again.

    Reply
  • 18. Jennie  |  January 1, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    Dana – Good question! If you’ve been looking around the blog, you’ll know I’ve been on a search for locally grown fresh quince here ever since my grandmother told me about quince earlier this summer. So I haven’t any experience with drying them. I’d encourage you to just go ahead and experiment if quince are cheap and readily available there. My gut says you would toss them in sugar or sweeten them somehow prior to drying (quince are tart, correct?). Then you could likely follow the same general drying directions as I’ve outlined above. I’ll look around in some of my old books here to see if I can find anything more concrete. If you figure out how to dry them in the meantime, please come back and let us know how! :)

    Reply
  • 19. baked dried corn casserole « Straight from the Farm  |  January 10, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    [...] personal preferences aside, I’d all but hopped in the car when I remembered my stash of dried corn.  Silly me, almost forgetting!  And I even had a new recipe I wanted to try with it that I’d [...]

    Reply
  • 20. Gloria ,Fondo  |  July 8, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    I am looking for a succotash recipe using dried corn. My grandma in Pa. used to make it. it had red beans in it. Do you know of it? Would appreciate the recipe if you can locate it. Thanks, Gloria

    Reply
  • 21. Mary- The Yellow Door Paperie  |  August 16, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    What a great post! I’ve been looking for a way to preserve corn! Thanks.

    Reply
  • 22. siwula  |  August 26, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    I have been reading different sites regarding drying corn. I see some inconsistencies as to whether you should blanch or boil prior to drying. Most say to do so. What is your take on this? The supposed reason for doing so is to inactivate the enzymes so that the corn does not have an “off” flavor. Have you ever had any problems with this? Just wondering. I am new to all of this.
    Thanks.

    Reply
  • 23. Jennie  |  August 26, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Hi Siwula – I have never had any problems with my dried corn tasting “off” flavor. I’m pretty certain the enzymes get wiped out during the long hot drying process. I know that you must blanch vegetables that you plan to freeze due to the enzymes but that’s because they would not be treated with any heat otherwise. That’s not the case with drying corn. Those are my thoughts, at least. :)

    Reply
  • 24. siwula  |  August 26, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Thanks for your response. I will let you know. I dried 3 dozen ears worth this past weekend using your procedure. I love your site.

    Matt

    Reply
  • 25. mary  |  October 7, 2008 at 9:54 am

    I dried a bunch of sweet corn from my garden this year — basically whatever I didn’t use fresh — just by peeling back the shucks and hanging it up. It’s good and dry now, I’ll probably shell it this weekend. Then all I need is ways to use it! I’m wondering about grinding it for grits or meal.

    Reply
    • 26. Sandra  |  November 11, 2009 at 9:58 pm

      My Grandpa used to let the corn that didn’t get picked soon enough to be good to eat, dry on the cob. Not sure if he let it dry on the stalk or pulled the shucks back and hung it to dry. We live in Utah so the climate is pretty dry. I do know it dried on the cobs. During the winter he would take the corn off the cobs and parch it. Tastes like corn nuts. You just put the corn and a little bit of oil in a heavy skillet with a lid. Stir the corn like you would if you were popping corn in a pan. Soon it will “pop” and you may need to use a lid to keep it in the pan, but be sure to keep shaking or stiring so it won’t burn. Once the popping stops take it off the heat and sprinkle it with salt. Doesn’t look like corn nuts, but has a similar flavor. Be careful not to burn or scortch it.

      Reply
  • 27. Jennie  |  October 7, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Mary –

    I’m impressed that it will just air dry without molding. You must have some great air circulation. There are a few recipes here on the site using dried corn specifically: http://straightfromthefarm.wordpress.com/2007/12/29/old-fashioned-creamy-corn/
    http://straightfromthefarm.wordpress.com/2008/01/10/baked-dried-corn-casserole/

    Reply
  • 28. Summer Plate: Grilled Corn Coins « Straight from the Farm  |  September 21, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    [...] So go get your fill of summer before it’s all gone.  There’s still plenty of delicious local food to be had before we’ll need to resort to our canned and frozen stashes.  That being said, now’s a great time to go to your garden or the farmers market and pick plenty of extras of what you love to take into the kitchen to preserve.   Corn in particular can be frozen (as generally described above), canned (good outline here), or even dried in your oven as I’ve talked about before.  [...]

    Reply
  • 29. brice  |  August 4, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    could you just wait until the sweetcorn is fully mature (dents in it) and grind it up then. i think it would be easier because it would already be mostly dry and would be easier to get off the cob, just like field corn

    Reply
  • 30. Abbie  |  August 7, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Hello, all! My husband and I have dried corn for years. Learned various ways to do it from our neighborly Iroquois tribal members. They also shared many, many ways to use the dried corn. Toss a small handful into soups (broth and cream), stews, black or kidney bean dishes, or rehydrate and add to all sorts of things (we’ve even added it to stir-fry). Because the corn has been heat-dried, the sugars are caramelized, which gives it that rich nutty flavor, very different taste from fresh or frozen corn. The ORIGINAL corn nuts!

    Reply
  • 31. Dayna  |  July 28, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    I see that it’s been awhile since anyone posted here, but I’m putting up some corn today & what I have is a little under developed. Do you think it will be o.k. to try & dry? It’s been off the stalk about 5 days, I just couldn’t get to it any earlier–

    Reply
  • 32. Laurel  |  September 15, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Great information–thanks to you and your family! I’m going to try making masa after treating my dried corn with pickling lime…

    Reply
  • 33. Ann  |  December 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    I have never come across dried corn before being British, what can you do with it once its dry? do you rehydrate with water?

    cant wait to try it, as I love corn.

    Reply
  • 34. Mercedes  |  January 10, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I would like to know how to dehydrate the quince fruit please

    Reply
  • 35. bringmemycoffee  |  July 12, 2012 at 11:19 am

    I came here to check out the corn drying- but can vouch for the quince. I located a couple of “volunteer” plants at my MIL’s. Before I realized they were quince I almost dug them out- but planned to come back with a suit of armor because the thorns on them are NASTY!!! Just trying to prune them was awful. The quince, however! Cook them in butter with brown sugar, or make them into jam and you’ll decide as I did that they are worth putting up with the thorns.

    Reply
  • 36. MaryAnn Morris  |  July 14, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Well, I have looked all over the internet without success until I found your way of drying corn. Thank you, it will be great to not have to take up freezer room

    Reply
  • 37. perfect digital camera  |  September 23, 2013 at 7:20 am

    Sweet blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News. Do you have any tips on how
    to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but
    I never seem to get there! Thanks

    Reply

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