by Donna Howard
Corn is one of those all-purpose vegetables that can be used in so many ways. We consume it often in our home, and it’s not always as a vegetable next to the main dish.
Corn is one of the many vegetables that can be dried easily. Simply husk, wash, and steam the ears for 4-5 minutes, then dip in cold water to cool it quickly. After that, just cut the corn off the ears by holding the ear upright in a 9x13 pan, and slicing down the side of the ear, deeply enough to get the whole kernel, but not so deeply that you cut into the cob. Then turn the cob and repeat. Then we tend to clean up the ends some, and that’s it. Spread out the corn on dehydrator trays and put in the dryer. Corn is dry when it is hard and brittle. This will take about 12-15 hours.
Remember, though, that the best dried foods come from the best fresh foods. If the produce is overripe, it’s not magically going to turn into prime dried food by simply removing the water. It will still be overripe, and not very good. Be certain that the food that you choose to dehydrate is of the best quality so that all your effort will not be in vain. My favorite way to cook corn is to put a pan of water on the stove to heat to a boil. Only use about two inches of water so that the corn steams instead of boils, so that the nutrients stay where they are supposed to be. Once you pick the corn, run, not walk, to the house, husking the corn as you go. Give it a quick rinse, and pop it right into the pot. That way the corn has very little time to begin turning the sugars into starches. The longer it is left at room temperature, or higher, the less sweet it will be.
Store in glass jars, but not in wood containers. Wood tends to be moist, and can cause problems in keeping the corn dry enough. This corn is now ready to use in vegetable soups, corn chowder, corn fritters, as a side dish, or whatever else you can think of.
To rehydrate, soak corn in enough water to cover for a few minutes until reconstituted. Or, alternately, soak in water that is just below the simmer temperature. This will take a shorter amount of time. If it will be used in a soup, it can be added right to the soup, but it is better to rehydrate it at a lower temperature first. Then both the corn and soaking water can be added to the dish, preserving valuable nutrients.
Another method is to dry it on the ears. Just husk and dry. This corn, since it is not blanched, would be better for use as a grain rather than a vegetable. It will turn more starchy, and not be as sweet. It can be stored right on the ears, but it will take up much less space if removed after drying. The easiest way is to grasp the cob in both hands, and twist the hands in opposite directions. If it’s really dry, it will come off easily. This is not my favorite way to do it, but it is an option. If time is short, as it always is during canning season, then this might be a solution. Then later on, when the bulk of the work is done, take the cobs and rub the kernels off during a movie or television show, or while visiting with the family. Better yet, act like you are really enjoying what you are doing, and perhaps you can convince your children or grandchildren that they would love to help you!
Corn dried either way can be ground up in a wheat grinder and used as corn meal. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to use your own homegrown corn in cornbread to eat alongside chili some cold evening! It can also be added to pancake batter, a small amount to bread recipes, and many other things. As I make bread, I often add leftover hot cereal, ground flaxseed, soy flour, and other goodies as my mood dictates and as I see what is available. Why not add some cornmeal? Don’t add too much, or it will change the texture, but the added nutrition is a bonus.
Here is a recipe that my family enjoys, sometimes with fresh corn, but usually with frozen or dehydrated corn during the winter when a steaming bowl of chowder can be comforting. This is a wonderful way to use several different dried vegetables from the pantry. These amounts are for fresh vegetables, so remember to reconstitute before measuring, or use less of the dried. Any time I make soups and casseroles, though, I tend to be generous when measuring vegetables, so don’t be afraid to use more than it says..