Preservation Techniques

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Freezing Sweet Corn
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September is a critical month for harvesting fruits and vegetables—at the peak of their taste and ripeness. One of the most important decisions is how quickly do you want to eat your produce? Many gardeners choose to eat in season, while others choose to preserve some of it for winter months.

There are numerous ways to preserve ripe produce. Canning or bottling fruits and vegetables to make everything from pickles to conserves is becoming very popular. Bottling, however, involves high cooking temperatures and isn’t really a safe place for inexperienced help. Freezing and drying are two very simple food preservation techniques and are better options because both of them can be done safely with older and younger children.

Here’s a step-by-step tutorial for freezing corn to show you how easily it can be done and how you can get your kids involved.

Pick or purchase vine-ripened produce. September is a great time of year to purchase sweet corn inexpensively from farm stands. Even if you’re not really a fan of frozen sweet corn from the grocery store, you may change your mind once you taste the difference of freezing it fresh at home.
Husk the ears of corn. This is a perfect job for kids! Chop off any sections of the cobs that are spoiled or have insect damage.
The corn needs to be blanched. Blanching helps keep vegetables from discoloring and prepares them for freezing. Place the ears of corn in the boiling water and heat until slightly cooked. This can be done safely if you keep the kids peeling corn while you heat the corn through. When the cobs are bright yellow, pull them from the water and place them in a large bowl of ice water. The cold water stops the cobs from continuing to cook.
When the corn is blanched and cooled, you can begin to cut off the kernels with a sharp, serrated knife. Hold the corn vertically, placing one end on the cutting board and work the knife from the top to the bottom. Place the cut kernels in a separate bowl.
Have the kids scoop the kernels into quart-sized sealable plastic freezer bags and label them. Seven cobs of fresh sweet corn will fill one quart-sized bag. The corn will keep in the freezer for up to one year.
Stripped corn cobs and the husks can be composted if you’ll chop them up into smaller pieces. I like to send mine out to the chicken coop to let them pick them clean before breaking them apart.

Research conducted at school garden projects indicates that students who learn about and grow some of their food are more likely to enjoy eating fruits and vegetables. If that’s the case, then it stands to assume that the result would be the same (if not greater) from growing and harvesting fruits and vegetables at home. Teaching children to incorporate these basic food preparation skills, along with what they learned about growing food this summer is a great way to tell the whole story about where and how food is produced. More importantly, by teaching and learning these skills with your children you’ll instill the self-confidence that comes through accomplishing a valuable (and tasty) task.

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