A bit about us...

We are a modern family of three, living on less than two acres with a 3,000 square foot garden that meets our produce needs and allows us to share with friends and neighbors. Our laying flock of chickens seems to expand each year as we raise chicks each Spring to replace older hens. This blog is more of a journal, if you will, for us to chronicle and share our experiences in the yard, garden and kitchen. It is our hope that along the way a few folks might learn something, be entertained, or simply enjoy sharing in our stories and the lessons we learn on a daily basis. I named the blog after the times when I am the happiest, when I am elbow deep in earth.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Waste Not, Want Not: Part 3

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I LOVE using every part of the produce, ingredients and other items I work with. I've written on it before with cherriesvanilla beans and re-purposing old objects. This time I just have to share with you how this can be done with corn. Yes, corn can be used beyond cutting or eating it off the cob!  How? You ask... Well, let me tell you!

Over the weekend, we picked up 5 dozen ears of corn from the farm stand, which amounts to 65 ears. My math is correct... they offer a farmer's dozen of 13 ears! Our first goal was to can the corn for winter use. This meant husking and cleaning the silk from all 65 ears, then cutting the corn off each and every ear. There was just one ear that wasn't fulling developed (partial pollination likely to blame), so it went straight to a chicken that's been ill and in isolation for a few days. Not bad for a big batch of corn, 1 in 65 right? The rest were beautiful and full of sweet and tasty kernels.

My trusty prep helpers assisted in the husking and cleaning of silk from all 65 ears while I got started cutting the kernels from the cobs. I wish I had taken a picture of the easy method I used to make the task easier....  Instead of standing each ear on end and struggling with a sharp knife and a wibbly wobbly unstable target, I simply put the pointed end into the center of a bundt pan and hold the top.  This stabilizes the cob and allows for easy removal of the kernels. The added bonus, no corn flying all over the cutting surface; it just falls neatly into the bundt. Brilliant! Not my idea... I stole it from the internet when I googled "getting corn off the cob."

Here is a picture I stole as well (since I didn't take one - AND with proper credit to the source):

I had three great big bowls of gorgeous yellow kernels ready to be canned. I prepped the canner, jars and related gear for the job. I filled sterilized, hot pint jars to within a generous inch (just shimmying the jars to settle the corn, NOT packing it down) and then ladled boiling water in to cover, keeping the headspace to at least 1". I wiped the rims of the jars to ensure they were free of debris and juice to aid in a solid seal and applied lids and rings (finger tight). Into the pressure canner they went, 10 pints at a time, to be processed for 55 minutes at 11lbs of pressure for my dial gauge canner, at my altitude. That part is very specific for altitude and gauge type, so be sure to do your homework, for the sake of your family's health and well being.  Here is the altitude chart from Ball for reference, and the link to their .pdf guide to pressure canning low acid foods is here.

64 ears of corn yielded about 31 and a half pints of corn. I processed (canned) 30 of them and cooked the remainder for eating fresh. Here is a good comparison of the color difference between uncooked corn heading into the canner, and a fully processed jar. The corn darkens as it is cooked and the sugar caramelizes a bit, darkening it a bit more. The taste? Ah-mazing! and unaffected by the color change.

So, I gleaned a winter's worth of corn from my 5 dozen+ ears, and was left with 64 cobs with bits of corn attached, a pile of corn husks and silk and one partially developed ear with a few bits of corn on it. What to do with all those treasures?! Well, the partial ear went straight out to a hen I have in isolation who hasn't been feeling well. We found her huddled in a corner a few days ago, thin and weak. She's been beginning to eat and drink and recover her strength, and this was the ticket to jumpstarting that process! She loved it!

The husks, silks and trimming from the ears went out into the chicken run, making the rest of the flock very happy as well. Snacks and something to play with!!

Now, those cobs with life still in them were waiting for me. I decided this was a perfect time to try corn cob jelly. Yup. That's right. Jelly. Sound amazing? No, not really. It actually sounds a bit weird. Is it amazing? YES! I made one small batch with a dozen ears of corn to try it and decided to boil the rest of the ears for more. For the how-to, here's a tried and true, safe recipe from my favorite canning site SB Canning. I didn't add food coloring. I like my product to be as pure and natural as possible, and that means retaining the natural color.

Besides, this comes out a lovely golden shade I wouldn't want to change. The taste is a bit like honey, but with a slightly corny note. Ha! That's just fun to write. It's corny. I imagine it would be especially tasty used like a glaze on corn bread, or maybe on chicken. I'll likely use it on toast and try it out on other things too.

The first picture above shows my "before," and here is what we turned it into!  There would have been 7 more jars of jelly (on the right), but I scalded and ruined one batch.... I got creative with the last batch of the night, adding a half teaspoon of red pepper flakes to the batch. I can't wait to try that one out after the flavors sit a bit!

Oh! I almost forgot. Once I boiled the cobs to extract all that delicious flavor for the jelly, I let them cool and then gave them to the chickens to snack on as well. It was like chicken Christmas. My flock loves my "recycling" system and I love the eggs they give me in return. Waste not, want not, indeed!

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