Sweet corn (also known as corn on the cob), is one of the most popular vegetables and it's in peak season for five months each year, from May through September. Which means there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy it.
Still, it doesn't last forever. Whether you're looking to preserve some of that bounty for the offseason or simply make your meal prep easier by doing some of the steps ahead of time, freezing corn on the cob is definitely a great idea.
There are a couple of ways you can go about freezing corn on the cob and which one you use will depend on how you want to use the corn later. Often you'll just want to freeze the kernels themselves, to use later in dishes like soups, salads, or corn salsa, or a virtually unlimited number of other ways.
But did you know you can also freeze the whole cob and then cook it and eat it later? It's true! As you might imagine, the methods are quite different, but we'll discuss them both.
Freezing Corn Kernels Cut from the Cob
This method of freezing corn gives you loose kernels so you can later take out just what you need. Grilling or roasting the corn before freezing gives it a smoky, intense flavor that is fantastic, while boiling, steaming or microwaving will give you more of a traditional result which is equally versatile.
Either way, start with cooked corn cobs that are cool enough to handle. The simplest method is to stand an ear of corn upright inside a large bowl, pointy end down, and use a sharp chef's knife to slice the kernels off downward and into the bowl. Some people place a smaller bowl upside down inside the larger bowl, which prevents the kernels from scattering all over your kitchen. Save the cobs for corn cob stock.
Next, spread the corn kernels on a baking sheet in a more or less single layer. Freeze, uncovered, for one hour, then transfer the frozen kernels to freezer bags or containers. You'll notice how freezing them on the baking sheet first keeps the kernels separate, instead of freezing into one big clump. Be sure to label the bags or containers with the date; frozen corn kernels will keep for at least six months and up to a year.
Freezing Whole Ears of Corn
When freezing whole ears of corn, the goal is to be able to cook them and serve them later. So unlike the method outlined above, where the corn is cooked, then cut from the cob and frozen, here the corn isn't going to be cooked before freezing.
But that's not the whole story. Because fresh corn on the cob will undergo enzymatic changes that will affect the flavor, color and texture of the corn, even in the freezer. This isn't technically a form of spoilage, since spoilage is caused by bacteria, not the corn's own enzymes. But either way, you don't want it to happen.
Fortunately, it's easy to halt the action of these enzymes by briefly blanching the corn before freezing it.
Why Do We Blanch Before Freezing?
Blanching is a common food preparation technique that involves immersing food in boiling water for a relatively brief amount of time—as short as 30 seconds to as long as several minutes. This is done for various reasons depending on the ingredient, but it's done as a stage of prep rather than for the purpose of actually cooking the item.
Nor is it about killing bacteria for the food safety purposes. It's solely about halting the enzymatic action for reasons of quality.
First, husk the corn and remove as much silk as you can. Start a large pot of water boiling. Make sure the diameter is large enough to accommodate the ears. How many ears you can do at a time will depend on the volume, as overcrowding will cause the temperature to fall. And remember to fill the pot no more than three-quarters full, so that you have room to add the corn.
You'll also need a large bowl of ice water on hand to stop the cooking after you remove the corn from the hot water.
Once the water has come to a boil, add the corn and blanch for 4 minutes. Then immediately transfer the corn to the ice water bath and let it cool all the way, for another 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and dry off the ears thoroughly with paper towels, as any excess water will form frost when you freeze the corn.
Finally, wrap the ears tightly in plastic wrap, then seal the wrapped ears in a freezer bag with all the air squeezed out. Label the bags with the date; frozen ears of corn will also last six to 12 months in the freezer.
When you're ready to serve, simply remove the wrapped corn from the bags and microwave, still in the plastic wrap, for 3 to 4 minutes. Alternately, remove the plastic wrap and heat in boiling water for 5 to 6 minutes.