Thursday, August 5, 2010

Drying Corn...FOREVER

Years ago, when I lived on the farm (pre-marriage, pre-college, pre-mostly everything), we heated the place with a wood cook stove.  I enjoyed the whole process of splitting wood, tending the fire, smelling the smoke; the surface was continually hot in the winter, so a kettle could be boiling, or bread baking in no time.  It was comforting, in the winter. Economical, environmentally friendly, wholesome, and earthy.  Life was good in the winter in the mid-70's.

In the summer, not so much.

We lived (briefly) on an old dilapidated farm, complete with farm house, barn, goat shed and summer kitchen; that's where I first fell in love with Nubian goats, and where I delivered my first set of kids. The owner of the farm, Ferris Patt, had acres of sweet corn planted, and would occasionally set us loose to pick as much as we wanted.  That's when I learned to dry corn for the winter. The main tool we used was a corn (or bean) dryer, like the one shown below:

Corn or bean dryer: old-school

It is basically an aluminum box, which you fill with water.  The water is heated, and boils, but is contained by the box, with only a small amount of steam escaping from the fill-hole. The passive heat dries the corn gradually, creating a nice dry kernel which can be stored in jars and rehydrated when you need it; the flavor is sweet and intense, just when you want it...say, February.

We started with 5 dozen ears of local sweet corn.

Here's my set-up; an inverted soup bowl becomes the base, and it's held in a large salad bowl.

The kernels are liberated (aka cut) from the cob, and collected in the bowl.  Repeat 60 times. Or more, if you have more corn. The corn is then transferred to the hot drier, and turned every 30 minutes or so (more frequently as it gets dry.

My ingenious husband created this outdoor stove for me, using a cook-top and a propane tank.  A portable summer kitchen, Allentown style! We began the process after we returned home from milking (around 7 PM)...

I read my current book ("Full Moon Feast" by Jessica Prentice) by lamp-light, and turned corn until about midnight.  I had a hose handy to wet myself down occasionally as it was seasonably hot and humid last night, but finally gave up around midnight. We covered the slightly sticky, wonderfully sweet, half-dehydrated corn, and carried it indoors for the night. Imagine this: me, dripping wet, carrying the corn dryer (one handle of it) in one hand, and my wine and book in the other.  It's not a pretty picture.

This is a prettier picture:

We gave a farm tour this morning instead of finishing the corn.

The group of young adults enjoyed the various farm critters. Nice group!  They made me remember why I enjoy teaching.

School-to-Work Farm Tour

After the tour, we returned to our corn, and we're currently in the process of finishing the drying.  You might see some progress in the photo below.

Or you might not...
I'll update later...if it ever gets done!  Kathy kindly gave me the evening off milking the goats so I could finish. Thanks, Kathy!

The Final Product: 4PM

Mission accomplished!  Now on to round 2!


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  2. Good luck drying that corn. Sounds kinda exciting.

    For a minute I though you were making like popping corn and got really excited. :P