Puttin’ up corn

This is one of those posts that I feel needs a disclaimer right up front, because I already know I won’t be able to convey the fun we had, the experiences we gained, and the relationships we forged. The disclaimer should be something along the lines of the ubiquitous drug companies’ list of side effects for the various prescription drugs that populate print and TV advertising. Perhaps something along these lines: This post is intended to document the immense fun and incredible experience of a few days spent in northern Louisiana with an amazing family. This post should not be read while enduring a dismally empty social calendar or a puny vacation fund. This post may cause severe envy among readers who were not invited. Consult a psychotherapist if the side effects persist for more than four hours after reading, or proceed  to the nearest emergency room if you find yourself entertaining thoughts of showing up in Bastrop, LA, unannounced.

Ok, I feel better now.

The more I think about it, the expanse of this experience cannot be contained in one simple posting, so there will need to be multiple installments. This, the first installment, is gonna cover the trip itself and the corn. Oh, the corn.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m not a fan of car travel and try to avoid it at all costs. That said, I would get in the car right now — not even 24 hours after returning home — and make the trip again. That’s how great this trip was. My favorite girl and my best boy and I packed up the car and headed out of Houston Tuesday morning, not knowing what lay ahead in the 400 miles between our house and our destination. Little did we know that we were in for the experience of a lifetime. 

The first time my dear friend Amy invited me to her family home in Bastrop, LA, the timing didn’t work out; never again will I allow another event to stand in the way of going to Mama’s house.

Mama and Papa and the infamous Sanders sisters — Gina, Holly, and Wendy — rolled out the red carpet and put on the dog for us. First stop when we arrived at Mama’s house was a tour of Papa’s garden. I’d heard about this little slice of heaven and was beyond happy to see it with my own eyes. My iPhone photos do not do it justice. The first thing we saw upon entering Papa’s garden was asparagus, and I’m kicking myself for having missed its harvest.

Once it’s past its prime, the stalks grow tall & reedy while the tops run to fern. Beautiful, IMHO.

I will be back in the spring for the asparagus. Mark my words, Papa!

Next is the cabbage. The plants are huge, and the ruffly leaves are pretty enough to be part of an elaborate floral arrangement. The heads, however, belong on a plate, sliced and simmered to perfection.

There’s okra!! Be still my heart:And eggplant. Good grief, it just keeps getting better!

Our little piggie would lose her mind if she saw this watermelon, growing fat and ripe in the sun.

There are scores of bell peppers and tomatoes. If there’s anything better than a homegrown tomato picked from the vine, you let me know.

And then there’s corn.

Sweet corn.

My favorite girl couldn’t wait to get her hands on some of Papa’s fresh corn.

Amy took a step into the thick of things —  literally.

The corn was the star of the show, and one of the main reasons we drove to Mama’s.

We were going to get to help put up corn.

For the uninitiated, “putting up corn” refers to the process of picking, washing, blanching, de-kerneling, and freezing the delectable veggie. We’ve been on the receiving end of some of Mama’s corn, lovingly transported from Louisiana to Houston and carefully guarded and doled out upon special occasions.

This is good stuff, people.

There’s a reason Mama’s corn is referred to as “liquid gold.”

Here’s how it works: Papa picks the corn early, early in the morning once he’s deemed it ready. He can tell when it’s ready by looking at it on the stalk and by experience.

Know how many ears of corn each stalk produces?

Go on, guess.

Think about how tall and wide each stalk of corn is, and guess how many ears are waiting to be picked.

Two.

Yep, just two ears per stalk.

(I guessed 6. Silly city-slicker).

So the fresh-picked corn is piled up, ready to be shucked.

My favorite girl couldn’t wait to get going on this part.

Awwww, shucks!

As we shucked, Papa had his knife ready to deal with any soft spots on the corn.

He also handled any interlopers.

The pile of shucks grows.

As we shucked, we tossed the ears into a bucket, ready to be toted into the house.

A few ears didn’t pass Papa’s strict inspection. Not quite up to snuff for us, but perfectly suited as a tug-of-war between Molly & JoJo. After all that tugging, JoJo needed a snack.

Before long, the shucking is done…

…and buckets full of corn are in the kitchen, ready for the next step.

After the shucked corn is toted inside, it’s got to be meticulously washed. First the sink is scoured, then each and every ear is scrubbed and de-silked under hot water. While this step is the most laborious part, you know this germophobe loved it.

Scrub-a-dub-dub! It’s early, early in the morning and my hands were already pruney from all the scrubbing.

We brought in some extra help for the last of the cleaning. My favorite girl and Amy’s youngest, Carter, were happy to assist.

The cleaned ears pile up in the sink, ready to go into the boiling pots.

Finally, the last ear is cleaned!

After a quick 3-minute boiling, the corn goes into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. The smell in the kitchen at this point was quite simply intoxicating.

Once cool enough to handle, we ran the ears through the corn cutter. It removes the kernels and the milk. This is where the magic happens, people.

The container of water to the left of the cutter serves an important purpose: we dunk the shaved ears into the water, then run them back through the cutter in the opposite direction, to collect every drop of the milk. 

As we ran each ear through the cutter, Mama’s giant metal bowl slowly began to fill with liquid gold.

Time for a little break, to rest our arms and replenish our flagging energy. I truly can’t remember the last time I had an ice-cold Coke, and glory be, it was delicious. Even without any rum.

A few of the prettiest ears were spared the cutter and put up whole. 

The rest, though, went into individual bags to be frozen.

We processed 192 ears, which translates into 17 quart-sized bags of liquid gold.

Each bag was lovingly placed into the freezer, like putting a baby to bed. 

If Mama and Amy weren’t looking, I might have been tempted to kiss that corn good-night.

Once the corn was put to bed, we loaded up the discarded cobs onto the 4-wheeler’s trailer. By the time they’ve been de-kerneled and milked for every drop of goodness, they look like a foam roller used for painting a wall.

Usually Papa takes the used cobs into the woods and leaves them for the local wildlife. This time, however, the cobs went to Papa’s friend’s house to feed his wild hogs. My favorite girl wasted no time wrangling an invitation to go see these hogs for herself.

These guys look a little different than the wild hog who lives at our house!

Stay tuned for a full report on our day of skeet-shooting.


29 Comments on “Puttin’ up corn”

  1. Jan Baird says:

    How fun to get this experience. Love the pictures. The shucked corn makes me so hungry just looking at it. Now skeet-shooting. Can’t wait for your next report. xx

  2. Wendy Langley says:

    Are you the new queen of trailers? (you know, the movie kind….) I do believe that you are! Loved having all of you here!!

  3. Jody Hicks says:

    Another great post – what a good experience for the kids as well as you. Reminds me of the days when I used to put up various foods and jams when we lived in Tulsa. However, after the first couple of years of dealing with so many pests I’d never heard of and the worst summers I’d ever experienced, I gave up on growing them and shopped the farmers’ market instead. The younger boys seemed to enjoy helping, but I think Stuart and Trevor always “had” to be out on the golf course “practicing” for their high school team. This shows what they missed out on!

    • Jody, I asked Papa about pests and he said he doesn’t have much trouble with bugs. My hunch is that everyone, bugs included, respects him too much to mess with him!

  4. Eddie says:

    I feel as though I was there. JoJo is one cute hound dog. I am feeling inspired to plan a garden for next year. Now when do we get to see you with a gun?!

  5. Amy H. says:

    Is this heaven? No, seriously…..it’s Louisiana!

    So glad you and the kids experienced it with us! We had a blast showing y’all around!

  6. Real, fresh corn! My mouth’s watering from here!

  7. Wow! That sure takes me back! I’m so glad you’re mom is still doing it. Well, actually, it kind of takes me back – to putting up peas and carrots and tomatoes and applesauce and every kind of jam and stews. My mom did try putting up a few ears of corn one year but they turned out so starchy no one would eat them.

    I didn’t know anyone who put corn up that way which leads me to ask what is probably the dumbest possible question, but I do hale from New York and I live in New Zealand, which means I’m about as far from Louisiana as a body can get, so there’s no one around to ask… but how do you prepare and eat that wonderful corn your mom’s put up? Obviously you wouldn’t want to waste the milk – but it would seem to be more of a soup than anything to me…

    Sure wish I could try some!

    • Titirangi, it’s not a dumb question at all! The preparation is simple — thaw the frozen bag of corn & throw it in a saucepan with a little butter and a little salt & pepper and simmer until you can’t stand it a second longer. It’s not soupy, really, but does have some liquid. You can eat it with a fork, but I use a spoon to not waste a single drop!

  8. Ok corn is on the menu tonight. I forgot how much I love that stuff. Glad you and the family had a wonderful time :)

    • elizabeth connolly says:

      Wow, that sounds like a much better trip than some water amusement park!! Good choice. The picture of the prettiest ears of corn is making my mouth water . Can’t wait for the skeet shooting. Love

      • BA: I did tell Papa that our East Coast friends call the bi-colored corn “butter-sugar corn.” He’d never heard that and enjoyed learning that little tidbit. Can’t wait to go to the farm stand around the corner from your house and get some butter-sugar next month!

    • Trinity, I suggest you close your eyes while eating your corn and pretend it’s from Papa’s garden!

  9. David Benbow says:

    I’m glad you had the disclaimer at the beginning. I know what to do about the extreme envy I’m feeling. That’s my kind of vacation! Can’t wait for the next episode.

  10. This was wonderful. Thank you for that delicious respite! Just love seeing a different part of the world, in its most simple form: Pure, good, sweet, simple… perfect!

  11. [...] Our trip last week has provided such good blog fodder, like this post about the trip itself and this post about puttin’ up corn and this post about skeet-shooting and this post about the best [...]

  12. Reblogged this on greenpathstream and commented:
    time for some farm news

  13. Shannon says:

    Awesome! We’re on a slightly smaller scale here. So important to have the kids involved in getting food from the ground to the table. They’ll remember it always.


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