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Preserving tradition, Local woman shares joy of serving fresh veggies to family

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Posted: June 22, 2007 4:21 p.m.
Updated: July 10, 2007 5:00 a.m.

    My little black book has many important numbers in it, but one that I cherish the most in the summertime is listed under the C’s. It’s filed as CORN.  Each year, in the latter part of June, I call the canning plant in Emanuel County and make my annual pilgrimage to Twin City to put up corn for the year. 
    For people interested in eating fresh food, cooks wanting to have creamed corn and corn on the cob put up for year-round eating, or someone who is interested in maintaining a healthy diet, this article is for you.

    Personally, I fall into all three categories.  Years ago I made a pledge to myself that I would try to feed my family nutritious foods.  With childhood obesity rates skyrocketing with over nine million children six years and older obese in the United States, I am extremely interested in providing “real” food for my family to eat.  Although Green Giant, Del Monte and other companies sell corn all day long in cans and freezer bags, if you look closely at the nutrition label you will see sodium and added sugar in these foods.  For instance, a 15-ounce can of Green Giant whole kernel sweet corn has 360 mg of sodium.  Under ingredients, they list golden whole kernel corn, water, sugar and salt. Silver Queen corn is so naturally sweet that you definitely don’t need to add sugar.  
    Growing up here in Bulloch County, I recall my parents putting up corn the old-fashioned way.  They went to the corn field, broke the corn, brought it home and worked for what seemed like days shucking, silking and blanching the Silver Queen maize.  I recollect my sister and I did a little shucking and silking, but we were always frightened beyond belief of the worms we would discover lurking under the green husks. 
    To this day I don’t like worms, and I don’t care to shuck and silk outside in 98-degree weather, all the while being assaulted by gnats.  I don’t own an outside gas cooker large enough to handle a gargantuan, heavy aluminum pot to blanch the corn.   So what’s a girl to do?  I call it contemporary homemaking, the process of putting up vegetables while others help you do the job.
    Luckily for me, just 25 miles up the road, there are people ready and willing to help.  The Emanuel County Food Processing Center is located on the Emanuel County Institute campus and is open about eight weeks each summer.  The center is operated by the school system’s agricultural education staff and high school students who process corn.  Patrons prepare and pack fruits and vegetables, while agriculture teachers handle the processing.
    On the particular day I “booked” our corn, there were 2,700 ears of corn being processed at the plant.  The staff at the canning facility will shuck silk, cut, blanch and bag the corn at a cost of $17 per 100 ears.  
    My “putting up corn” day began at 7 a.m. when I met my Uncle Cloyce Martin at his corn patch.  Uncle Cloyce, one of his farm helpers and I broke the corn in 45 minutes.  My husband usually does this part of the job since it can be the most challenging, but this particular day he had an early business meeting.  I delivered the corn to the cannery, which is about a 35-minute drive from Statesboro. One of the students helped count the corn, and it totaled 649 ears. 
    I’m not a farmer or agricultural expert, but over the years I have learned about bushels and measurements of corn.  There are about 60 ears in one bushel.  Therefore, with 649 ears, we had about 10 bushels of corn. I instructed the cannery to cream seven bushels and put up three bushels on the cob.  The processing center tells you to bring your freezer bags, so we provided quart-size bags for the creamed corn and gallon-size ones for the corn on the cob.  According to Tori Meadows, ECI agricultural instructor, 12 full ears makes around one quart, and the workers put about three cups of creamed corn in each bag.  In addition, they generally put six to eight ears in each gallon size bag.   
    The first step involves all the students who are employed at the plant.  They use large machetes fastened to boards to cut the ends off the corn.  Next, a couple students shuck the corn and it is taken inside to the large vats of water where the corn is blanched for seven minutes.  “About 200 ears of corn can be blanched at one time,” Meadows said.  After blanching, the corn is put in cool water and then blown with an air compressor to remove the silks.  The last step requires a firm and steady hand.  The students use a cutter to cut and scrape the kernels off the cob.  As you can imagine, the work environment is wet, sticky and starchy.  “At the end of the day our hair is so thick with the milky sweetness to the point that your hair stands straight up,” Meadows added. 
    The total process takes until around 3:00 p.m. when the center calls you to make your journey back to Twin City.  I had three large coolers loaded with ice to bring the corn home.  By 5:00 p.m. my children and I had created an assembly line to get the corn from the van to the freezer.  If you are planning on freezing this amount of corn, you need to have a separate, upright freezer outside in a storage room. 
    The tradition of freezing food runs deeply in my family.  On any given day in the 1960s, you could find organized in our freezer a quarter of a beef and a whole pork neatly packaged and labeled in white butcher paper, peas, butter beans and corn.  Today, the farm family custom continues in our home with the same goal that my parents had 40 years ago:  to eat the freshest, highest quality food that comes straight from the field to the freezer…no preservatives, no additives, just real food. 
    The best part of the day came at 7:00 p.m. when we enjoyed an all-American summertime supper:  grilled low-fat hamburgers, steamed broccoli, string beans, and sweet, Silver Queen corn.  A little work and planning went into it, but you can do this!  Take one day off from work, get your family to help, and put up some vegetables.  It is gratifying to feed your family and your soul. 

Jenny Lynn Anderson, a public relations practitioner for over 20 years, serves as PR Director for Joiner-Anderson Funeral Home.  She and her husband, Mark, have two children, Morgan and Allison.  Jenny Lynn is a community volunteer who enjoys cooking, photography and traveling.  She can be reached at jennylynna@bulloch.com. 

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