Sweet Corn Connoisseur Lauren Biegler
Lauren’s family knows how to keep a good thing going. Their annual tradition, “Corn Day”, is a quest for peak sweet corn flavor, family togetherness and making a summer harvest last the whole year long.
When people ask me what we do with the “sweet corn1” that we grow on our farm, I can’t help but laugh. What farmers do with their sweet corn usually mirrors what their own family did with their sweet corn. Some people boil it, then freeze it in a slurry of salt and butter. Some people cut it off of the cob raw, then cook it and can it. We boil it on the ear, then cut it and freeze it in bags. But for us, we make a big thing of it. It’s called Corn Day.
I grew up on my family’s corn and soybean farm in Iowa. We would pick, shuck, cook, cut, bag and freeze our sweet corn all in the same day. Hence the name “Corn Day.” Sounds like a lot, right? It is! But there’s a reason for our method and it’s all about flavor. We know that the most delicious, delectable sweet corn is attainable only if we pick it at just the right time, and then cook it as quickly as possible. The more we let each ear ripen, the tougher and starchier the kernels get. So it’s a bit of a race that in our opinion is well worth the effort.
My earliest Corn Day memories included just our small little family of four and my grandparents. We’d wake up early in the morning to pick the corn. My mom would cover the entire kitchen with newspapers, and the adults went through all of the steps – shucking, boiling in small pots on the stove, cooling in the sink with cold water followed by cutting, bagging and freezing so we could enjoy it for months. As you can imagine, our kitchen would be a sticky disaster by the end of Corn Day. The clean-up was just awful! Mom couldn’t stand it anymore, so my dad rigged up equipment to do it all outside on a big camping stove. Corn Day was never the same again. We had a new economy of scale.
That’s when we started inviting 20 members of our extended family out to the farm for this hands-on annual food event. We would split into small teams like an assembly line for picking, shucking, cooking, cooling, cutting, bagging and freezing. Dad would grill burgers and we would eat some of the ears along with it. Everyone went home exhausted with their portion of the corn in a cooler to enjoy it all year long. Memories were made, and photos captured the day. It left a sweet impression on me. Corn Day is still an annual, outdoors tradition that I’ve continued with my own family now on our farm in Minnesota. That’s what I do with our sweet corn.
1 Sweet corn: a corn plant developed in order to have young ears that are sweet and suitable for eating.