Preserving garden surplus and low-priced local foods is serious business, but that doesn't mean you can't do a little experimenting once in a while.
Knowing that tart fruits are sometimes poached in a sugar syrup before dehydrating, I wondered what would happen if I poached sweet corn kernels in a sweet syrup before dehydrating. Would I make corn candy?
The answer is yes! Is it a practical solution to storing an abundance of corn? That answer depends on how much candy you want to have around.
I live in the Northeast, where fall humidity tends to high and the sun tends to be unreliable, so dehydration isn't my first choice for preserving food. However, I find the dehydrator indispensable for dehydrating wild mushrooms when they come my way and making vegetable chip snacks. It isn't a far leap from savory kale chips to sweet corn candy.
I have a small-capacity Excalibur dehydrator with four 11-inch drying racks. In general, the racks of electric dehydrators range from 11 inches square to 14 inches square to 17-inches-by-14-inches. The more racks, the larger the racks, the more efficiently your dehydrator can be used for preserving.
I wouldn't have chosen this particular model had I bought my dehydrator at a store — this one I bought for $5 at a yard sale. (Many people buying expensive preserving equipment and later sell the equipment inexpensively at a yard sale when the buyer realizes how much work is entailed in preserving — so always be on the lookout for bargains.)
Each of my 11-inch trays holds the kernels of about two ears of corn (about 2 cups). So, I can plan on using eight ears of corn per batch of corn candy.
The best-tasting syrup to use on corn candy is pure maple syrup, which gives the corn kernels a flavor not unlike caramel popcorn made with maple syrup.
I'll use maple syrup when I have some left over from the previous year, but you can make up a syrup of water and white and brown sugar. Combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Flavor it if you like with cinnamon or vanilla.
Add the corn, remove from the heat, and let sit for 30 minutes. Drain the syrup (it can be reused) and spread the corn out in a single layer on your dehydrator trays.
Then dry for about 24 hours, until the corn is brittle and hard. If you take the corn out to early, it will gum up your teeth.
The final step: Toss the corn with some flaked salt to give it that sweet-salty flavor many of us find irresistible. Then store in an airtight container. I keep mine in the freezer and plan to take it out for a Halloween treat. Or is it a Halloween trick?
• 3 cups water
• 2 cups brown sugar
• 8 ears of corn, husked and kernels sliced off the cob
• 1 to 2 Tbsp coarse salt (flaked salt, such as Maldon, is ideal)
1. Combine the water and brown sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the corn and return to a boil. Remove from the heat and let sit for 30 minutes.
2. Drain the corn and spread out on dehydrator trays. Dry at 125 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours. Let cool for about 1 hour.
3. Transfer the corn to an airtight container. Add the salt to taste and toss. Store in the freezer or at room temperature.
Andrea Chesman has written more than 20 cookbooks, including The Pickled Pantry, Recipes from the Root Cellar, Serving Up the Harvest, and The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How. She teaches and does cooking demonstrations and classes at fairs, festivals, book events, and garden shows across the United States. She lives in Ripton, Vermont. Read all of Andrea's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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