Sunday, September 19, 2010

Preserving Corn, à la Québécoise

Fig.1. Corn this year is the best I've ever had, sweet and juicy.

Québec corn is good this year; in fact, it’s the best I’ve ever had. When things are this good my mind tries to figure out ways to make it last, in this case it’s pretty easy, all it requires is a bit of effort.
Freezing corn is simple enough: cut the kernels off of the cob, place the kernels on a cookie sheet, freeze, then store in a freezer bag. Preserving corn—or canning corn—takes more time but is a lot more fun. I love creamed corn, in fact, one of my ultimate comfort foods is simply rendering down some minced meat and adding cream of corn to it: Shepard’s pie sans patates. You can make cream of corn by combining corn, water and a lot of sugar, but an excess of sugar would only mask the wonderful taste of the corn, so instead, I looked for corny inspiration from the prince of pork himself, Martin Picard. The Au Pied de Cochon cookbook is not only clogged with recipes showcasing swine, blood, guts and fat, but also the odd vegetable, usually one steeped in Québécois tradition, in this case, corn relish.
The vast varieties of chow chow de légumes, and, les ketchups aux fruits in Québec are great testaments from forlorn days past when preserving your fruits and vegetables wasn’t a hobby or a trend, as is the case today, but a necessity: you stored enough for the winter or you died. (If you’re interested in reading a first hand account of what it was like living during the harsh Canadian winters during the mid 1800’s, and what was involved in preparing for the winter months, you should read Susanna Moodie’s Canadian classic, Roughing it in the Bush.)

Corn Relish, adapted from the Au Pied de Cochon cookbook.

The only thing I changed in this recipe is the amount of corn and sugar: I used more corn and a lot less sugar, again I don’t think the sugar is needed based on the sweetness of this year’s corn crop. I also used green onions instead of regular onions and added white wine and celery leaves; come to think of it, maybe it’s a completely different recipe. This recipe can be cut by half.

½ cup olive oil
8 red bell peppers
3 bunches green onions
4 fresh jalapenos, chopped seeds removed (optional)
36 ears of corn
2 cups white wine
4 tbsp flour
5 cups white vinegar
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup celery leaves, packed
2 tbsp salt

Fig.2. 36 ears of corn gave me more than I thought it would, but no complaining here.


With a very good chef’s knife, remove the corn from the cobs. Heat a very big pot over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the green onions, jalapeno and red pepper and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, add the corn and cook for 5 minutes, stirring well. Add the wine and let it reduce, about 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the corn and stir, add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Fill your mason jars (Leaving about 2 cm space at the top) and seal them properly. For proper canning techniques go to )

Fig.3. Sealed and ready to make me warm during those cold January nights.

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