Dehydration is a preservation method that removes water from food, protecting it from spoilage. Primitive methods have been around for thousands of years, with the invention of the food dehydrator simplifying the process. If you do not have a food dehydrator, oven drying and sun drying are also options. Whichever method you choose, dehydrating and storing the crispy bits ensures that you will have the corn when you need it for your recipes.
Before dehydrating sweet corn, it is essential to blanch it. Peel off the husk, rinse with warm water from the tap and carefully lower each ear into a pot of boiling water. Boil for 4 to 5 minutes, remove the corn with a pair of tongs and rinse each ear under cold water to stop the cooking proces. Lay the corn to dry on clean paper towels and then cut the kernels of sweet corn from the cob with a knife -- do not scrape.
Once the kernels of sweet corn are free of the cob, they are ready to go into a dehydrator. The kernels are placed on dehydration trays, where they remain until the warm air of the dehydrator finishes the job -- about 1 to 2 hours. When completely dehydrated, corn has a glassy, semi-transparent appearance. The dehydrated kernels are tiny, making it possible to store more sweet corn in less space than with fresh or frozen corn.
The oven method of dehydration utilizes a low, steady stream of heat that removes the moisture from the sweet corn. Once the sweet corn is rinsed and blanched, spread the kernels on a baking tray. Set the oven temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and slide in the tray. Oven dehydration usually takes between 12 and 18 hours. Stir the sweet corn occasionally with a wooden spoon until the corn takes on a glassy appearance -- a sign that the corn is moisture-free.
After blanching, lay the corn out in the sun on screens made of plastic, stainless steel or food-grade, polytetrafluoroethylene-coated fiberglass. Wash the screens beforehand with soap and hot water. Thoroughly dry the screens before adding the corn. Keep the screens in place by laying a heavy stone on each corner and raise them off the ground with blocks to promote airflow. Check the weather and wait for a series of three to four 80- to 90-degree-F sunny days. Spread the corn evenly on the screens, stirring with a wooden spoon every two hours until the corn no longer shows signs of moisture.
Dehydrated sweet corn requires storage in a cool, dry place. Airtight containers are a necessity, making any glass jar, metal can or box, or freezer container with a tight-fitting lid an appropriate choice for storage. Heavy-duty plastic bags can also work, but may not be as successful in keeping water and insects at bay. For maximum quality, store only as much sweet corn in each container as you need for a single recipe.
Dehydrated corn is dry, shriveled and brittle; adding water back into the corn plumps it back up. Allow the dehydrated sweet corn to soak for 2 hours in a pot filled with water. For every 1 cup of sweet corn, add 2 cups of water to the pot. Cover the saucepan after the 2-hour soak and simmer until tender, then serve.
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