Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Drying Corn Husks

After a number of false starts, I eventually acquired the quantity of corn husks I was hoping for to shred and dry.  In past years I would get only what I could store in the fridge for a few weeks (husks last much better than lettuce).  But since my girls really like corn husks and I have access to a consistent quantity of organic corn, I wanted to see if preserving them is worthwhile.  It's a treat I'm sure they'll appreciate outside of corn season.  Besides, I would like to reclaim my veggie drawer.

I left a hamper at the Walpole farmer's market when it opened and picked it up after work.  Not as many husks as I had hoped, but much better than my attempt at the CSA the week before.  Bringing my own husk container helped out a lot.  I plan on returning several more times until they close down in October.

Ideally, I would have processed them as soon as I got home, but I didn't have time until Saturday morning.  I set myself up in the back yard with a comfy chair, the pile of husks, a pair of kitchen shears and an old bed sheet.  I went through the pile a handful  at a time, inspecting and cutting off any bad or questionable pieces.  I pulled out any silks I found and set them aside.  Then I shredded what I had into 1/4" to 1/2" strips, tossed them onto the sheet, grabbed another handful and continued until the pile was gone.

I ended up with a clean heap of shredded husks,
a small pile of silks and a bin of refuse

I wasn't terribly careful with the shredding.  If any piece looked too wide, I stripped it in half.  I didn't bother pulling apart the layers; I just tore through multiple leaves all at once.  I also clipped off the thick ends of husks, because it made them easier to shred.

It took me about an hour to work through the pile which originated from 2 to 3 dozen ears of corn.  I discarded more husks than I thought I would.  It was easier to throw out the questionable pieces than trying to keep the good parts.  I ended up with nearly a quart sized bag of silks that I refrigerated for Bertie and Pinni.  

All spread out, ready for a sunny spot
I dragged the sheet to a sunny spot on the lawn to let them dry.  I checked on the progress every hour or two, sifted through the husks and pulled apart any clumps.  I also moved the sheet back into the sun if it was in the shade.  The strips started curling quite rapidly and had shrunk a lot after just an hour in the sun. I left them out until the late afternoon.

I stored the dried husks in a large paper bag.  I figure, like Kleenmama's hay, husks should be allowed to continue drying, so I did not want to put them in a sealed plastic container.  I've seen notes from others that if they're sure the husks are completely dry, they will store them in Ziploc bags.  Husks should be stored in a cool dry place to keep them from molding. 

This isn't the only way to preserve corn husks.  I understand they can also be shredded and dried in the oven, at 135-150F for 4-8 hours.  I also read the other day about a person who froze her corn husks.  The husks should be inspected and shredded the same I did, but then put into freezer bags and frozen.  Husks can be taken out in batches and allowed to thaw and dry up a bit before they're eaten.  If I had more room in my freezer, I might be temped to give this a try.  I can say that husks are a lot more compact and lighter when they've been dried.  It will be interesting to see how well they'll last.


9 comments :

  1. We dried corn husks over the weekend too but on a much smaller scale... just the few heads of corn we ate ourselves! I tend to shred them in a the few minutes while the corn is boiling and dry them inside on a newspaper in the kitchen. They are usually ready for the pigs the next day.
    Then we store them at room temperature in a plastic bag.

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  2. I hadn't thought of drying them on ao sheet outside - but that would work really well for my back yard. My concern would be other critters running off with my carefully prepared husks. Do you find that squirrels like them, or do they leave them alone? We have what seems like an army of squirrels on our block, and see about a dozen a day roaming along our wooden fence and through our vines, so I would be concerned that they might rummage through the corn husks and leave some germs behind that I'd rather not have my girls in contact with. Do you notice squirrels messing with your husks?

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    Replies
    1. I did not see any animal approach the sheet while they were drying. I think my local chipmunks and squirrels were more interested in the bird-feeder than the husks. I had found one or two tiny bird droppings on the edge of the sheet just before I brought them in - I think my last sunny spot in the yard was directly under a common flight-path (I'll have to move it in a different spot, next batch). But the husks all appeared clean and untouched.

      I dried a small batch indoors a few weeks ago, in a sunny spot in the living room, but they did not dry as nicely nor as quickly as the outdoor batch.

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  3. Great work! With luck Bertie and Pinni will be munching husks until they come back into season again.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. If it wasn't for your post on corn husks, I don't think I'd ever had tried this!

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    2. I've gotten some just harvested dried (brown) corn husks from a Uncle's crops and want to use them for crafts but have three questions..

      1) How do I treat them for mildew or mold - just in case?
      2) How do I treat them for bugs
      3) How do I preserve them for crafting purposes, I want large pieces for a wreath or corn doll?

      Thanks
      Katrina

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    3. I don't use my husks for crafts - just to feed the guinea pigs. I know this method keeps them clean and mildew-free for several months, but beyond that, I have no idea, because they've all been eaten.

      It appears that drying husks for crafts is similar to my method. Basically, you want to let them bake in the sun, and keep them out of the damp (rain, dew, etc) after they've been dried. They drying process should help to kill off any bugs - but I don't believe there's any way to prevent a later infestation.

      I found a link here, that might be helpful in what you're looking for(be sure to scroll down to the bottom): http://chickensintheroad.com/cooking/how-to-make-cream-style-corn/

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  4. how many hours did you dry them and can you dry them without shredding?

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    Replies
    1. They usually dry in a couple of hours. I usually leave them out in the sun for the afternoon. It depends on how strong the sun is and the humidity.

      I'm sure they could be dried without shredding, but I bet that would take longer.

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