2nd Prize, Illinois State Fair, 2018

Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance


Illinois State Fair

August 10, 2018


Second Prize, 2018


Family Sweet Corn
Jone Schumacher, Chapin, Illinois




The sweet sweet smell throughout the rural Illinois country side each hot July day brings to recall found childhood memories of enjoying fresh sweet corn on the cob and of the task of “putting up” corn for the long winter months. On second thought, maybe not all the memories are the most fond of my childhood, put probably helped to shape my good work ethics. My mother also tells of enjoying sweet corn as a child, and her mother would preserve some corn by canning as freezing was not an option for her family. For most of her childhood, her family only had an ice box, which they would stock with ice on occasion when the ice wagon came around. My father’s mother, however, had one of the earliest freezers in the area and she was a “pioneer” in experimenting with preserving produce by freezing. My mother reports they always had a small patch of hybrid sweet corn, but she recalls talk of times when farm folks would watch the field corn and eat field corn before it dented and matured. This corn was not sweet and tender as the corn we are all accustomed to now.


As I indicated earlier, some of my memories involving corn were not my favorite. My father decided to add to our household income by having a fresh produce truck farm for several years. This provided my older sister and me with the opportunity to help hoe furrows, drop the seeds in the ground, cover the seeds and a few weeks later spend countless hours hoeing the long rows. At harvest time, I remember siting under the big shade tree in the yard husking the corn. Mother then prepared the corn for freezing, blanching the ears, cooling in ice water in the large dish pan she received as a wedding present from her parents. Mother then froze our corn packed neatly in blue freezer boxes. Of course we did have countless meals with fresh corn on the cob dripping with melted butter.


When my children were growing up, they missed the garden experience I had as the sweet corn was planted with a 4-row planter on the edge of a corn field and was not hoed by hand. When it was time to freeze corn, my husband’s parents hosted the “party” in their basement for our family and my husband’s brother and family. The cousins loved getting together and it really didn’t seem like work. The guys picked the corn and husked it outside, and we women worked in the cool basement where my in-laws had an electric stove and sink. For years, we blanched the corn while still on the cob in large pans, cooled with ice water in the sink, drained and cut the cooled kernels off the cobs with our sharpest long knife. The corn then was measured into pint and quart plastic bags and slipped into white freezer boxes. The tops and bottoms of the boxes were taped securely with freezer tape and the date inscribed on with a marker. There was a freezer in the basement where it was frozen to be divided up later. In the mid-90’s, we learned of a more modern recipe that seemed easier as it allowed us to blanch larger volumes at one time. Clean-up remained about the same. My husband’s mother would cover the basement floor with braided rugs and she was not at all disturbed with the mess of dropped sticky corn kernels. She always said it was not a problem to shake out and put the rugs in the washer after the corn preservation for the year was completed. Besides the fellowship of working together, the best part was the delicious meal we all enjoyed after our hard work. The traditional meal was grilled hamburgers, delicious potato salad, tomatoes from the garden, and of course buttered corn on the cob, which we enjoyed eating in the cool basement, all sitting around the ping pong table converted to our picnic table.


The wonderful tradition of “putting up corn” has continued to our family each summer. Three different planting’s are planted, still with the old 4-row planter. Now the “party” is held at our farm home and the the hardest thing is finding a time when our children and their busy schedules are available at the same time the corn is at its best. This year just two of our five children were able to join our work force, but they brought some helpful, hard working grandchildren. We have different “work stations” around the farm. After picked, the corn is husked in the shade behind the Morton building, washed, cleaned and silks removed in the yard in the shade of the magnolia tree, and finally brought into my kitchen to be cut off the cob with electric knives. Twelve heaping quarts of corn are measured into large pans, sugar, salt and water added, and the corn is brought to simmer for 4-5 minutes. Fortunately, I have a very long sturdy wooden spoon to use to keep it stirred and prevented from sticking. The hot corn is poured out into large 16 x 16 metal pans and taken to chill in a large cooler. Instead of using the freezer boxes, our corn is measured into quart zip-lock freezer bags. I do not put down the braided rugs, and although our little dog likes to help the clean up process by eat ing some of the dropped kernels, my floor is quite a sticky mess at the end of the day. The amount of corn frozen and the type of freezing bags have changed somewhat, but the fellowship of working together and enjoying delicious “homemade” corn remains the same over the years. I know this was a cherished activity of my husband’s mother, Beulah, as well, as she even painted covered corn serving bows in ceramics for both families. Using this bowl brings back many fond memories of Beulah and the great memories of time spent together putting up corn. I am disappointed in “old days” we did not take picture of our “corn parties,” but I guess it didn’t seem like an event but routine then.



Growing all kinds of corn has a deep history with our families as my grandfather started a hybrid seed company and my husband’s father was a charter employee of another local seed company. It is these seed corn companies that have been instrumental in developing some of the great varieties of sweet corn we still enjoy today. The variety we grow is called Coon’s Choice and we can certainly testify the local coons love it. It is always a challenge to get the corn before the coons or deer have a feast. For that reason, my husband puts up double rows of electric wire around out patch so we must be careful to unplug the power before checking the corn.


It is wonderful and easy to thaw quarts of our fresh frozen corn and warm in the microwave, drain and add a few pats of butter ready for meals. It is just expected to have corn at all our family meals and holidays throughout the year! We do not always eat all the frozen corn, and we find it keeps well for more than a year. It has gotten to be a family inside joke as to guess what year the corn is at a given meal. Tradition dictates it is always the newest year’s batch served at Christmas! Our son-in-law, who grew up in Chicago, chuckles at the term “puttin’up corn” but pitches in and has learned to be an excellent “farm-hand” on our country corn days. Even though not everyone is available each year to work on the “corn crew,” it is a family project and we generously share the treasured golden delicacy with all our children’s families. I did wonder what we would need to charge for a quart for our corn if we had the business of preserving corn for sale, but I quickly calculated with the number of workers and the hours spent planting, watering, harvesting and processing, the price would seem unreasonable. Our family freezer corn is just “priceless!” I am proud to report that we “put up” 100 quarts this year and have one more planting yet to mature, so we will be ready for another year of memorable meals. I believe the ingredient of love is tasted by all, and I sincerely hope my family will keep my big pans and somehow continue to get together to “put up”country corn for years to come.


Second Prize, 2018


Family Sweet Corn
Jone Schumacher, Chapin, Illinois




Pick corn when ears are full and silks are brow and dry. Shuck corn and remove silks.


Bring a large pot of water to boil. Place corn ears into boiling water and return to boiling, time for 4-5 minutes. Remove ears from water with tongs and drop into sink or large pan filled with ice water to chill. Drain well when cooled. Cut corn off the cob with a long sharp knife. Measure into plastic bags and place into freezer boxes. Freeze as soon as possible.




12 heaping quarts fresh cut corn
2 2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons salt
3 cups water
2 tablespoons butter per quart when heating to serve

Measure corn into a large pan. Add sugar and salt and pour water over and stir to mix. Heat to steaming and water simmering. Stir frequently, bringing the corn on the bottom of the pan to the top. Simmer for 5 minutes. Pour into large shallow pans to chill in cooler. When cold, measure into desired freezer bags marked with the date.


To serve: Place partly thawed or frozen corn covered Pyrex and heat on high in microwave for 3-4 minutes; stir and heat 3-4 minutes until steaming hot. Drain most of the water, add butter and heat additional 1-2 minutes until hot. The corn can so be heated to serve over the stove, although the microwave is easier.


Hint: This recipe is easy to divide and reduce to smaller “batches.”