When it comes to squirrels, it seems that people firmly claim membership in one of two possible groups. Either they happily proclaim, “Let’s feed them! They’re so cute!” (and make them PB&J sandwiches as someone in my family does – you know who you are)… or they’re in the group which spots one in the yard and asks, “Where did I put my BB gun?” Well, I’d say that I fall into the first group. Yeah, they can be a pest with my bird feeders, but the outdoors belong to them just as much as they do to the other wildlife. So I deal with their periodic invasions of my chicken and bird feeders, but have successfully limited those instances by providing them with some food of their own. Costco Wholesale, the local food warehouse here in Oregon, always has giant bags of peanuts for only about $4, so I always have those on-hand. I also like to buy them dried corn cobs, but those can get expensive, especially at the rate squirrels will eat them. So I decided to get a little creative the other day when I found myself with about 25 extra corn cobs leftover from a community BBQ. I figured the squirrels probably wouldn’t mind a little charring from the grill – heck, they might even prefer it. I dried the over a very hot weekend, and now have a great supply of those little yellow nuggets for my furry friends. It’s a pretty simple process that I thought I’d share with those of us who enjoy those little critters.
A Quick Note: As I mentioned, I started this process with store-bought corn that had already been cooked on the grill. If you’d like to start with raw corn, simply shuck, clean, and boil them on the stove as normal. If you’re lucky enough to have corn growing on your property, just cut the stalk and hang upside down somewhere warm and dry. Let them shrivel up right on the stalk (this will take longer, but is a great way to go).
STEP 1: Dry in Oven
Set your oven to about 175 degrees. Place the ears of corn on a flat baking sheet (one with sides so they don’t roll off). Keep them in the oven for about 8-10 hours, rotating them every few hours. It’s very important to bake them at a low temperature because it takes a long slow heat to dry out the inner core of the cob. Don’t be tempted to raise the temperature to speed up the process – you’ll end up with dried kernels but a damp core. They’ll rot during storage if there’s any moisture in them, so be patient and let them bake slowly.
Remember to rotate the cobs during the baking process. Kernels on the bottom won’t dry out properly if they aren’t exposed to the hot oven air.
STEP 2: Air Dry Ears
After 8-10 hours (time will vary depending on the original moisture content of the corn), the kernels should appear shriveled and the dob should feel dry. There will still be a little moisture hanging around, so you’ll want to air dry in the sun for another 2-3 days. I just kept them on their baking sheets and set them on the back porch in the sunshine. You can also use drying racks, cookie racks, or whatever else you have handy. The point is to get them outside where it’s warm and let them finish drying out.
STEP 3: Storing the Ears
Store the dried ears in a breathable paper bag or an open container (somewhere critters cannot reach them). You can also store them in large gallon-size Ziploc bags or other sealed container, so long as you include one of those little moisture absorbing packets that you always find in pre-packaged food or electronics from the store.
My cobs in the photos above will most likely be way darker than yours will be, simply because I BBQ’d them first. If you’re working with corn that has been boiled on the stove and then dried, you will end up with a very uniform yellow cob that looks much like what you would buy in the store. Tell the squirrels I said hi!