Steaming Corn with a Steam Traction Engine

| July/August 2000

  • Steaming corn

  • Steaming corn

  • Steaming corn
  • Steaming corn

Can you steam corn on the cob? Yes you can! And you may want to, because you can use your steam engine to do so!

Steam tractors were originally built for vigorous work in the fields, huffing and puffing as they did their duty, but they do an admirable job cooking corn-on-the-cob. Most of us have been to shows where they steam corn-on-the-cob, and have tasted the great flavor of it. This is what I have learned about the technique of steaming corn with a steam engine.

The first thing to find is a container. This can be most any metallic can of sorts, like a garbage can, 55 gallon barrel, or a beer keg. I started with a new galvanized garbage can, and that worked fine for several years. I later found a similar sized stainless steel can at a salvage yard and retired the garbage can. As corn volumes expanded, not one, but two stainless steel 55 gallon barrels have joined my "kitchen." I can get about 120 ears in the smaller can, and 300 in a 55 gallon drum. Whatever you use, know what used to be in it. Some chemicals these days, even though dried out, can be reactivated when wet and get into the corn, so beware. Clean and scour the container, then steam it for an hour or so prior to its maiden voyage. A proper lid is not necessary, as a piece of cardboard or plywood works fine. Whatever you decide to use as a container, drill a hole at the bottom to let out the condensate. The corn needs to be steamed, not boiled. For the hose, I was able to put my hands on a used steam hose. There will be no pressure carried in the hose, so all it needs to be able to do is stand up to the heat. Real steam hose is in the $3-4 per foot range. You only need enough to get from your steam valve to the bottom of your can, but longer will work, too. I have a designated valve on both my engines for this hose. This "corn valve" is normally opened to way when steaming.

To set up, set the can on a couple 4" timbers to keep it up off the ground, as the hot bottom will kill the grass. Where the hose lays will also kill grass, so you may want to support the hose on some planks also, that is, if you have grass worth protecting.

Turn the can so the drain hole is on the lowest side, then place another short plank under the hole so dripping condensate has a chance to coo before it hits your grass. If you opt to cook on pavement, the corn juice will stain it for several months afterwards Be mindful where you put the can irrelationship to your engine, so the plume of steam does not obscure the view of your engine.

Take the hose and connect it to the "corn valve" on your engine, then put the other end into the can, making sure it lays flat on the bottom. I usually put a couple pieces of a 2 x 4 board on the bottom of the can so the corn doesn't lay directly on the bottom. I'm not really sure they're needed, but it keeps the cobs from sitting in any puddles.


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