When you dig up recipes from the past, you often find how ingenious home cooks were in using what they had on hand: Think vinegar pie, egg drop soup and crazy cake. Put a modern-day spin on them, and you have delicious foods that you can make without going to the store (again), which also let you reuse or repurpose other ingredients for a zero-waste solution.
As unusual as it sounds, corn cob jelly fits that category of making something out of a limited amount of ingredients. And when you think about it, corn — especially sweet corn — has a decent amount of natural sugar in it. It’s perfect for jelly!
Betty Streff at Yey Food shared her corn cob jelly recipe and it seems pretty straightforward. Her recipe does require 12 or more cobs of corn so you might have to freeze your leftover cobs in advance or plan a get-together to generate enough leftover cobs.
The basic recipe involves boiling corn cobs without any kernels on them. Presumably, you’ll have eaten the corn off the cobs (boiling will remove any germs) or you can cut off the kernels for other recipes. You then boil the bare cobs in water until enough flavor has seeped into them. Then, strain the water to remove any lingering kernels or other fibers.
Add pectin and sugar to the corn water, cook on the stove, and pour in canning jars that you boil to seal them shut. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has good tips to make sure you’re safely canning jelly.
Streff also recommends adding a bit of butter to prevent foam on the jelly. She says that the corn cob jelly may be runnier than typical jelly and also takes a while to set — up to two weeks, in some cases. Refrigerating it can help.
You need the right ratio of sugar to water to make the corn cob jelly firm up, according to Daily Dish Recipes. Otherwise, your jelly may have a consistency that’s more like a honey or syrup.
If you’d like to watch the whole process, YouTube’s Wisconsin Vegetable Gardener, Holly, offers this informative video. For a stronger corn flavor, she recommends cooking the corn in the water longer.
Common Sense Home has a low-sugar version of the corn cob jelly recipe that uses a specific brand of calcium-based pectin to keep the sugar level lower.
Emmy from Emmymade tried out a similar recipe but compared it to honey. So, we suppose you can also think of corn cob jelly as “vegan honey.” However, compared to corn syrup, which requires a much higher concentration of processed corn in the form of corn starch, corn cob jelly will be thinner and less sweet.
Want to take your zero-waste corn cob jelly recipe a step further? Dry out the leftover corn cobs after you’ve boiled them down. Farmer’s Almanac and Daily Dish Recipes says they make great firestarters.