As noted in the September 14th issue of the Enon Eagle newspaper, we purchased sweet corn at the weekly farmers market. We used our corn cobs for corn cob jelly. It’s another old-time recipe that dates back to the 1800s. It is somewhat temperamental, like salt rising bread.
We have two jars of the golden syrup sitting on our shelf, waiting for a deep, wintery day when hot biscuits will benefit from the elixir. We say syrup because it didn’t set up like a firm jelly, even after boiling a second time. But not dismayed, we found that we weren’t the only ones with that problem. Googling the question of why it didn’t set up, we found a number of possible reasons. Not to worry, just eat it like honey!
In fact, one of its many names is “corn-cob honey,” or “mock honey”. Others are “corn-cob syrup” or “make-do jelly.” It can be found in Appalachian states, the Dakotas, and in Nebraska history it is described as a substitute for honey or sugar. Of course, in pioneer times across the country, the saying “waste not, want not” was an absolute truism that was practiced for the good of the family and community.
As corn was harvested fresh for eating, those cobs were boiled down for the jelly. When drained, the cobs then went out for the chickens and hogs. Yellow or white cobs made the golden, honey-colored liquid. Red cobs made a pinkish to deep red hue.
Online recipes abound, along with how-to videos on YouTube. Our own recipe followed the basics found in six old cookbooks on our shelves. Ration is cup for cup of juice and sugar with a box of Sure Jell. Cobs are boiled for about thirty minutes, liquid is strained, and sugar and Sure Jell are added to the boiling liquid until jelly stage is achieved. Sealed in canning jars in a boiling water bath canner, the end result is a beautiful golden honey color. It tastes like honey, only sweeter.
We found a couple of mentions of adding other juices to the corn cob liquid to produce a colorful and mild fruit jelly. Apple, cherry, or any other small portion of juice that’s not enough to make jelly on its own could be included.
Corn cob jelly is a sweet, old-fashioned way to top biscuits, toast, pancakes, or even ice cream. It can also be used for glazing meats such as chicken or pork, or mixed into barbecue sauce ingredients for a sweeter version.