How to Make Vinegar from Scratch with Corncobs and Husks

Transform your food waste, from apple peels to corn husks, into a nutritious, flavorful kitchen staple.

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Carmen Troesser
After eating your summer sweet corn bounty, transform the cobs and husks into a sweet corn vinegar.
6 weeks DURATION
3-1/2 to 4-1/2 hours COOK TIME
30 minutes PREP TIME
2 to 3 quarts SERVINGS

Ingredients

  • 12 corncobs and their husks
  • 3 quarts room-temperature unchlorinated water
  • 2-1/2 teaspoon wine yeast hydrated in 1/4 cup unchlorinated water, warmed to 104 F
  • 2 cups raw vinegar with mother, if available, or vinegar from a previous batch

Directions

  • Husk corn, saving all husks (the silk is fine too), but removing any mildewed bits. Place husks in a stockpot with the cool water and bring to a simmer.
  • Cut kernels off raw or cooked cobs. (Use kernels in another recipe.) Cut cobs into 2-to-3-inch chunks and add to simmering husks. Simmer over low heat until corn liquor is light-gold in color and tastes like corn, 3 to 4 hours.
  • Remove the pot from the heat. When mixture has cooled, line a strainer with a piece of butter muslin or fine-mesh cheesecloth and strain mixture into a sanitized gallon jar. Be sure to wring out the husks, as they’ll hold on to a lot of your tasty liquor.
  • Ideally, at this point, the jar will have at least 3 inches of headspace. Stir in sugar, then add hydrated yeast liquid. Stir well.
  • Cover the jar with a piece of unbleached cotton (butter muslin or tightly woven cheesecloth), or a basket-style paper coffee filter. Secure with a string, a rubber band, or a threaded metal canning band. This is to keep out fruit flies. Place on your counter or in another spot that’s 75 to 86 F.
  • The next day, stir in vinegar. Replace the cover and return the jar to its spot.
  • In about 6 weeks, this vinegar will be quite acidic and harsh, and it will likely have a mother. If the mother is thin, you can let the vinegar continue to age and mellow, or bottle vinegar as is. When the mother becomes more vigorous, you’ll want to get the vinegar off the mother and out of the oxygenation process by bottling the liquid and saving the mother for another batch or sharing with a friend.
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Learn how to make vinegar from scratch with food you would have thrown away. Author shares her favorite tips for how to make corn vinegar using cobs and husks.

How to Make Corn Vinegar, Cobs, Husks, and All

I’ve tried at least a half-dozen ways to make corn vinegar, with results varying from “meh” to “ick” to “this isn’t safe.” (Don’t worry, you’ll know if that ever happens to you — when the “wrong” microbes take over, it is 100% “yuck!” The result just smells rotten.) With each of those test batches, I was left with a pile of husks and cobs. And since there’s still a lot of flavor in the husks and plenty of sugar left in the cobs (the inside marrow of a raw cob is surprisingly sweet), I made vinegar out of those too. This recipe produces sweet corn vinegar with a light corn flavor, but it’s harsh when first finished; age it for at least 6 months. In testing, I found that the starting “broth” always had some measurable sugar but needed more to bring the alcohol level into the right range. You might also notice the wild yeast starter isn’t given as an option; for some reason, this recipe always turned out much better with wine yeast.

For this recipe, I use 12 cobs, simply because our local corn stand (and maybe yours) still sells corn by the dozen. But feel free to adjust as needed. This recipe has worked again and again. My takeaway for how to make vinegar from scratch: Enjoy the kernels fresh and sweet, and make vinegar with the scraps.

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Excerpted from Homebrewed Vinegar by Kirsten K. Shockey. Photography by Carmen Troesser. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.