How to Make Vinegar from Scratch with Corncobs and Husks

picture of the article

Carmen Troesser

After eating your cut of summer sweet corn, turn the cobs and husks into sweet corn vinegar.

6 weeks
DURATION

From 3-1 / 2 to 4-1 / 2 hours
TIME TO COOK

30 minutes
PREPARATION TIME

2 to 3 quarts
PORTIONS

  • 12 corn on the cob and their husks
  • 3 liters of non-chlorinated water at room temperature
  • 2-1 / 2 teaspoon of hydrated wine yeast in 1/4 cup of non-chlorinated water, heated to 104 F
  • 2 cups raw vinegar with mother, if available, or vinegar from a previous batch
  • Clean the corn, saving all the skins (silk is fine too), but removing the pieces of mold. Put the skins in a pan with cold water and bring to a boil.
  • Cut the kernels from raw or cooked cobs. (Use the kernels in another recipe.) Cut the cobs into 2- to 3-inch pieces and add them to the boiling peels. Cook over low heat until the corn liqueur is light golden in color and tastes like corn, 3 to 4 hours.
  • Remove the pot from the heat. When the mixture has cooled, line a colander with a piece of butter muslin or fine-mesh gauze and strain the mixture into a sanitized gallon jar. Make sure you squeeze the skins, as they will retain a lot of your tasty liquor.
  • Ideally, at this point, the jar will have at least 3 inches of headspace. Combine the sugar, then add the hydrated yeast liquid. Mix well.
  • Cover the jar with a piece of unbleached cotton (butter muslin or tightly woven gauze) or a paper coffee filter basket. Secure with a string, rubber band or threaded metal elastic. This is to keep fruit flies out. Place it on your counter or some other spot 75 to 86 F.
  • The next day, stir in the vinegar. Replace the lid and put the jar back in its place.
  • In about 6 weeks, this vinegar will be quite sour and harsh and will likely have a mother. If the mother is thin, you can let the vinegar continue to age and sweeten, or bottle the vinegar as it is. As the mother becomes more vigorous, you’ll want to take the vinegar off the mother and out of the oxygenation process by bottling the liquid and storing the mother for another batch or sharing it with a friend.

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Learn how to make vinegar from scratch with the food you would have thrown away. The author shares her favorite tips on how to make corn vinegar using corn on the cob and husks.

How to make corn vinegar, corn on the cob, husks and all

I’ve tried at least half a dozen ways to make corn vinegar, with results ranging from “meh” to “ick” to “that’s not safe”. (Don’t worry, you’ll know if this ever happens to you – when the “wrong” microbes take over, it’s 100% “stinks!” The result just smells like rotten.) With every one of those test batches, I was left with a bunch of husks and corn on the cob. And since there is still a lot of flavor in the skins and a lot of sugar left over in the cobs (the inner marrow of a raw cob is surprisingly sweet), I made vinegar with those too. This recipe makes sweet corn vinegar with a slight corn flavor, but is tough when done; let it mature for at least 6 months. During testing, I found that the initial “broth” always had some measurable sugar, but more was needed to get the alcohol level in the right range. You may also notice that the wild yeast appetizer is not provided as an option; for some reason, this recipe has always turned out much better with wine yeast.

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

More on How to Make Vinegar from Scratch


Taken from Homemade vinegar by Kirsten K. Shockey. Photo by Carmen Troesser. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.

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