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August 31, 2017
Squeeze the Last Bit of Summer Out of Those Corn Cobs

By making a simple stock with corn cobs (and not much else), you can infuse grains and soups with a summery taste into the fall and winter.

When my boyfriend and I moved in together, I had big dreams for our kitchen of cohabitation. Our mutual obsession with food made us fall in love, and I bragged to friends that our fridge would be full of homemade condiments, jams, and sauces—our freezer overflowing with stews, Italian gravy, and stock now that we finally had our own place. Fast-forward nearly six years and the DIY dream has fizzled like a flat bottle of homemade kombucha. Our freezer is mostly full of Trader Joe’s gyoza and French bread pizzas, not quarts of chili ready to be defrosted for an easy weeknight dinner.

The closest we’ve ever come to living out our kitchen fantasy is saving vegetable scraps and chicken bones in resealable freezer bags for stock. This halfhearted attempt at reaching from-scratch kitchen status has been inconsistent, but ultimately it pays off when we can get our shit together and actually make stock.

During the summer in particular, when we seek out any excuse to add corn by the earful to every meal, we wind up with lots of bare cobs. As a result, we’ve started freezing them in bags alongside the chicken bones and veggie scraps, whipping up a batch of corn stock when the bag’s full—in anticipation of adding it to our next corn risotto or chowder.

By autumn, we still inevitably have a few quarts of the stuff in our freezer to last through the winter. Over the course of the following months, the stock will supplant countless boring pots of water. It will transform bland quinoa into something fully new—sweet and flavorful—and you can use it in place of water when cooking everything from grits and polenta to rice and grains. Add corn stock to savory oatmeal and bread pudding, or try it in your tomato soup and clam chowder. Swap out chicken or vegetable stock in curry recipes and balance out the spice with sweet corn broth, or cut through the bitterness of kale by braising it with a splash of the golden liquid.

It’s easy to make, too. Unlike most other multi-ingredient stocks, this version relies on just one: corn cobs. Everything else is optional, but the more you add to the pot, the more likely you are to overwhelm the natural sweetness of the corn. The best bet is to keep it simple. Start by saving your bare corn cobs in a plastic bag in the freezer. When you’ve accumulated about six kernel-less cobs, throw them into a pot on the back burner to simmer in water and you’ll have a flavorful stock in just 45 minutes. The cobs don’t need much time to infuse the broth with their sweetness.

Store the stock in your freezer and use it as often as you need a sweet reminder of summer. On cold winter nights, when warm weather seems like a distant memory, you can pull a bag of broth out of the freezer and get your fix.

Recipe: Corn Stock
Recipe: Italian-Style “Shrimp and Grits” With Polenta

Ashley Goldsmith

Ashley Goldsmith is a San Francisco-based food and travel writer. She's always hungry and is down to travel anywhere. Her words have appeared in Lucky Peach, AFAR, Bon Appetit, Eater, Vice, and others. Ashley also dabbles in writing about women's health, social issues, and fashion. Follow her on Instagram @ashleygoldsmith_