First, a bit of information about stocks and broths. A stock is: 1/ usually made from beef, lamb, veal, fish, shellfish or poultry, 2/ includes the bones or shrimp shells, and the bones are usually roasted after the meat is removed and prior to making the stock; 3/ is primarily intended for use as part of a recipe, or a foundation for a recipe and not served by itself; and 4/ often due to the use of bones will be much thick and gelatinous when cooled. A broth is: 1/ made from meat or chicken or fish or other proteins but NOT the bones or shells; 2/ is lighter in flavor and color than a stock and will not be thick or gelatinous; and 3/ although it can be used in a recipe as one of the components, it can also be served alone as a first course, or served hot in a mug on a cold evening (a cup of chicken broth can be so good!), or as a light liquid meal (perhaps for someone not feeling well, or restricted from eating solid foods due to illness, with a doctor’s approval, of course).
However, I call this recipe a stock, because it’s not supposed to be served alone, and it can be used in a variety of recipes. And it’s made with just two ingredients: water, and corn cobs. It’s a Corn Cob Stock.
Cut the kernels off of the cobs, and use the kernels in any way you wish. This is a great way to use the end-of-the-season corn on the cob when the prices are cheap but the corn kernels are kind of dry and small and not very appealing, or corn cobs that are skimpy, missing kernels or aren’t nice enough to serve whole, or after cutting off a lot of corn kernels for use in chowders or other recipes. Or if you are lucky to end up with many more corn cobs than you can possibly use, cut the kernels off and freeze them and save those cobs. If you cut the kernels off the cob for a child or for someone who doesn’t want to gnaw on a whole ear of corn, save those cobs!
You’ll need a large pot. How many corn cobs you can use depends on how large a pot you have. I use a 12 quart pot for about 6 -8 corn cobs, and I have a 16 quart pot that I can fit more cobs in.
Break the corn cobs (with the kernels cut off) in half, and place them in the pot. Fill the pot with cold water nearly to the top, and bring the water to a boil. Let the cobs boil for about an hour. There’s no need to stir. After an hour, remove the cobs and compost them or toss them. Taste the water, just so you know what the water tastes like now. It will be fairly tasteless and very mild. Take careful note of how much water is in the pot. (You can do this by noting how the water comes up to a rivet from a handle, or you can stick a wooden spoon into the pot and then put a rubber band around the spoon handle to mark how high the water came up on the spoon handle.) Now, bring the water to a boil again and let it just simmer away until the water is only half the volume that it was when you removed the cobs. That’s called “reducing”, if you are unfamiliar with that term. You want to reduce the water by half. It’s interesting when you’re making this stock for the first time to taste the water at various points in time. If you’d like, you can reduce the water even further, for a stronger flavor.
When you have just half the volume, you should have a lightly sweet, corn-reminiscent, delicious liquid that is a pale, pretty gold color. There will probably be some pieces of corn kernels or the occasional corn silk, so at this point you can strain the liquid through cheesecloth or a fine strainer.
Now, what to do with this delicious light stock from throw-away corn cobs? Use it as the liquid in corn bread, corn muffins, or any bread. Use it in soups, casseroles, or in place of milk to lighten some recipes. Use it in any recipe calling for vegetable stock. Or, there’s my favorite: mashed potatoes. I boil 5 lbs of potatoes in salted water until tender, then mash them by hand, add 4 ounces of cream cheese, half a stick of butter (or a whole stick of butter), and enough of the corn cob stock to get the perfect consistency. Then I bake the mashed potatoes at 350 degrees in an oven-proof casserole dish until heated throughout and just the lightest golden color around the edges.
Store the corn stock in canning jars, or freeze in quart-sized bags.