Every time I discover a way to make a popular commercial product at home, my mind is blown. Homemade corn syrup is not something I had ever considered making, but much like homemade grenadine, homemade Baileys, homemade goldfish crackers, and homemade Oreo cookies, I am so glad that I did. While I wouldn’t make any of these products from scratch every single time (I’m human and laziness often wins), every item on the list is better that its store-bought counterpart.
When I posted on the Cupcake Project Facebook page that I was making something with two pounds of sugar and corn, the guesses started rolling in. Several of you (the first being Amanda Johnson) correctly surmised that I was making homemade corn syrup (have a look at the post to see the other guesses). Susan Milner wasn’t so sure: “I thought corn syrup at first, too, but corn syrup doesn’t taste like corn. It’s just sugar from corn, so I say it’s a corn whiskey moonshine for sure!” I didn’t make moonshine, but Susan is correct. Store-bought corn syrup doesn’t taste like corn. In fact, this corn syrup is quite a different product from what you are used to (see the corn syrup Wikipedia page for details on how commercial corn syrup is made). This corn syrup is a thick sugar syrup that has a mild, pleasing taste of sweet corn.
Questions and Answers About Homemade Corn Syrup
Q. Is homemade corn syrup the same as store-bought corn syrup?
A. As I said above, it is not. However, it can be used as a substitute for commercial corn syrup in most recipes. Unlike commercial corn syrup, homemade corn syrup will develop some sugar crystals after it sits around for a while. So, it might not be the best choice for use in candy making.
Q. Will recipes made with this corn syrup all end up tasting like corn?
A. I depends on the recipe – how many other flavors are present and how strong they are. The corn flavor in homemade corn syrup is very mild and it is easily overpowered. I like the corn flavor, but if you are looking for a corn syrup substitute and don’t want it taste like corn, you can leave the corn off entirely and just make a thick sugar syrup (I’ll show you how below).
Q. What is the shelf life of homemade corn syrup?
A. I haven’t put this to the test, but Stella from Brave Tart (whose recipe I used) says that it lasts indefinitely in the refrigerator.
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Homemade Corn Syrup Recipe
I found the recipe for homemade corn syrup on Brave Tart. Stella has some amazing stuff over there. She makes everything from scratch and I hugely admire her for it. If I ever make it to Lexington, Kentucky, the restaurant she works at, Table 310, will be top on my list of places to go. Here’s her recipe in my words with my notes:
Homemade Corn Syrup You Can Use in Place of the Store-Bought Stuff
- 14 ounces corn on the cob For Stella, this was 4 ears of corn; for me it was only two. The corn is just there to impart flavor, so if it's a little bit over or a little bit under, it won't matter.
- 5 1/4 cups water use 2 1/2 cups water if you plan to leave the corn off
- 2 pounds sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 vanilla bean
Slice corn cobs into one-inch slices. This was the hardest part of making homemade corn syrup. It's not easy to cut corn cobs. Use a sharp knife, put your weight into it, and be careful. Note: If you plan to leave the corn off, skip directly to step five.
Bring a medium-sized saucepan filled with the water and cut corn to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium and simmer until water is reduced by half - about thirty minutes.
Using a colander, strain out the corn, reserving the corn-flavored water.
Return the water to the saucepan and add the sugar and salt.
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add both the seeds and the pod to the saucepan.
Turn heat to medium-low and stir until sugar is dissolved.
Simmer until the mixture is thick enough to stick to the back of a spoon. Amanda said to simmer for thirty minutes, but I let mine go for an hour. I know because I watched an entire episode of Mad Men while it was cooking down.
Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
Store in the refrigerator with the vanilla bean until ready to use.
When ready to use, if necessary, microwave with a touch of water and gently stir to remove the sugar crystals.