You know all that murky-looking water that is left over when you finish boiling corn cobs? I’m going to let you in on a little secret: It’s valuable stuff! Instead of dumping it down the drain, try saving it for other uses.
When you think about it, corn water is just another form of vegetable stock, and it is full of vitamins, minerals, starch, and flavor—all of which can boost the texture, taste, and nutritional value of other dishes. It’s a lot like the liquid left after cooking beans, chickpeas, or pasta (which home cooks are often urged to keep in order to smooth out sauces and help them adhere to noodles). Corn water has even more starch than pasta water, which means it is even more of an asset for particular kinds of dishes.
One thing you can do right away with corn water is to keep it boiling, add salt, and toss in some pasta. Let it simmer until al dente, and then you’ll have extra starchy, luscious noodles to enjoy. Maybe toss in some of the corn kernels you cooked and a few other ingredients to make a yummy corn pasta dish.
If you don’t want pasta right away, strain the corn water through some cheesecloth to get rid of any lingering corn silk and pour it into jars or containers for refrigeration or freezing. Use it in place of water or stock for risotto, whose creaminess relies entirely on continual stirring to release starch. Knowing this, it makes a lot of sense to add the starchiest liquid you have.
You could also use corn water as stock for soup, particularly corn chowder or a cream-based soup like leek and potato, but really, anything goes. Use it in chili (the starch will help to thicken it), stews, sauces, and curries. If you want to boost flavor further, add a bouillon cube or two, or blend it with a meat-based stock.
Last but not least, if you don’t want to use leftover corn water for cooking, let the water cool and use it to water houseplants or garden plants, giving them a little fertilizer boost.