Corn starch and corn syrup are food additives derived from corn ear kernels. Because of their physical properties, they provide thickening, adhesion, molecule binding, deodorization and decreasing skin inflammation. Both corn derivatives serve many purposes in cooking, baking, general housekeeping and making products for the leather and tobacco industries.
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The earliest recorded history of corn starch is in 1841 when the food additive was patented by British inventor Orlando Jones. Mr. Jones created corn starch by manually grinding down corn kernels into a powder. Sweet syrup was derived from the starch over 50 years later in 1902 by the Corn Products Refining Company of New York and Chicago. Corn syrup is actually a mixture of dextrose and corn starch sugar. The Corn Products Refining Company of New York and Chicago sold corn syrup under the name Karo syrup and marketed it as a competitive substitute for maple syrup.
Corn Starch Cooking
Corn starch does not deliver flavor to foods but it's played a pivotal role in cooking since its invention. Corn starch causes heat to spread evenly throughout a pot and is used to thicken sauces and gravies. Under heat, the molecules of corn starch-enriched water bind together. The starch itself also absorbs water and swells. If a gravy thickens too much, cooks only need to heat the gravy to boil and the starch molecules will shrink causing the gravy to liquefy. Corn starch also keeps eggs from curdling, making it useful for cheesecakes, egg custards and quiche.
Corn Syrup Cooking
Like corn starch, corn syrup adds body to sugar mixes without leaving a coating of crystals on food like sugar. These properties make it an efficient thickener for hard candy, cake frosting and fudge. Corn syrup is a signature ingredient in pecan pie, which is composed predominantly of the syrup mixed with pecans, sugar, vanilla and eggs. It is also used to balance sweet and sour flavors, caramelize grilled foods, top pancakes, ice cream and baked desserts and glaze baked meat.
Corn syrup is predominantly used as a food sweetening additive but due to its thickness and viscosity, it provides other uses as well. It is used to cure tobacco and add weight and suppleness to leather goods during tanning. Corn starch has many more alternative uses because it is lightly abrasive and deodorizing like baking soda. Items and places that reek of foul odors like shoe insoles and pet bedding can be freshened with sprinkles of corn starch. Corn starch can be applied directly to grease stains on clothing and concrete to lift the grease as a pre-wash treatment. A paste of water and corn starch can remove blood stains, polish silverware, clean cooking pots and relieve insect bite pain and itch.