NPR

From Hooch To Haute Cuisine: A Nearly Extinct Bootlegger's Corn Gets A Second Shot

Jimmy Red — the heirloom bootleg "whiskey" corn — was almost lost forever, until someone revived it. Now it's thriving and the darling of Southern chefs and distillers.
For nearly a century, Jimmy Red corn was used by bootleggers to make moonshine whiskey. The variety nearly went extinct in the early 2000s, but two remaining ears of corn were used to revive it. Now, the heirloom corn is thriving in the South, and being used widely by chefs and distillers. Source: Peter Frank Edwards

Sometime around the turn of the last century, a blood-red, flint-hard "dent" corn with a rich and oily germ made its way from Appalachia to the islands of Charleston, S.C. The corn was grown out by local farmers and bootleggers, who found that it made spectacular hooch, or moonshine whiskey.

"In the 1980s, you used to be able to go to James Island," recalls Glenn Roberts, founder of heirloom seed purveyor Anson Mills. "And, if you knew the right people, they'd sell you delicious food out their backdoor kitchen and you'd get a jar of Jimmy Red hooch with it. But though I knew the hooch, I never knew the corn."

Nobody really knew the corn – not until the early 2000s, when the last known bootlegger growing the

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