One of the fleeting pleasures of summer is fresh sweet corn. And, having been raised in a family that grew its own – trying out new varieties every year and comparing them to past favorites – I take my sweet corn serious. I’ve found exactly one vendor at the local farmer’s market who reliably has an excellent product. And sometimes even he has an off-week, quality wise.
The delights of sweet corn are a flash in the pan. It has to be picked before it gets overripe and gummy. Then cooked before the sugars start the convert to starch and it loses its sweetness. We buy a dozen ears, because hey, $5/doz!! But then what do you do with the rest?
This is a conundrum that I solved last year, by finally perfecting a recipe for sweet corn ice cream. I now share that recipe with you for a couple of reasons. First, I usually get the side-eye from folks when I mention the idea. Second, recipes I’ve found in various ice cream cookbooks often start with raw corn and are uniformly terrible. So, without further ado:
Sweet Corn Ice Cream
- Kernels removed from about 5 ears of sweet corn
- Milk (about 1/2 c., but it will depend on your corn)
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt + more to taste
- 1 1/2 c. heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- egg yellow food coloring, if desired
The quality of your ice cream will be directly based on the quality of your sweet corn. You’ve been warned. We cook sweet corn on the grill, over charcoal, dehusked. But use your favorite method.
Puree the corn in the blender. (We have a Vitamix, so usually a nice quality sweet corn will turn into a fairly liquid puree very easily. Occasionally, a riper corn will turn into…. gloop. That’s OK. Thin your corn gloop with milk until you get a workable product in the blender. And we’re going to strain it later, so bits of corn are not something to worry about at this point). Measure out the puree in a glass measuring cup and add enough milk to make 1 2/3 c. total. Place this in a medium saucepan and begin to warm it over medium heat.
Meanwhile, beat the 4 egg yolks together, then work in the sugar. It will form a thick paste. Continue to heat the corn and milk mixture until it is just below a simmer – steam will rise and tiny bubbles will form at the sides of the pan. Temper in the egg yolks. If you’re not familiar with this term, it means to add the hot corn milk mixture to the eggs, a little at a time, whisking constantly. Add about 1/2 the corn milk mixture to the egg yolks, then pour the egg yolk mixture back into the pan with the remaining corn milk. Stir thoroughly and continue to cook. Add the salt at this point, adjusting to your own personal preference. Remember that this is a concentrated custard right now, and will be adding almost an equivalent volume of cream before we churn, so what you add now will be diluted somewhat. Some folks just like a hint of salt. We like a sweet/salty flavor reminiscent of kettle corn. Suit yourself. At this point, the custard will still have something of a raw, musky flavor. Stay with me.
Cook the custard until it begins to thicken and will coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat. Pour the mixture through a strainer, into a heat-proof bowl, cover with plastic wrap that is pressed down against the surface of the custard and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, remove the custard base from the refrigerator and stir in the cream and vanilla. At this point, I also add about 5 drops of egg yellow food coloring by Americolor. Why? Because we eat first with our eyes, and grilled sweet corn makes for a grey-ish ice cream, unamended. But do what you like.
Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and churn as directed by the manufacturer.
Ta-da! One of the simple pleasures of summertime:
Enjoy your own ice cream, and I’ll be back later this week with more Farmer’s Wife blocks.