Last week was all about corn fritters and I couldn’t bear throwing away the naked cobs. So I decided to go back in search of some recipe notes from my days as a magazine food editor where one summer we tested sweet organic corn in everything from salads and puddings to ice cream and cakes.
Yes, the natural sweetness of summer corn pairs well with cream and vanilla for a surprising twist on an iced summer treat. Depending on the sweetness of the corn, you can modify the amount of sugar. I also like subbing in Medjool dates (my favorite online option is from Rancho Meladuco) for processed sugar, but the dates do add a depth of caramel flavor; if you want pure, sweet corn flavor go for sugar instead. I’ve given both options in recipe below. Then play around with flavors — stir in wild local berries or fresh garden herbs, maybe a bit of crème de Cassis or Bourbon. Or even some freshly-ground black pepper or pink peppercorns. And for fun, try garnishing with popped corn or salty-sweet kettle corn.
Sweet corn ice cream
Makes about 6 cups
4 ears corn
3 1/2 cups whole milk
4 to 5 plump Medjool dates (optional)
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (optional) or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided (IF NOT USING DATES AS SWEETENER)
1 cup heavy cream
8 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 to 2 cups fresh blueberries (optional)
Garnishes: popcorn, kettle corn, blueberries, fresh lemon verbena or mint leaves
Plan ahead and make sure the bowl of the ice cream maker is in the freezer at least 24 hours in advance. Cut kernels from cobs; break cobs into two to three pieces and add cobs, kernels, milk, and dates, pits discarded (IF using dates in place of sugar), and vanilla bean, if using, in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil; remove from heat and let corn and cobs steep for at least 45 minutes to one hour. Remove cobs and vanilla bean. Scoop milk-corn mixture to the bowl of a high-speed blender (or a food processor) and carefully blend until smooth. Strain, using a sieve, into a large bowl, pressing on solids; discard solids. You should have about 3 ½ to 4 cups of corn-milk mixture.
Whisk corn mixture, 3/4 cup sugar (if NOT using dates) and cream in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves; set aside.
Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Whisk one tablespoon sugar, egg yolks and salt in a medium heatproof bowl. Gradually whisk in about 1 cup hot milk mixture to temper the eggs (this is important so eggs don’t scramble); return milk and egg mixture to remaining corn milk mixture in saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat until custard is thickened and coats back of spoon, about 3 to 4 minutes. Immediately strain custard through fine-mesh strainer. Stir in vanilla extract, if using. Let cool. NOTE: If you want to cool the custard faster, place bowl over a large bowl of ice water and let chill, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to overnight.
Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, adding one cup fresh berries if using as it begins to churn. Transfer to a container and let freeze at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours; it’s best eaten the day it’s made. Garnish, if desired, with popcorn, kettle corn, fresh berries or herbs.