My obsession with sweet corn started like everyone else I know: eating it as a kid. In the summer, sweet corn is on every plate for every summer barbecue. It’s so fresh and sweet. Steamed, grilled, slathered in butter and salt and pepper– it’s hard to find a tastier grain*. I’ve never seen anyone fawn over farro ice cream, have you?
In fourth grade, we literally spent the ENTIRE YEAR learning about sweet corn. At one point, for a school project I dressed up my friend Robbie as a giant piece of corn and painted his face yellow with watercolors (I was a real budding artist back then). I thought he looked just like a kernal but he might have actually looked like he had severe jaundice. Corn is serious business in Indiana and I am HERE FOR IT. People line up at the Farmer’s Market to get a bushel of the stuff and bring it home to make fritters, corn on the cob, corn casserole, and even…sweet corn ice cream.
My interest in sweet corn ice cream of course started with the queen of ice cream: Jeni Britton Bauer. Her sweet corn and blackberry ice cream quite literally rocked my world when I first tasted in in a Columbus Ohio scoop shop years ago. It was so creamy and sweet and…..corny. I am not the first one to be mesmerized by her unique flavor combos, and won’t be the last, but to say it made an impression is an understatement.
I immediately bought her book and got to work making ice cream at home. This is the real deal ice cream and one you can literally devote your life to perfecting. It’s food science at its best: an experiment in your kitchen making magical emulsions with cream, milk, sugar and flavor. I’ve tried all kinds and I have to say the latest recipe I’m trying today is pretty solid. It comes from Milk Street Kitchen and in their research, they found that the bacteria used to create the magic that is crème fraîche also acts as a natural stabilizer (you know, the stuff you can’t pronounce on the back of your storebought ice cream that keeps it from getting icy), resulting in a silky smooth, creamy ice cream.
I shucked the corn and then “milked” the cobs using a vegetable peeler to get as much corn flavor to steep in the base as possible. The addition of honey and crème fraîche created a sweet, corny, tangy ice cream that I imagine I’ll be eating all summer. As a bonus, I’ve included a recipe for a berry basil syrup that you can drizzle over the ice cream (or in drinks, over cheese, straight on a spoon and into your mouth….) for an extra punch of summer flavor. Is there more than corn in Indiana?? While I’m eating this ice cream, it’s hard to tell.
*There is a decent amount of debate over corn being a vegetable or a grain. For my purposes today I’m calling it a grain, but I usually lump it into the veggie category. Just trying to let it live its best life ya know?
Sweet Corn & Crème Fraîche Ice Cream
Recipe adapted from Milk Street Kitchen | Makes approx 3 Cups
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
1/3 C granulated sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1 C half and half
1/4 C honey
1 cup crème fraîche
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tb vodka
2 ears of sweet corn
In a large bowl, whisk together the yolk, egg, sugar, and salt for about 1 minute until fully combined and starting to thicken. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, Take a sharp knife and cut the kernals off the corn cobs. Taking a vegetable peeler, hold the shucked cobs over the bowl and “peel” the cob to remove any remaining kernals and corn “milk.” This will splatter but it’s totally worth it. Toss the cobs into the bowl too.
In a medium saucepan, combine half and half, honey, and all the corn and set over medium heat and stir until simmering. Once the mixture is at a simmer, take tongs and remove the cobs (throw them away) and carefully pour the remaining mixture into the large bowl with the egg mixture whisking while you pour so you don’t get scrambled egg ice cream (not so tasty).
Whisk in the crème fraîche, vanilla, and vodka until smooth.
Pour into a gallon ziplock bag and place in the fridge overnight (you can also put the bag into an ice bath for quicker chilling a la Jeni’s method, however the colder the mixture is when you put it in the ice cream maker the better, so do whatever feels right). This base can stay in the fridge for a day or two.
When you are ready to make ice cream, set a fine mesh strainer (with or without cheesecloth for added strainage (is that a word?)) over a large bowl/measuring cup and pour out the mixture to remove the corn that has been infuuuusing into the cream this whole time.
Freeze in your ice cream machine according to your manufacturer’s instructions (I use this machine), until the ice cream looks like amazing soft serve. Go ahead and stick your spoon in there and take a test taste.
Transfer to a 1 qt container or your vessel of choice and freeze for at least 8 hours or up to 1 week (it won’t last that long).
BONUS RECIPE: Cherry Berry Basil Syrup
Jeni’s ice cream pairs sweet corn with blackberry which is such a good combo I couldn’t help but do something similar. I had leftover berries and thawed sour cherries in my fridge, but this will work with any berry!
1 C berries of your choice
1 C fresh basil
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 tsp lemon zest plus 1 Tb juice
1/2 C water
Combine all ingredients into saucepan set over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the berries release their juices and things are bubbling. Stomp the berries and basil with your spoon a bit to really get lots of juice out. Take an immersion blender (or you can pour it into a regular blender or food processor) and blend in the pot until mostly homogenous. Pour through fine mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing on the solids to get every last drop. Let cool to room temperature, then stick in the fridge. Pour over ice cream or onto your pancakes or into a drink or hell, straight into your mouth! Whatever makes ya feel good. Makes about 1/2 C and can easily be doubled.