“I have no hostility to nature, but a child’s love to it. I expand and live in the warm day like corn and melons.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
By Dana Zia
I’m obsessed with fresh corn. It usually happens this time of year. The sunshiny cobs of juicy corn smile at me in their bin, wiggling their ears and promising a delectable good time. I am drawn in like a moth to the light, snatch up the ears and jaunt home. I am not disappointed.
There is nothing like biting into a fresh ear of corn. Your teeth slice through the corn with an audible crunch which heralds the explosion of the sweet corn and buttery flavor. Every time I eat an ear of summer corn I am always amazed at how truly good it is and how fleeting the season.
Corn is one of those vegetables that North America can boast as its very own. Its cultivation started around 7,000 years ago by the Native Americans from a native grass called teosinte. Now how they figured out how to cross breed that small wheat like grain into the incredible edible corn is a mystery to me.
Sweet corn is very different from most of the corn grown in the world as in you can actually eat it raw. All other corn requires some sort of processing to be able to ingest it. Even though our markets seem flooded with sweet corn right now, it is only surprisingly 1% of the production of corn in the USA. Most of the corn grown in the U.S. is the highly modified and GMOed feed corn that is used from everything from fuel in our cars to corn syrup. Another sweet tidbit about sweet corn is that most of it isn’t GMOed as Monsanto only just rolled out a GMOed sweet corn in 2013 and it has not taken over yet.
Sweet corn is harvested during the “milk” stage which is considered immature for all other corns, which are harvested during the “dent” stage. Since sweet corn is harvested at such a tender stage it is extremely perishable and needs to be eaten quickly! (Not a problem here.) When you are picking out corn to buy, make sure to open the husks a bit and see how tender and juicy the kernels are. If there are any dents in the kernels they are getting old and tough and towards the “dent” stage.
A great trick to cutting the corn off the cob is to cut it over a bunt pan, bowl side up. Use a small sharp knife and cut carefully down the cobs to get as much of the kernels as possible. The bunt pan will catch all the stray golden kernels that want to bounce all over the place. If you don’t have a bunt pan, a pie plate works good too.
I took a poll on Facebook and everybody’s very favorite way to eat fresh corn is off the cob. I agree there is hardly anything better. But I took the challenge to find other ways to enjoy sweet corn off the cob and I found it, sweet corn ice cream. I know it sounds weird but it is strangely amazing. When you first taste it, the depths of summer wash over you and you can’t help but reminisce a bit but then the fact that it is ice cream strikes you. It is familiar but different and utterly addicting. It is a bit of work and needs an ice cream maker but you will be immortalized by this recipe, I guarantee it!
Sweet corn ice cream
I recommend starting this ice cream the day before you need it. I know, that is a bit of planning, but if you let it set overnight the flavors are even better!
4 ears of sweet corn, husked
1.5 cups of whole milk
1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
3 TBLS of brown sugar
1/2 tsp of kosher salt
1 TBLS of pure vanilla extract
1 packet of unflavored powered gelatin (2.5 teaspoons)
1.5 cups of heavy cream or half and half
To get this party started, cut the kernels off the corn by standing up the cob on its end in a Bundt pan or pie plate and slicing the kernels off. When you have cut all the kernels off of all four cobs reserve a half cup of raw kernels and then put the rest of them in a small saucepan and pour the milk over the corn. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook stirring often for 5 mins. Add the sugars and salt then stir and cook another minute till all the sugars are dissolved. Add the vanilla and pour into a blender.
Meanwhile, back at the cream, while the milky corn yumminess is cooking, pour your measured cream into a shallow bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it and let it set for 5 minutes. After you pour the milk mixture into the blender, add the cream/gelatin mixture to it as well. Give it a good whirl for a minute till all the corn is massacred and it seems well blended. Pour the mixture through a metal sieve into a bowl and then squish the corn residue to get every drop of goodness out of it, into the bowl. Cool the mixture to room temp and then tuck in the fridge to cool for a couple hours to overnight.
When you are ready, get out your ice cream maker and process the ice cream however it does its thing. When it is getting the consistency of ice cream, add the reserved corn kernels to the ice cream and let the ice cream maker go for a minute more or till the kernels are incorporated. I suggest putting it in the freezer for a bit to freeze it more before serving….if you can wait.