Smile Politely

I do like sweet corn… in gelato

Three weeks ago I wrote that I didn’t really like corn. Since then, my husband has been only too happy to point out the irony of it. For 20 weeks a year, it is my job to persuade the shareholders of Prairieland Community Supported Agriculture to love vegetables, all vegetables. I tell them, if you don’t like a vegetable it is only because you haven’t found the right recipe. Last week, I ate my words, literally.

For several weeks since mid-July, the Moore family has provided us with five to six ears of corn in our CSA share. It is great corn, not overly sweet, but not the Country Gentleman of my childhood.

With family reunions over, I can no longer count on being able to pawn corn off on relatives in salad form. As I thought about what to do with it, I remembered a 2000 interview with a Chicago commodities trader who is now an Asian marketing force. He had just returned from China where he had eaten sweet corn ice cream. Actually it was a half-pint of sweet corn with an inner core of honey dew. It sounded amazing; much more interesting than the corn market that year.

Flash forward ten years and there are dozens of recipes for frozen sweet corn concoctions on the net. Really there are only four, but due to a combination of rampant copyright infringement and the lameness of Google’s algorithm, it looks like there are more. Unfortunately, most of the reviews claim the results don’t taste much like corn.

This wasn’t surprising because to have corn flavor, you have to use corn with flavor, not frozen corn. You also need to use enough corn to make a difference, not just two ears like someone who dropped the f-bomb in front of the King and Queen of Spain while emceeing a $1,000-a-plate dinner in Miami last year. Of course he also was foolish enough to drive around Spain listening to the inane blathering of Gwyneth Paltrow. I would have dropped her off in the middle of the running of the bulls. But to each his/her own midlife crisis. Back to recipe development, you also have to infuse the milk, not just marinate a few kernels of corn in a bowl of it in the fridge.

I decided that the first step in getting the flavor of the corn to come through was to ignore Mr. F-Bomb’s suggestion of heavy cream and go solely with whole milk. On the ice cream-gelato continuum, this put me well into gelato country. Since I was there, I used a chocolate gelato recipe as a reference. I figured I could easily cut the sugar by 40 percent since it was an American recipe and not a Sicilian one, and as sweet corn is, well, sweet. The only two redeeming suggestions from the online sweet corn ice cream recipes were to grate the corn, and as much as I hate to admit it, follow Mr. F-Bomb’s lead in using the corn cobs for flavoring as is done in some chowders.

I added a teaspoon of lemon juice to the mix immediately before freezing it. Boosting flavor with lemon juice is common in jam making but absent from many ice cream recipes save those of Chinese fusion goddess Barbara Tropp who was masterful at balance.

This gelato would be perfectly fine with fresh blackberries, or drizzled with a sauce of blackberries or one of chocolate with ancho and chipotle. But as the point of making the gelato was to use already sweet corn, I wanted something 180 degrees different. I figured if chili and lime can highlight the flavor of sweet corn, not to mention pineapple and fresh coconut, why not make a sauce with roasted chiles and lime?  Why not, indeed.

Sweet Corn Gelato

  • 3, 6-7″ ears just picked, non sugar-enhanced sweet corn
  • 2 c whole milk (Kilgus Farmstead is best locally)
  • 1/2 c evaporated cane sugar
  •  3 yolks from pastured eggs
  • extra milk to compensate for evaporation
  • 1 t fresh lemon juice

Grate 3 ears of corn into a bowl with the largest holes of a cheese grater or box grater. Place corn and milk into a heavy sauce pot. Simmer gently uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to cool for two and up to four hours. Using clean hands, squeeze any moisture from each cob back into the pan before discarding the cobs for compost. Strain liquid through a fine mesh strainer no coarser than a tea strainer. Press out the liquid, leaving behind the solids. Discard solids for compost. You may have to strain the liquid this in batches depending upon the size of the strainer. Measure corn-milk mixture. Add enough milk (probably a 1/4 c) to equal two cups.

Meanwhile, beat sugar into egg yolks in a two-cup or larger bowl. Clean sauce pan. Return milk-corn mixture to it. Heat liquid until warm to the touch. Pour 1/2 c milk into eggs. Stir well with a whisk. Add 1/2 c more, whisking again. Pour egg-milk mixture into sauce pan and stir. Heat over a medium flame, whisking slowly, but constantly until mixture boils. This will take what seems like forever, but do not rush it or you risk scorching or curdling the custard. If you do not have a heavy, pro-grade saucepan, use a double boiler. The custard will thicken as it heats. You want to heat the liquid until you see the first bubbles as it begins to boil. This will occur around 194 degrees F.  Remove the custard from the heat. and transfer to a bowl. Place bowl in an ice bath. Stir occasionally to keep it from skinning.

Cool custard to room temperature and chill in an ice cream freezer. The gelato will be soft at the end of freezing. Remove it from the ice cream freezer to a lidded container. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the gelato and freeze for an hour to firm it up. No ice cream freezer? Chill a deep baking pan in the freezer while the base is cooling. Pour cooled base into pan. Place in freezer for 45 minutes. Stir with a spatula, or remove from pan to a bowl and use a hand mixer or stick blender. Return to baking pan. Continue to refreeze and stir at 30-minute intervals. This can take up to 3 hours. Gelato is best the same day or next day as it tends to get icy quickly. Alternatively, you can freeze the gelato using coffee cans or plastic zipper bags.

Roasted Tomato, Chile, Lime Coulis

  • 3 Roma tomatoes
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 – 2 jalapenos, depending upon the level of spice desired and size
  • 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/4 red onion, peeled
  • 1 t lime zest
  • 2 T lime juice
  • Salt to taste

Heat a cast iron or other heavy skillet. Add tomatoes, jalapenos, and garlic, turning as they char. Meanwhile roast red peppers over another burner. Remove tomatoes, jalapenos, and garlic to a bowl with red peppers. Cover with a plate and let steam five minutes. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in skillet. Add onion and sauté until soft. After five minutes, peel tomatoes and remove stem core. Peel and seed peppers and chiles. Peel garlic. Place everything but lime juice in a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. Stir in lime juice. Add salt if necessary. Sauce should be smoky, spicy, and tart.

Related Articles