Seasonal Southern Cooking

Sweet Corn and Black Pepper Ice Cream

By • August 5, 2013 • 7 Comments

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Beth Kirby of Local Milk carries her Southern heritage -- and the ingredients, dishes, and recipes that come with it -- with her wherever she goes. Every other Monday, that place is here. 

Today: Sweet corn is begging to be put into dessert. Here's how to make that happen.

This time of year the corn is so sweet and milky, I can hardly bring myself to do anything to it, even cook it. It’s delicious straight off the cob, tossed with nothing more than a little salt and pepper, but growing up, the corn around my grandmother’s table was always creamed. I don’t really remember it any other way, but as I began cooking for myself, I never creamed corn. I just wanted to let corn be corn. I roasted it, grilled it, and sautéed it -- I did anything but cream it. The fine application of cream to sweet corn lay dormant for years, passed over as old fashioned. My corn was too cool for cream. It hung with hot peppers and lime.

Then earlier this summer I went strawberry picking outside Nashville and the next day some friends and I made a Sunday supper with what we had picked. The dessert was a sweet corn pot de crème topped with the fresh berries. I remember kicking myself for not having thought of it first. It was that good. All at once I recalled the sweet corn muffins, caramel and kettle corn, corn pudding, and my own grandmother’s creamed corn. Why had I shoved corn so thoroughly into the savory box?

From that point on, I couldn’t stop dreaming up corn-flavored desserts. It’s a natural conclusion, really -- they don’t call it sweet corn for nothing. So I started experimenting with ice cream flavors inspired by everything from caramel corn to corn with jalapeño butter. Then it hit me. My grandmother knew something, and I knew something too. And then it happened, they combined: the creamed corn of my youth collided with the slightly caramelized and peppery corn of my adulthood. And this ice cream was born.

Sweet corn ice cream isn’t anything too new, but the addition of black pepper to this creamy, custard-based ice cream makes it something special. The peppery bite makes it interesting for adventurous types such as myself, and the warm, earthy sweetness of the corn keeps it classically delicious enough for people with vanilla leanings.  

Sweet Corn and Black Pepper Ice Cream

Makes 3 cups

3 ears of corn
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
5 egg yolks
3/4 cups white sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon fresh grated black pepper

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Beth Kirby  

Tags: seasonal southern cooking, cooking, southern, seasonal, sweet corn, corn, ice cream, black pepper

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Comments (7)


over 1 year ago PRST

OHhhhhhhhh, this sounds delicious. I can't wait to make this! I make a white pepper and walnut oil ice cream that is delicious too!


over 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

I once had sweet corn crème brûlée and I think I've been dreaming about it ever since.


over 1 year ago Beth Kirby | {local milk}

cream + corn, man. grandmother knew a thing, i'm tellin' ya.


over 1 year ago PatriciaScarpin

I make corn ice cream often (it's a common ice cream here in Brazil) but have always used canned corn - I love the idea of using fresh corn!


over 1 year ago Beth Kirby | {local milk}

you have to try it with fresh! it makes such a great difference.


over 1 year ago Jennifer Ann

This reminds me of an ice cream pop I had in Thailand that had kernels of corn and sweet peas speckled throughout. My perplexed surprise was soon followed by an aha(!) moment. A brilliant combination. Love the black pepper addition in your recipe!


over 1 year ago Beth Kirby | {local milk}

I know what you mean about getting over being perplexed & then that "aha!" moment...those are always the most exciting flavor combinations to me!