Ice Cream/Frozen Desserts

Sweet Corn and Black Pepper Ice Cream

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.

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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  

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • PRST
  • Kenzi Wilbur
    Kenzi Wilbur
  • PatriciaScarpin
  • Jennifer Ann
    Jennifer Ann
  • Beth Kirby | {local milk}
    Beth Kirby | {local milk}
A Southern writer with a cast iron skillet & a camera. Freelance food writer & photographer. Blogs at


PRST August 20, 2013
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!
Kenzi W. August 6, 2013
I once had sweet corn crème brûlée and I think I've been dreaming about it ever since.
Beth K. August 6, 2013
cream + corn, man. grandmother knew a thing, i'm tellin' ya.
PatriciaScarpin August 6, 2013
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!
Beth K. August 6, 2013
you have to try it with fresh! it makes such a great difference.
Jennifer A. August 5, 2013
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!
Beth K. August 6, 2013
I know what you mean about getting over being perplexed & then that "aha!" moment...those are always the most exciting flavor combinations to me!