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.