Sweet Corn and Honey Ice Cream

I never did like candy corn. But this ice cream, at first lick, tastes a bit like the Halloween haunt. Perhaps I just got a heavy drizzle of honey stuck on my tongue with it (a main ingredient in candy corn). Then afterward, instead of a slightly sick feeling from the cloying, over-sweetness and gritty mouthfeel, the spoonful burst with the taste of fresh corn and pure creaminess. Sweet corn, sweet cream and sweet, wildflower honey. That’s my kind of candy this season.

It’s corn season, full-swing. Whether it’s grilled Mexican-style with mayonnaise, chile and lime, cut kernels studding salads, or just boiled and buttered, crisp corn is all around. I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t like sweet corn on the cob. Kids and adults alike can’t seem to get enough of it. How strange, then, that this summertime treat is largely unheard of in Europe, for human consumption, at least.

sweet corn

Shucking corn always brings back memories of being given this chore before dinnertime as a child. I find just as much satisfaction today out of cracking off the tough outer husks and removing as much of the pillow of silk underneath them as possible as I did then. Each ear is created infinitely differently, I’d also taken away from those memories. Some have more tightly packed rows of kernels, some have more whitish kernels to yellow, randomly strewn; some have rows that twist, or look even more jumbled, like a game of checkers newly smeared. And all this is a mystery until you peel away the last, elastic sheaths of husk. Once revealed, some ears of corn are indeed just better — crisper, juicier, and more promising of sweetness. This corn happened to come to me from a small farm in Massachusetts, along with a carload of other organic goodies. But corn on the cob’s everywhere right now, and there isn’t a better way to enjoy them than extra-fresh from a farm stand. Trucking corn long distances may seem an easy feat — the husks and silk are built-in padding — but really crisp, juicy kernels can’t be beat, and that’s a sign of super-freshness.

wildflower honey

Since we’ve gotten enough of it grilled, boiled, buttered, or dressed in salads by now, early September, why not put corn in ice cream? I’m listening, my brain told me after that proposition. But I need something else, and I’m not sold on chile and lime in this. How about something else sweet? And something, for that matter, a little more local. Honey, now we’re talking.

I’ve been spoiled by good honey all summer. Thanks to all the buzz behind legalizing beekeeping in NYC, and the concern over the future of bees (and hence, the health of crops) given the dreadful CCD, honey is kind of all the rage. I have a comb hanging out in my cupboard, and half a jar from Queens County Farm Museum. Since waxy bits don’t sound like a great accoutrement to sweet cream, I went with the jar. Honey is also one of those fun, but wildly inappropriate things to measure out in a cup; a lot is left behind to lap up.

a worked-at comb

I garnished the top of my ice cream scoop with more honey and corn, but this recipe has so much of both that it’s hardly necessary. The corn kernels are steeped in the milk before it’s used to temper the beaten egg yolks and become a custard. The sugars are almost all replaced with honey, and corn. So the list of ingredients is short, and sweet.

Sweet Corn and Honey Ice Cream
(makes 1 quart)

3 cups half-and-half (or 1 1/2 cups heavy cream and 1 1/2 cups whole milk)
1/4-1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
kernels from 1 ear of corn

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until lighter in color and fluffy. Combine the half and half and corn kernels in a medium saucepan. Bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally and turn off heat. Temper the egg yolk mixture by adding a small spoonfuls of the hot milk mixture at a time, while whisking, until about half a cup has been added. Transfer the egg mixture to the milk mixture in the saucepan and stir constantly while cooking over medium heat until the mixture is just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 8 minutes). Do not let boil. Add the honey and stir to combine thoroughly. Cover in an airtight container and chill overnight.

Follow your ice cream maker’s machine to churn the ice cream.

Cost Calculator
(for 1 quart ice cream)

3 cups organic half-and-half (at $4.29/quart): $3.22
3 egg yolks (at $4/dozen): $0.50
1/4-1/3 cup honey (at $8/jar): $2.00
1 ear corn: $0.50
1/4 cup sugar: $0.15

Total: $6.37

Health Factor

Eight brownie points: Not only is honey hot high fructose corn syrup, like you’ll find in many store-bought ice cream brands, but it has a number of natural vitamins and minerals. So does fresh corn, another sweetening agent in this ice cream. I found that my batch of ice cream, using 1/3 cups of honey, was a tiny bit too sweet, so I added a little flexibility in the recipe above. Measure out to your own taste, especially if you’ll be drizzling more on afterward.

Green Factor

Eight maple leaves: Does that mean a tie? Actually, eight is not a good thing for the health factor, but that’s practically inavoidable, since it’s ice cream. Eight brownie points on the green scale is pretty good, meaning its ingredients have some sustainability cred. Here, the honey was local and the corn also from a small farm, but the milk was a grocery aisle organic brand.

18 Responses

  1. The Trinigourmet

    This has to be one of the most unusual icecream recipes I’ve ever seen but I remember a lovely sweet cream ‘n corn dish that Mom made me as a child. If this tastes anything like that I’m pre-sold 🙂 Will give it a try!

  2. Ry Sal

    Looks yummy– do you remember the small farm in Massachusetts– what was the name? My brother-in-law is an organic farmer in the Berkshires… just curious—the best corn on earth though!

  3. arugulove

    I grew up just down the road from a small farm in Massachusetts that grew unbelievable corn. My childhood had a lot of instant food, junk food, and there isn’t a lot of dishes that I’ve got nostalgia for, but I will never forget riding my bike down the street to the farm to get it minutes after it had been picked and eating it an hour or two later for dinner. Yum!

    Wow, that was a tangent. Anyway, thanks for the idea, this looks fabulous!

  4. Joannie

    Dropping in from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus, Ohio. It sounds like you love your sweet corn as much as we do in Ohio – your recipe sounds delicious! May I recommend our Sweet Corn and Black Raspberries? You can pick up a pint at Forager’s Market in Brooklyn.

    Great blog – lovely photos.

  5. Joannie

    … or, you could try to recreate it yourself! Sounds like you’ve got the chops.

  6. Bobbi

    So inspired by this – thank you. A great way to use our leftover Labor Day corn. Unfortunately my corn is already off the cob – any idea how much you ended up using? Is one cup of kernels too much?

  7. cathy

    Thanks, everyone!
    Ry Sal: the corn came from this farm in Plympton, MA: http://www.farmfresh.org/food/farm.php?farm=2033
    Where’s your brother-in-law’s farm, though? Neat!
    Joannie: Thanks so much for the tip! Sounds like a rad flavor, I’ll have to check out next time I picnic in DUMBO!
    Bobbi: One cup sounds a teensy bit much, unless you like a whole lot of kernels to creaminess ratio. Half to three-quarters sounds good, though!

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  13. jeremy

    Gee, I think I’ll be making some corn ice cream tonight. I’ll probably sub in corn syrup for the sugar though…for a nice “chewy” texture. One comment I’d like to make regarding the half n half sub suggestion you made. In spite of it’s name, half n half is actually 3/4 milk and 1/4 cream. So to correctly make your own half n half at home, the ratio is 3 to 1 rather than the 1 to 1 suggested in your recipe. Thought you might like to know!


  14. Hornet

    A wonderful and delicious dish .

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  17. Lisa Green

    I am sure that corn ice cream will be the most unique type of ice cream i have ever made for my kids. This is something which i and even my kids have never thought of.Today, I am going to surprise them with this unique after dinner. I am so excited.

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