I find it interesting that often when we don't eat (or can't eat) a certain food due to dietary choices, we try to create its replica in the hope of not missing out on the experience. Countless examples abound, especially when it comes to creating packaged vegan food. Somewhat similar philosophy follows the origin of this minty sweet corn ice cream. The idea found its seeds on a family outing to a local restaurant, which served sweet corn ice cream (without mint). I couldn't eat the ice cream as it was packed with dairy and eggs. I knew it right there and then that I am going to create a vegan version of it. When I found the super sweet corn in a U-pick farm last week, I knew that it was time to make the corn ice cream. The fresh corn season is on the wane, but you can say adiós to sweet corn for the season in style by making this flavor-packed minty sweet corn ice cream.
The ubiquitous corn
The food stores are littered with packaged food items that have some derivative of corn. I will soon be writing another blogpost on the topic, but for now I would say that if you want to eat corn, which is a grain not a vegetable, it is best to eat it in the fresh form. Yes, corn flakes is just a junk avatar of corn. Read food labels (stay tuned for a starter guide on reading food labels very, very soon) to figure out if corn is a part of food where you don't really expect it. If you find corn syrup in a food--the most ubiquitous of all corn derivatives, found in so many packaged food items that you will have long time counting-- it only belongs where it came from, not in your grocery cart. Fresh corn, while high in starch, offers certain important nutrients depending upon the variety. For example, sweet corn is a rich source of vitamin A and magnesium, a mineral sorely missing in our diets.
Let's make the minty sweet corn ice cream
Fresh sweet corn is actually quite sweet. So it is kind of important to choose corn that is super fresh. As fresh corn ages, the kernels start to loose taste and become harder. If you have U-pick farms around where live, you can still find sweet corn there. My go-to grocery store Wegmans also has good selection. The ice cream gets it creaminess from no-waste almond milk, remember the almond milk recipe, where you don't throw away any part of almonds. If you are not a fan of no-waste almond milk, replace it with equal amount low-fat coconut milk. Although I have not tried the ice cream with coconut milk yet, I figured that the flavor could be valuable in this recipe and hence, you will find shredded dried unsweetened coconut on the ingredient list. Fresh mint adds a ton of complexity to the flavor; I mean, I can't imagine this ice cream without mint. Dates and maple syrup are my usual sweeteners.
This whole recipe is divided into three steps: Cooking corn with water, then cooking corn with almond milk, coconut flakes, and dates, and the last one cooking the step 2 mixture with fresh mint and maple syrup. The process starts with cutting out corn kernels off the cob. Please remember to save the leftover cobs as they participate in enhancing the sweet corn flavor in the first step of cooking. Mint and maple syrup are added in the last step as fresh herbs can lose flavor if cooked too long.
Sieving is essential for the best experience
I am a lazy bone in the kitchen in the sense if I can skip a cooking step without compromising the end result, I usually do it. I debated quite a bit and omitted sieving in the first version of the ice cream. Well, it tasted good but not creamy--the hard ends of kernels in my teeth crevices kept reminding me that sieving is essential. So, in the next round of testing, I did the sieving process. To my surprise, the process was not as bad as I had thought--it only took me 5 minutes. How cool is that? But the end result was fifty times better--well-invested five minutes.
By the way, after sieving you can also refrigerate the pudding-like mixture and serve it as pudding with your choice of toasted nuts or seeds. So this recipe really offers two different food experiences.
To increase the creaminess factor, you can also whip the pudding-like mixture. I did not go through this step; my laziness got in the way because I liked the ice cream well enough as it is. But I am thinking of whipping the mixture next time around, just out of curiosity. If you decide to make this minty sweet corn ice cream and go through the labor of whipping--kudos to you. Please do share your experience.
In the freezer
Cover the freezer-safe container with a saran wrap and then with the lid to minimize microscopic ice crystals. You can also use your ice cream maker. I am planning to do so the next time around. Enjoy!
Minty Sweet Corn Ice Cream
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 2 ears fresh corn (shucked)
- 2 1/2 cups almond milk* (no-waste recipe)
- 20 fresh mint leaves
- 2 tbsp dried unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
- 4 dates (deglet nour variety, use 3 if using medjool dates)
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- Shuck the corn (meaning remove everything covering the ear of the corn) with a sharp knife, cut corn kernels off the cob. Cut or break cobs into three pieces each.
- Add water with corn kernels and pieces of bare cobs to a heavy-bottom pot. Over medium heat bring everything to a boil (about 5 minutes) and cover completely. Let kernels and cobs simmer for about 20 minutes, checking intermittently if the water has evaporated. At this point, corn kernels should be very soft.
- Remove pieces of cobs and add no-waste almond milk, dried coconut, and dates to softened kernels. Simmer everything over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Add mint leaves and maple syrup and cook for another 10 minutes. At this point almond milk almost gets soaked into corn kernels. Remove from stove and let it cool to room temperature.
- Add the mixture to a blender and blend till smooth. Pass the blended mixture through a sieve into a freezer-safe container. Serve by itself or with toasted almond. Enjoy!