Saturday, September 03, 2011
Sweet Corn and Blackberry Popsicles
People often look back on the food of their youth with nostalgia, wondering why things just never taste as sweet in adulthood. While I have my fair share of misty culinary memories (many of them involving pressing cinnamon candies into sugar cookie dough to yield vampiric-eyed barn animals), I must say that many things taste better these days. Like corn.
When I was growing up, corn was prepared one way: boiled. For a long, long time. After this prolonged bath it was wrinkled, starchy, and didn't taste like much of anything (beyond the generous amount of butter and salt it was topped with, so naturally I still loved it). It wasn't until years later that I realized how good fresh corn could be. Or maybe corn just got better? I hear they've made some progress with the whole keeping-sugars-from-converting-to-starch-within-seconds thing. Regardless: fresh corn, when cooked lightly (or not at all), is a thing of beauty. It's sunny, light, and fresh-smelling, and nearly pops in your mouth with milky sweetness.
These days I can't get enough of fresh corn. I've baked it up into tomato pies, and shaved it into a raw salad with arugula, radishes, feta and mint (which I sadly forgot to photograph before inhaling). Both were lovely. But these popsicles might be my favorite. They were born somewhat by accident: I needed a cup of half-and-half for a recipe, and the quart was on sale for the same price as a half-pint, which meant that my thrifty self couldn't not buy it. The sweet corn at the farmer's market was calling out, and the blackberries in front of our house had turned dark and sweet. And thus, creamy sweet corn and blackberry popsicles. And I daresay they're perfect.
The corn, barely cooked and infused into half-and-half, is total summer sunshine. Its sugars, which are normally just a background note, come straight to the forefront, yielding a corny-sweet riff on a standard summer confection. The melty popsicles are thick and smooth, the blended milky corn lending a richness that you usually get from an eggy custard. And to keep the buttery sweetness of the corn from becoming overwhelming, it's studded with a tart mash of barely-sweetened blackberries. While many people will be firing up the barbecue to enjoy their corn this Labor Day, I lobby for the popsicle instead.
Sweet Corn and Blackberry Popsicles
yields ~ 4-5 standard (3 ounce) popsicles
2 ears sweet corn
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/3 cup sugar, plus additional for the blackberries
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
heaping 1/2 cup blackberries
Cut the kernals off of the cob, and place in a saucepan. Hack the cobs up in a few pieces, and add them as well, along with the half-and-half, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer for a minute or so, until the corn softens and turns a darker yellow. Turn off the heat, add the vanilla, and let the mixture steep for an hour, transferring to the refrigerator as it cools (you want to wait a minimum of an hour to let the mixture infuse, but you can shelve it in the fridge for longer if needed).
While the corn mixture is steeping and cooling, rinse the blackberries and mash them with a fork or potato masher. Sweeten to taste with a spoonful or two of sugar -- the corn mixture will be sweet as well, so you want the blackberries to be a bit tart for contrast.
After the corn mixture has steeped, fish out the cobs and discard. Puree the remaining mixture in a blender, then strain through a fine sieve (you may have to clear the strainer a few times to get rid of the corn solids). Place the corn mixture in a container with a spout, and pour an inch of it in the bottom of your popsicle molds. Top with a spoonful of the sweetened blackberry puree, then repeat the process until the molds are filled (leaving enough headspace for them to expand). If you have the kind of molds with stick handles attached, simply freeze until solid. Otherwise let freeze half an hour, insert popsicle sticks into the semi-frozen mixture, and freeze completely.
at 4:32 PM