Virginia Willis Blog

Surprises & Sweet Corn Ice Cream


Sweet Corn Ice Cream

Life can be surprising. Depending on your personality, you may float along or maybe you swim with the current. You might be one of those poor folks that is always swimming upstream. I often use the expression I am “swimming as fast as I can.” One way or the other, it really doesn’t matter how you navigate your river of life, at some point there’s an unexpected curve, a surprise. It’s what you do when you hit that surprise that makes all the difference.

Sometimes it makes sense to swim hard and fight it. Other times, if you fight the strong current, you get nowhere and it’s exhausting. Sometimes, regardless of how tempting it is not to, the best thing to do is just let go.

I have had some major changes in my life in the past 5 years, both personally and professionally. I could have never, ever predicted some of changes and yet others I have been working for my entire career. This summer has been full of surprises and changes, too. As it is ending, I am reflecting on what’s been the biggest surprise. While hosting Martha Stewart radio I got to interview Mark Kurlansky, an author that changed how I view seafood and the oceans when I read his book Cod almost 15 years ago. (You may ask why that was a surprise. I was surprised he said yes!) Now, I am on a Blue Ribbon Task Force for Seafood Watch.

Another surprise? I have fallen in love with Western Massachusetts. And, someone who has been a city girl nearly all of her adult life really loves living in the country again. Check out the view in the photo above – it’s breathtakingly beautiful. I feel more fulfilled than I have in a very, very long time. At the beginning of the summer I had trepidation and was fighting myself a bit. To feel this way now is a lovely surprise and I am thankful.

One of the things that is most surprising about the area is the incredible amount of agriculture. It’s very rural, but with 5 nearby colleges, it’s an extremely educated and diverse community. Hatfield was founded in 1670 and there’s not even a traffic light or a stop sign on Main Street. There’s a lot of potatoes, tobacco, and corn. The corn has been amazing. I love to shop at the local farm stand or harvest other vegetables from our garden. I feel like my cooking is better, and not just because of the fresh produce. My river is flowing freely.

In honor of summer surprises, I thought I’d share a recipe for Corn Ice Cream. It’s a real surprise when you taste it because it looks like a French custard vanilla. And, yes, it really tastes like corn! Try it with a blueberry pie or blackberry cobbler. It’s fantastic, just like many other surprises in life.


Bon Appétit Y’all!

Butter Sugar Corn Ice Cream

Yield: Makes one quart

Butter Sugar Corn Ice Cream

This rich and creamy ice cream is pure indulgence. They call it “butter-sugar” because it’s multicolor yellow and white. Any sweet corn may be substituted.

We’ve learned a new method for shucking corn. Essentially you microwave the corn in the husk for a few minutes. Then, remove it from the microwave and let it steam for about 30 seconds. Next, chop the stalk end (not the silk end) off. Using a kitchen towel, starting at the silk end, push the corn out of the chopped stalk end. The corn comes out clean and perfectly silk free. Pretty handy. It depends on the strength of your microwave and the number of ears, but I’ve found it to be helpful. (I usually then pop it into a pot of boiling water just to heat it up and freshen it.)


4 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked, kernels cut off, cobs reserved
4 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
9 large egg yolks


  1. Roast the corn kernels in a dry cast iron skillet until browned in spots, 4-5 minutes. Place the roasted kernels in a large heavy saucepan. Break cobs in half and add to pan with milk and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, then turn off heat. Remove the cobs and discard. Either using a stick blender to puree until smooth or transfer the corn-milk mixture to the jar of a blender and puree until smooth then return to the large saucepan.
  2. Bring mixture back to a just a simmer, then remove from the heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Add a cup of the hot corn mixture to the yolks, whisking constantly to prevent eggs from curdling. Add yolk mixture to the saucepan, whisking constantly. Continue whisking over medium-low heat until the custard thickens enough to coat a spoon, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Pass custard through a sieve pressing down hard on the solids. Discard solids. Cool custard completely over an ice bath or refrigerate until cool. Churn the ice cream according to the machine instructions. Enjoy!

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, Thanks so much.

Copyright © 2012 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, LLC.

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One Response to “Surprises & Sweet Corn Ice Cream”

  1. I’m so glad you are enjoying Western Mass and I do have to agree, Hatfield is lovely. My father lives nearby and I was just there recently. I never really appreciated W. Mass growing up (but then again, I grew up in Agawam so I’ll shush *LOL*) For a really nice view, you might go up to the Log Cabin around sunset. It’s one of my favorite places to go think whenever I’m back in W. Mass. I really need to try this recipe 🙂


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