Meet Corn Milk: The Refreshing Summer Drink You Didn't Know You Needed
It's summer in the South, which means sunshine, beach days, icy cold sweet tea, and farmers markets overflowing with tomatoes, peaches, and so much corn. Boiled or grilled or microwaved, starring in soup or salad, or transformed into custard, casserole, or pudding, sweet, freshly picked corn is one of the greatest gifts of summer. That said, there can be too much of a good thing whether you grow your own, pick your own, or just got too enthusiastic at the Piggly Wiggly. If you find yourself with a lot of corn on hand and you've run through all your recipes, we have two words for you: corn milk.
First, a point of clarification. Corn milk is distinct from milking corn cobs to extract the maximum flavor. Milking corn cobs means you cut the kernels off the corn, as you do for many recipes, and then scrape the bare cob with the back of a knife to release the corn milk. That corn milk is a naturally sweet, starchy liquid perfect for adding flavor and texture to everything from soups to salad dressings to corn puddings to sauces or even chaat, the delightfully broad category of Indian street food. Corn milk is also not the delicious concoction that results from tossing your shorn cobs into your vegetable stock or soup, letting them add some sweetness to the flavor. While we encourage both of those options, we're talking about something else here.
Corn milk is a longtime staple in Vietnamese, Chinese, and Guatemalan cuisine. It is typically transformed into a sweet drink that combines the earthy sweetness of corn and milk to make a unique beverage that tastes a bit like the milk left in your bowl after a serving of Corn Pops (in other words, delicious).
It's pretty easy to make—remove the corn from the cob, milk the cobs to extract all the flavor, and whirl it all in the blender with milk until smooth. To make Guatemalan corn milk (atol de elote), Saveur suggests pouring the puree into a pot, adding milk, sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt, and cooking over medium heat until slightly thickened. Pour into cups and enjoy while warm.
If that's too complicated, try Jeffrey Morgenthaler's version, which was based on a Brazilian drink called "Batida de Milho Verde." That version blends a can of creamed corn with a can of sweetened condensed milk, which is then strained through a fine-mesh sieve. That's it! Lifehacker swears it's delicious in iced coffee or ice tea and also makes an excellent base for no-churn ice cream or just drizzled on cake. Lifehacker even claims it makes a mean addition to cocktails, including corn milk punch, which combines the corn-evaporated milk combo with bourbon and rum. We might just have to keep that recipe in mind the next time we're at the farmers market.