The second of our annual cooking demonstrations in the Elwell Family Food building at the Iowa State Fair featured an unusual dish. This recipe was adapted from a recipe that was originally submitted as part of the Iowa’s Big Four Cooking competition at the 2018 Iowa State Fair. The original recipe was submitted by Sharon Gates of Des Moines and won 2nd prize in the sweet division of that contest. We’ve made some slight modifications from the original. But first, where do all of the ingredients come from? Here is the farm-to-fork story.
Bacon: This tasty pork product comes from the side and belly of the pig. Pork bellies are cured in a salt brine and flavorings to provide the rich taste. The curing process evolved before refrigeration as a way of preserving the meat. Iowa is the number one producer of pork in the U.S. Companies like Farmland Foods and JBS Swift have meat packing plants in Iowa and employ hundreds of Iowans.
Sugar: Granulated sugar can be refined from either sugar cane grown in tropical climates or from sugar beets. Many sugar beets are grown in Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana. After the beets are harvested, they are sliced and soaked in water which extracts the sugar. The beets are pressed to remove additional sugar. The syrup is filtered and then boiled to reduce to sugar crystals. The crystals are then packaged as sugar.
Corn syrup: Corn syrup comes from field corn. Field corn is harvested after it is dried in the field. The corn kernels can then be ground up and the starches removed. Using enzymes, the starches can be converted into a mix of fructose and sucrose sugars – or corn syrup. Field corn can be used for a variety of human foods (everything from corn meal in tortilla chips to the corn syrup in ketchup), but it can also be used to feed livestock or turned into ethanol as fuel for vehicles
Sweet Corn: Although Iowa farmers do raise some of the best-tasting sweet corn in the country, less than 1% of the corn in our state is sweet corn. Although one is considered a vegetable and the other a grain, sweet corn and field corn are close relatives. Sweet corn is a naturally occurring genetic mutation of field corn. The sweet corn plant is shorter, matures faster, and its kernels have a higher sugar content.
Milk: Milk or heavy cream is a great source of protein and vitamin D in our diets. Most dairy cows in the U.S. are Holstein (the black and white ones) which are prized for their ability to produce up to 8 gallons of milk per day. Once milk is collected from the cow it is trucked to a processing plant where it is homogenized and pasteurized before bottling. Once bottled it is sent off to grocery stores or other consumer outlets. The whole process takes less than 48 hours and the milk is never touched by human hands.
Eggs: Iowa is the number one producer of eggs in the U.S. There are three different categories of chickens raised with many different species in each category. Chickens are broilers (raised for meat), ornamentals (raised for feathers), and layers (raised for eggs). Chickens typically produce one egg approximately every 27 hours (roughly one per day). The color of the egg shell has no bearing on the nutritional value of the egg or the flavor. The color of the shell is the same as the chicken’s ear lobe. White skinned chickens produce white eggs. Brown skinned chickens produce brown eggs. Eggs can even come in shades of blue and green. The quality of egg is largely determined by the chicken’s diet. A protein rich diet with various vitamins and minerals will usually yield a richly yellowed yolk. Eggs are one of the best sources of protein in the human diet. Eggs are cleaned and checked for impurities before being packaged and sold to consumers.
Pepper: Black pepper comes from the fruit of a pepper plant species which grows in hot and humid tropical climates. The unripe dried fruit, called peppercorns, are ground into the spice we call pepper. Pepper was one of the spices that early explores traded because of its high value. It came from the spice islands of southeast Asia which also were known for nutmeg, mace and cloves.
Salt: Salt isn’t exactly an agricultural product. But, is an important component because it is the only rock that humans seek out and regularly consume. Salt can be harvested from salt pans (dried lakes) or mined from underground
Chipotle powder: Chipotle powder is the dried and crushed Chipotle pepper fruit.
- 1/2 Cup Bacon Chopped
- 2T Brown Sugar
- 1T Light Corn Syrup
- 1 Cup Fresh Sweet Corn
- 3/4 Cup Heavy Cream
- 1/4 Cup Whole Milk
- 6T White Sugar
- 3 Egg Yolks
- 1 Egg
- 1/2 T Salt
- 1/4 T Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1/8 T Chipotle Chile Morita Powder
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Stir together bacon, brown sugar and corn syrup. Spread onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven. Set aside to cool.
- Combine ¾ cup sweet corn, whole milk, 3T white sugar, egg yolks, egg, salt, pepper, and chipotle powder sugar into blender and liquify all. Add heavy cream pulse blender to incorporate.
- Pour through a fine mesh strainer. Mix in ¼ cup of sweet corn. Pour liquid mixture into ramekins that have been sprayed with non-stick spray.
- Place ramekin in a baking dish on the middle rack of oven.
- Carefully pour boiling water into the baking dish to halfway up the outside of the ramekins. Bake 30-45 minutes or until the center of the custard registers an internal temperature of 170°F. Cooking time will vary based on the size of the ramekins used. Remove from oven and let cool.
- Just before serving, sprinkle a layer of sugar over the top of each custard and brûlée with a torch. Garnish with candied bacon.