It’s prime sweet corn season in Michigan and, this year, the corn seems to taste especially sweet and good. Yesterday I picked up a couple dozen ears from a local farmer and decided to make a big pot of corn chowder. I also blanched and froze the kernels from a dozen ears. Corn has been around forever, apparently first domesticated 10,000 years ago by indigenous peoples in southern Mexico. I didn’t know, until I looked it up, that corn kernels are technically a fruit. When corn is dried it is considered a grain. Whole corn that you eat off the cob is considered a vegetable. And corn made into alcohol is bourbon whiskey, as long as it’s made from at least 51% corn. (One of my favorite corn products). And lets not forget corn oil, polenta, tortillas, and popcorn. What an amazingly versatile plant!
Soups are one of my favorites. They tend to taste good the first day and excellent the second. This week temperatures in Michigan have been a little cooler than usual for August so a nice pot of soup was just perfect.
4 cups of chicken broth plus 1 cup water
5-6 cups of fresh corn (I used 7 ears)
1 large onion diced
2-3 medium carrots diced
3-4 stalks of celery diced
1 sweet red pepper diced
2 cups new potatoes diced
10 oz bacon
1 1/2 cups of whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Soup always involves a lot of chopping. Remove the kernels from the cobs and set aside. I use a sharp knife and my angel food cake pan which works just great and, in my opinion, is the best use for an angel food cake pan.
Put the cobs in a stock pot along with 4 cups of chicken broth and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes while you’re preparing the other components. The cobs enhance the corn flavor you’re looking for in the chowder.
While the cobs are simmering cook the bacon in a Dutch oven until it is crisp. Remove the crisped bacon to a plate lined with paper towels.
Reserve 2 T of the bacon dripping and add the diced carrot, onion, celery, and pepper to the dutch oven. Cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
Add the potatoes and the corn.
Remove the cobs from the broth, and pour the broth over the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat, cooking until the potatoes are tender.
Once the potatoes are tender stir in the milk and heavy cream. Add the thyme and cayenne.
Bring the soup back to a simmer. If you prefer the soup to be creamer remove a few cups to a heat proof bowl and, using an immersion blender, purée. Add the purée back to the pot. A friend told me she uses her mother’s recipe which calls for the addition of 1 can of creamed corn. Potato flakes can also be used to thicken the soup.
Have your soup toppers ready. I used shrimp, green onions, cilantro, the crispy bacon bits, and cheese.
Ladle into bowls and enjoy.
NOTE: As with most recipes this one is very versatile. It’s all a matter of personal taste. You could add smoked sausage or andouille sausage, seafood, or cheddar, jack, or pepper jack cheese while the soup is simmering. A dollop of pesto or sour cream or some of the delicious smoked trout I brought back from northern michigan would also be good toppers.
If corn is not in season, frozen corn is an excellent substitute. I blanched a dozen ears of corn, removed the kernels, and froze it in 8 oz portions. The corn is so good I think I will freeze some more to use this winter.