Corn chowder is one of those perfect dishes for later in the summer even if the fresh corn is gone. Wise cooks keep some corn in the freezer, or at least the creamed corn that gives it its special qualities. “Cream” (cut the corn from the cob) the corn ahead of time and freeze it, or purchase “creamed style corn” frozen or even canned.
To “cream” the corn, place an ear of corn, husk removed, upright in a pie plate and cut down the cob, removing the tips of the kernels from top to bottom, rotating the corn until all is done. Go back and repeat, this time cutting the corn all the way down to the cob. Take the back of the knife and scrape along the cob, capturing all the milk in the dish. The corn and the milk in the dish become “creamed” corn when cooked.
Do not feel obligated to follow this recipe exactly. If you know you are going to freeze it, leave out the potatoes and cook them all the way through before adding and serving at a later time. The potatoes do freeze, they are just not “company perfect” but still very comforting.
Feel free to leave out the curry or herbs, and season as you desire. And, of course, since this makes a gracious plenty, feel free to halve the recipe or even quarter it, not worrying exactly about the measurements.
Makes 4 quarts
1/2 pound very lean salt pork (streak-o-lean) or bacon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
6 medium-large russet or baking potatoes or 2-3 pounds small potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, tarragon or other herb
3 pounds creamed corn or equivalent, frozen or canned
2 (15-ounce) cans evaporated milk or half-and-half
1 quart milk
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
Fry the salt pork or bacon over medium heat until nearly crisp, remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Reduce heat to low and add the onion, garlic and curry powder. Cook until the onion and garlic are soft, about 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel the potatoes. If large, cut into medium-size irregular chunks. Add to a large pot with the salt and enough water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and cook the potatoes for 15 minutes. Drain off all the water, then add the optional herbs, corn, both evaporated and fresh milks, onion mixture, reserved salt pork, pepper and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook until thickened, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Add more milk as needed. Taste and add sugar if desired. When reheating, avoid bringing to a boil.
Nathalie Dupree is the author of 14 cookbooks, including the James Beard award-winning “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.” She lives in Charleston and may be reached through Nathaliedupree.com.