My school bus route this summer takes me out to the country. I spend close to three hours a day riding past farms and corn fields which gives me more than enough time for reflection. I’m a semi-city girl and my experiences with home-grown corn came from my grandfather’s and then my Uncle Andy’s gardens. Still, the country holds a certain charm for me. Now that I’ve comfortably adopted the suburbs as home, I experience the accidental proximity of country with an isolated field or preserved farm in the middle of a subdivision.
Suburban living makes it easy to forget how amazing farmland is. But what i’m seeing everyday is the real deal. Sky beautifully blue that seems to go on forever. Clouds in that sky that look like cotton batting soft enough to curl up in for a nap. Farms large and small, old and older, and seemingly endless fields of corn. The Midwest is corn country and this part of Illinois has some of the best farmland in the state. Granted, much of our corn is the feed/seed variety. (This blog post explains the difference.) Even so, there is plenty of the eating kind around, or there will be soon.
Corn season is in full swing here. The stalks have more than reached the requisite “knee high by the Fourth of July” and as I look out the bus window, I think they’re growing taller everyday.Local corn won’t be making an appearance for a few more weeks, but as the stalks wave in the breeze, anticipation is high. The corn available is inching closer, much of what is in the stores and even at farm stands is coming from Georgia. It’s sweet and juicy and is wonderful eaten off the cob, but it’s also great used in a recipe. I made a Summer Corn Chowder that used the corn, cobs and all. I cut the kernels off the cobs, then the naked cobs went into a soup pot with water, some onion and a pinch of salt. I let it simmer for about an hour and let it steep for an hour more. The result was golden sweetness that was bursting with corn flavor.
This chowder featured a variety of peppers,and onions and course there was lots of fresh corn. Colored peppers make it look extra festive and sweet and green onion give it lots of flavor. This is your chowder, so choose what you like.To make it more “chowder like” I added some bacon and grated potato. My herb of choice was thyme and a bit of ancho chili powder gave it a little heat. To keep it healthier I used fat free half and half.The result was a lighter bodied chowder that was thick with vegetables. Sharp white cheddar cheese and crisp bacon were the crowning glory. It was the perfect dish for a summer supper.
This recipe will only get better as the corn grows closer to home. It also lends itself to all kinds of variations. Make it spicier or tame it down to suit your taste.
Fresh corn is one of the joys of summer. Eaten off the cob or in a soup or side dish, it is meant to be savoured for as long as the season lasts. Enjoy, Mama D