Rondriso Farms Corn Chowder

Serves 4-6

Rainy, cool days have at last arrived on the West Coast and it’s once again that time for the welcome comfort of soups. Let me start by saying I promise my next post will not be a corn recipe. My last recipe post was just over six weeks ago and featured this corn and tomato salad, and here I go today with corn soup. There’s an explanation behind this, I promise.

As mentioned in the previous post, we had a bit of a corn surplus following our end of year softball BBQ in August. I clearly over budgeted on the corn front – apparently eating multiple cobs in one sitting is an Ontario thing, or maybe it’s unique to my crazy family.  I can remember as a kid when corn would come into season my mom would buy a dozen from our local market or road side stands. During dinner prep we’d be asked how many cobs we wanted each, and in a family of four we could easily polish off the full dozen in one meal. With some fresh tomatoes on the side, that was dinner. 

The thing about fresh corn is it's best eaten when it’s really fresh. Ron and Pam Tamis of Rondriso Farms understand this better than anyone, which is why during corn season they harvest their crop throughout the day, as needed.  If you stop off at their farm store to pick up corn for dinner, chances are it’s only been off the stock for an hour or two, maybe even less. When you have leftovers though, like I recently did, how do you preserve that fresh taste?

There are a few options. The Tamis family makes a pretty fantastic corn relish, but if you’re short on time, or canning is not your thing, freezing is the next best option. You can quickly blanch the cobs in boiling water, allow to cool, remove the kernels from the cob with a sharp knife (carefully, per method below) and freeze*.   The kernels are great to add to a variety of dishes throughout the winter – most often, I use them in chilies and stir-fries.

Today’s post features a twist on the freezing method, using the cobs to make a corn broth. This is a great way to get full use out of your veggies, and makes for a sweet and rich flavour base for the soup. I made this stock back in August and threw it in the freezer for a rainy day which, as noted, has now arrived. Enjoy!

*This method of blanching and freezing will work for a variety of vegetables, including beans, peas, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots to name a few. This is a great way to avoid wasting excess vegetables, not to mention valuable food dollars. As an added bonus, cook times will be reduced when it comes time to using them, which is great for days when you’re in a hurry to get a healthy dinner on the table.

Ingredients

  • 4 cobs fresh sweet corn
  • 8 cups water
  • 3 slices of good quality, smokey bacon, chopped (optional)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery,  chopped
  • 1 small - medium, or 1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 handful fresh thyme sprigs, or 1 tsp dried
  • 2-4 medium red potatoes 
  • 1/2 bunch of leafy greens, such as chard, kale or beet greens, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Optional toppings: micro-greens, sour cream or creme fraîche, chili oil

Method

To prepare the broth:

Shuck the corn and remove the kernels from the cobs. To remove the kernels, stand each cob of corn up on its wide end on a large cutting board and use a sharp knife to carefully run down the cob of corn. Rotate a 1/4 turn and repeating a total of four times for each cob, until all kernels are removed. Reserve the raw kernels.

Place each of the cobs, with kernels now removed, into a large pot with eight cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmering for 30-40 minutes. Remove and discard the cobs and add in half of the raw kernels. Continue to cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and then use an immersion blender to roughly puree the mixture. This will give the soup a bit more of a 'creamy' texture. Finally, add in the rest of the whole, raw kernels which will cook in the residual heat. If freezing, allow to cool before transferring to plastic containers, or freezer bags. Alternatively, freeze in glass jars, but be sure to leave room for the mixture to expand or so you don't end up with broken glass.

To make the soup: 

Heat a heavy-bottom soup pot over medium-high heat and add bacon. Cook until crispy, and then remove to bacon and reserve, but leave the fat in the bottom of the pot. If making a vegetarian or vegan version, omit bacon and heat 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil in the pot.  Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Stir in celery and red pepper, continuing to cook for another 5 minutes. 

While the onion, celery, pepper mix cooks, slice the potatoes into quarters length-wise, and then into 1/4-inch slices width-wise. You could also use small mini-red potatoes, cut into quarters. Either way, you should end up with about 2 cups. 

Add potatoes, thyme and pre-prepared corn stock to the mixture and allow to simmer about 30 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through. If you used fresh thyme, remove the sprigs. Season with salt and pepper to taste. About 5 minutes before serving, add the leafy greens.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls and divide the reserved crispy bacon bits evenly among them. If desired, top with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraîche, a pinch of micro-greens (we use the Sexy Salad Booster from Vancouver local supplier, Skyharvest), and a drizzle of smokey chili oil or a dusting of smoked paprika.