Chowder... the word alone brings about delightful feelings of comfort and a sense of well-being. Add to that a nourishing and filling dish and you’ve got the perfect winter supper. This is not to say that I consider all chowders to be wintery fare. I can be persuaded to, without much coercion, indulge in either clam variety at any time of the year. When local sweet corn is at its peak of abundance and I’ve consumed more than my fair share of golden nuggets directly from the ear, my thoughts often turn to spicy southwestern corn chowder. But ham chowder just says such sweet things to me during the cold months.
Like any great soup or stew this one starts with a hearty homemade stock. Thankfully, the components needed for any stock are the bits and pieces of previous meals that we’ve saved for just such a recipe; hopefully you do save them too. The bones and other tissues from any roasted meat, poultry or even fish are the foundation for monumental kitchen triumphs. (Don’t bother with the remains from boiled or braised foods since they’ve already given up as much flavor into the cooking liquid as they are able.) How many times have you tossed the leaves from celery or even the bottom of a bunch (the heart) when you could give them a quick wash and trim then freeze them for later use in a savory stock?!
At our home, a pot of simmering stock on the stovetop means something special is on the way.
Yield: 12 Servings (1½ cup ea.) Total time: 5 Hours
For making the Stock:
• 1 Meaty Ham Bone
• 1 Medium Onion, quartered
• 2 Carrots, unpeeled & quartered
• 2 Ribs Celery with leaves, quartered
• 1 Bay Leaf
• 8 Allspice Berries
• ¼ Teaspoon Black Peppercorns
• 12 Cups Water
For the Garnish:
• 1Tablespoon Olive oil
• ½ Cup Minced Ham
For the Chowder:
• ½ Cup Red Onion, chopped
• 1 Rib Celery, chopped
• ¼ Cup Dry White wine
• 4 Ears Sweet Corn, stripped (about 2 Cups)
• 4 Cups Ham, ½” diced
• 1 Cup Milk
• 1 Cup Half & Half
• 2 Tablespoons Prepared Horseradish
• 2 Large Russet Potatoes, unpeeled ½” diced
• ½ Cup Unsalted Butter
• ½ Cup All-Purpose Flour
• Freshly Ground Black Pepper
• Kosher Salt
Step 1. In an 8 quart stock pot, with colander insert, put Ham Bone, quartered Onion, Carrots, quartered Celery, Bay Leaf, Allspice and Peppercorns. Add water and heat to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 4 hours. Check occasionally and add more water if needed to keep the solid contents covered with water to same level as you began.
Step 2. After simmering for 4 hours, remove the colander insert and increase heat to reduce liquid by ½. When the stock is reduced, remove it from the heat and cover to keep warm. Use the time you have while the stock is reducing to prepare the remaining chowder ingredients. Transfer the stock to another vessel if, like me, you have only one 8 quart stock pot.
Step 3. Add Olive Oil to an 8 quart stock pot over medium heat and add Minced Ham sprinkled with just a pinch of Kosher Salt. Cook until browned and crispy then use a slotted spoon to remove Ham to a paper towel to drain. Reserve the Olive Oil in the pot.
Step 4. Add chopped Onion and Celery to hot Olive Oil in the same pot and sweat until the vegetables begin to release their moisture. Add White Wine and stir until almost all of the Wine evaporates.
Step 5. Add the 6 cups of warm stock and increase heat to bring to a slow boil. Add the Corn and continue to cook at a slow boil for 5 minutes. Add the Ham and bring back to the slow boil. Combine the Milk, Half & Half and Horseradish in a microwavable bowl and heat in the microwave until just beginning to release steam; don’t let this mixture boil.
Step 6. Add the heated Milk mixture to the stock pot then add the Potatoes with 1 teaspoon of Freshly Ground Black Pepper and return to the slow boil for 5 minutes.
Step 7. While the liquid is returning to a boil, melt the Butter in a sauté pan over medium heat and whisk in the flour to make a roux. Cook the roux until the flour and butter have thoroughly combined but do not let it brown.
Step 8. When the Potatoes are tender add the roux to the pot and stir until the chowder thickens. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Serve with a dollop of Sour Cream floating on top of the soup and sprinkle a bit of the crispy Minced Ham over the Sour Cream and the Chowder.
Tips and Trending
~ If you do not have a colander insert for your stock pot, just strain the solids from the stock through a mesh strainer before reducing the stock.
~ There are so many benefits to making your own stock and foremost is that you are using what would otherwise be wasted food. Getting used to saving “scraps”, by freezing them, takes a conscious effort if you’re not already doing so. Aside from the good stewardship points you get for more fully using up your food resources, making your own stock gives you complete control over the ingredients – no preservatives, natural or unnatural, no added sodium and made using your preferred herbs to taste.
~ When I make more stock than I will use in a recipe, I freeze the remainder in ice cube trays. I’ve got some trays that make fewer but larger cubes and each cube holds just about ¼ cup. Once the stock is frozen, I dump the cubes into a zippered freezer bag for use at a later time.
~ Need a way to make your own stock but don’t have the time to devote to it? Use a slow cooker. Just put all of the stock ingredients in the cooker using only 6 cups of water and cook on low for 10 hours either overnight or while you’re at work. Depending on your slow cooker, you may have to add more than 6 cups of water to make sure all of the other ingredients are covered. In that case you’ll still want to reduce the stock down to the required 6 cups for this recipe.
~ Here’s a tip to strip the kernels from an ear of sweet corn without mess. Place an angel food cake or bundt pan on your prep surface and stand the ear of corn with one end resting in the hole in the cake pan tube. Hold the tip of the ear with one hand and slice downward through the rows of kernels. The cob will guide your knife as you cut off the kernels and they will fall into the cake pan. No more corn kernels rolling all over the counter!
~ Chowders are usually accompanied by saltine crackers, but my preference with this Ham Chowder is warm bread with a crispy crust. With or without a slathering of butter, the bread does a better job of soaking up every last bit of tasty chowder!