Corn chowder is so much an American favorite today we tend to forget that it originally was a Native-American recipe. What happened with corn chowder, as with such other native recipes as succotash, Brunswick stew, burgoo and “Boston” baked beans, is that early colonists, and later pioneer families moving west with the wagon trains, took the native foods and added their own touches. Indian corn chowder, for example, was simply parched corn stewed in water with perhaps a dab of boar grease and, when available, a handful of wild onions. Frontier women of the plains who had milk cows and hogs began preparing the chowder with top milk and salt pork. And thus emerged the corn chowder we relish today. Serves six.
8 medium-sized ears sweet corn, husked
1/4 lb. salt pork, cut in fine dice
2 medium-sized onions, peeled and chopped
2 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. paprika
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 cup water
2 cups milk
2 cups light cream
V.S.P. Cut the kernels of corn from the cobs cream-style (to do so, make a deep cut down the center of each row of kernels with a sharp knife, then, using a knife, scrape the corn pulp and milk into a large bowl). Fry the salt pork in a large, heavy skillet until most of the drippings have cooked out and only the brown crispy bits remain: lift the salt pork from the skillet with a slotted spoon to paper toweling to drain. Pour all but 3 tablespoons of the drippings from the skillet: add the onions and potatoes and sauté slowly until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add sugar, paprika, salt, pepper and water. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add corn, milk, cream and browned salt pork, adjust heat so mixture bubbles gently, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Do not allow to boil. Ladle into soup plates and serve with crackers.