Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sweet Corn Relish and Corn Chowder

We love corn 'round these parts and since corn is just now hitting the stands at the farmers' markets, we've been indulging ourselves. Today we made Sweet Corn Relish. I found a recipe, Blue-Ribbon Corn Relish, in magazine entitled Canning (creative name, eh?) and made some changes.

Sweet Corn Relish

8 cups of fresh corn (approx. 8-10 ears)
2 cups water
3 cups chopped celery (3 or 4 stalks)
2 medium sweet red peppers, chopped
2 medium green peppers, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 tsp. dry mustard
2 tsp. pickling salt
2 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. ground turmeric
3 tsp. cornstarch
3 Tbs. water

The first step in this awesome relish is to remove the husks from your corn. We actually love to use these husks and silk in our sheet composting ventures. Right now these very same greens, pictured above, are layered in among other compostables and newspaper beneath my Sumatrian Plum tree. Wash your corn and scrub with a veggie brush to remove all the silks still attached to the corn.

After washing said corn, remove the kernels from the cob. Place kernels along with 2 cups of water in a large stock pot. Add 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Once the water reaches a roiling boil, lower temperature and cover. Simmer for a few minutes until corn is almost tender. Drain and return to your massive stock pot.

Chop your celery, peppers and onions; add to corn. At this time you'll also want to add the turmeric, celery seed, pickling salt, sugar, mustard and vinegar. Simmer, sans lid, for 5 minutes or so. Stir occasionally.

While your veggie concoction is simmering away on the stove, mix together in a small bowl, the cornstarch and 3 tablespoons of water. Stir the starchy water into your veggies and cook and stir and cook and stir and so on for a handful of moments until it's slightly thickened and bubbling.

Scoop your Sweet Corn Relish into hot, sterilized pint jars that have been patiently waiting in the oven. Leave a 1/2 inch head space. Wipe the jar rims and place your lids. Process your jars in a hot water bath. They need to be boiled for 15 minutes. When your 15 minutes is up, place jars on a wire drying rack or whatnot until they're cool. This recipe makes 6 pints with a little left over for some after-canning snackings.

Sweet Corn Relish is not only tasty but beautiful in the jar. This makes a great gift partnered with a bag of homemade tortilla chips or a loaf of fresh bread coupled with a local pilsner or sun tea.

One of my favorite soups in the whole world, Fresh Corn Chowder, requires almost the exact same ingredients as the Sweet Corn Relish. I found this recipe years ago in The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Other Timeless Delicacies by Mollie Katzen, the author of the Moosewood Cookbook. Depending on the time of year, whether or not I'm forced to use frozen corn or fresh or if I've forgotten to pick up a certain ingredient at the market, this recipe can be extremely flexible and always tastes stunning.

Fresh Corn Chowder

2 Tbs. fresh butter
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 minced celery
1 sweet red bell pepper, minced
4 cups fresh sweet corn (approx. 4-5 ears)
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 cup stock or water
1 cup evaporated milk (or regular milk)

Like the previous recipe, begin with getting the corn buck naked. Make sure that there's no silk left on the corn before you cut the corn off the cob. Many a time we've been lazy and neglected to de-silk the corn properly and have paid the price while eating later. Silks get stuck in your teeth and don't have the best texture for soup. Place naked, de-cobbed corn in a bowl and set it aside for later incorporation.

In a medium sized sauce pan, saute the chopped onion in the butter. Cook the onion to a beautiful, buttery translucence. Add minced celery. Cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Then add chopped peppers and corn.

Seasoning time! Reduce heat slightly and add seasonings; stir well and cover. Let her cook for another 5 minutes or so until all the veggies are slightly soft and the flavors are meshing well.

Add stock. We like to use our own chicken stock, from our own chickens, and haven't ever used anything else. Thus said, my preference is to use chicken stock. You can use vegetable stock if you're not into the meat thing or water works as well.

Simmer for about 10 minutes. Using a blender or food processor, puree about half of the soup's solids in its own liquid. Add the yellow goo back to your soup and simmer again.

About 10 minutes before you plan to serve, lower the temperature to medium-low and add the evaporated milk. Raise the heat slowly, gently, to eating temperature. Do not bring to a boil as scorched evaporated milk does not taste very good.

Dig in! This soup is great paired with a light salad on a warm summer evening.