It’s hard to beat the simplicity of peak-season corn straight from the cob with plenty of butter and salt, but when bumper crops roll around, corn chowder is another terrific way to celebrate the bounty. It’s also a cozy shoulder–season soup: Enjoy it as the heat of summer fades into a cooler autumn.
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When you really want to highlight the corn, too much dairy can be a mistake since it masks the sweet taste. The key to a soup with loads of fresh corn flavor, we have found, is to replace the heavy cream that’s typically used with a modest pour of half-and-half, along with what we like to call corn “milk.”
What Is Corn Milk?
Corn milk, made by scraping the pulp from denuded cobs and squeezing out its juice, is a golden liquid that’s packed with sweet corn goodness. In fact, corn milk has so much depth of flavor that the rest of your soup base can be made with water; the chicken broth that many recipes call for is unnecessary.
How to Make Corn Milk
Corn milk can bring sweet, fresh vibrancy to any recipe in which ultracorny flavor is desired. In addition to our corn chowder, we also use the sunny yellow liquid in our luxurious Corn Risotto.
- Use a chef’s knife or a corn stripper to cut the kernels from the corn; set the kernels aside. Then, holding the cobs over a bowl, use the back of a knife to scrape off the pulp.
- Transfer the pulp to a clean dish towel, wrap the towel tightly around the pulp, and squeeze it until the pulp is dry. Eight ears of corn will yield about ⅔ cup of sweet, golden corn milk.
Consider a Corn Stripper
Cutting corn off the cob can be a pain. The process is often messy, scattering kernels everywhere but the bowl or cutting board you’ve placed under the corn. It can also be slightly dangerous—many of us worry about our knives slipping as they slice through the juicy corn. Enter corn strippers.
Our favorite model, the RSVP International Deluxe Corn Stripper, does a good job of stripping corn kernels from most cobs, thanks to two sets of plastic prongs that help center the corn for more even, efficient cutting. And it does a great job of containing the mess, neatly holding the cut corn and preventing any corn spray from getting out.
What About Homemade Corn Broth?
We tried simmering stripped cobs and husks in water to make a simple broth, but this approach didn’t produce anything better than chowder made with plain water. For real depth of flavor, you’re better off milking the corn cobs and incorporating the juice in the chowder.
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How to Make Corn Chowder
Once you’ve milked your corn, it’s easy to put together a fresh corn chowder that’s deeply flavorful but not too rich.
- Start by sautéing diced bacon and onion in butter along with a little minced fresh thyme to give the soup base a sweet, lightly herbal smokiness.
- Stir in some flour—this will give the broth body—and let it cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add water along with the stripped corn kernels and a few diced red potatoes and let it all simmer until the potatoes are tender.
- For additional body, process some of the chowder in a blender until it’s smooth, then return the puree to the chowder.
- Pour in some half-and-half and return the soup to a gentle simmer.
- Stir in the corn juice off heat to preserve its fresh, sweet taste.
- Season with salt, pepper, and sugar and garnish with fresh basil.