Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Shaker Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...We spent a day at Canterbury Village while we vacationed in New Hampshire this summer. The village, at its height, was a large and successful Shaker community. While politics, philosophy and religion are difficult to fit within the confines of a food blog, the Shakers and the food that came from their kitchens is fair game, at least as far as I'm concerned. While I took in all of the exhibits and demonstrations, I spent most of my day in the kitchens and laundry of the village. I was fascinated by all the community endeavors, but as my family and co-workers will attest, I ride brooms, I don't make them. I belonged in the kitchen. The kitchens, which at one time fed 300 people, were compact and models of Shaker skill and ingenuity. For readers across the ponds, be they east or west, the Shakers were a communal religious group whose radical interpretation of equality led to their growth in the 19th century and their demise in the 20th. They believed that men and women were children of God, brothers and sisters if you will, and that all God's children should be treated equally. An extention of that belief caused the communities they established to be celibate because in their view, brothers and sisters should not cohabitate. While that belief would eventually lead to their demise, it was not an impediment to followers who joined the communities during the 19th century. The Shakers, so named because expressive dance was part of their religious services, were known for their industry, invention and good works. They actually established the first orphanages in the United States. Shaker kitchens were also models of efficiency and small changes made to a handful of base recipes led to their reputations as great cooks. Soups and chowders were regularly served at meals in their communal dining halls, and today's featured chowder shows how their recipes can be manipulated. Brown sugar and sweet potatoes are added to a basic Shaker dish. The result is wonderful, if you are cautious. I'm going to suggest that you cut way back on the amount of sugar added to the chowder. I used just one tablespoon and was happy with the results. It is also important to drain away the bacon fat before adding stock to the pot. The goal here is flavor not grease. While this chowder is chock-full of goodies, it has a thin base. If you want a thicker chowder you'll have to add flour or cornstarch to the broth. While their is some chopping involved, the chowder can still be on the table within an hour and I must tell you, it is delicious. I do hope you'll give the recipe a try. Here's how the chowder is made.

Shaker Sweet Potato and Fresh Corn Chowder
...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of The Shaker Kitchen by Jeffrey Paige

1/2 pound smoked slab bacon, diced
1-1/2 pounds red bliss potatoes, scrubbed
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
2 bay leaves
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced (1/4-inch dice)
4-5 cups chicken stock, or to cover
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, cooked until just tender
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1) Fry bacon in a large soup pot set over medium heat just until it starts to crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, quarter and slice red potatoes about 1/4-inch thick. Add onions and bay leaves to bacon, and cook until onions are translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Carefully drain off bacon grease and discard.
2) Add sweet and red potatoes to soup pot, add enough stock to cover potatoes, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add brown sugar, corn, parsley, scallions, and cream, and cook until heated through, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

One Year Ago Today: Rhubarb Coffee Cake with Cinnamon-Sugar Topping

Two Years Ago Today: Glazed Ham Loaf

Three Years Ago Today: Whole Wheat Olive Flat Bread


Susan Lindquist said...

Isn't it amazing the twist that this corn chowder has ... I visited Hancock Shaker Village a couple years ago and was so intrigued by their lifestyle and creativity ... bet you had a wonderful day at Canterbury!

Kim said...

I did'nt know a lot about Shaker's community, thanks to you I learned a bit. And this chowder looks amazing. Think I'm gonna try it since they practicly gives corn these days!!!

Alicia said...

Hi Mary! It's been a while since I've visited your blog, but I'm back! What a great chowder. I love when you can mix sweet and savory together. Can't wait for summer to end and fall to roll around so I can start enjoying soups and chowders again. Interesting story about the Shakers.

Unknown said...

I've always found the study of Shakers to be interesting. I was actually surprised, recently, when I found out there were still members out there. I think I read it was only like 10 or something low like that! Very interesting.
The chowder looks fantastic, Mary! And I'm not usually one to think corn chowder looks good :)

Tricia Buice said...

This chowder sounds perfect. Corn and potatoes - oh my! Yes please. It is just beautiful.

Ana Regalado said...

Very interesting tidbits about the Shakers !....Delicious indeed ! The thick bacon sounds really good in this dish !

Joanne said...

I love the sweet and salty aspects of this dish!

From the Kitchen said...

This sounds like an excellent way to showcase some of the corn that I froze earlier this month. Ideally when the winter winds blow.


StephenC said...

We probably have the better part of a full month before we can hope for a drift toward fall weather. While I'm not wishing summer away, I will be very ready for chowders and stews as things cool down.

Angie's Recipes said...

It looks very tasty. Sweet potatoes must have added extra sweetness and flavour to the chowder.

teresa said...

what a fun trip! i bet you learned a lot! this chowder sounds amazing!

Sue/the view from great island said...

I can't believe in all the years I've spent in New Hampshire I never visited Canterbury Village. This recipe sounds wonderful, I love thin broth chowders, and the bacon and brown sugar sounds very enticing!

Ellen B Cookery said...

I have a love for soups of all kinds and must say this chowder looks so delicious that it's making me drool!

Pam said...

Interesting with the Shakers. I've never made corn chowder and think it's about time I try it when the weather cools off. Thanks and have a good day!

Donalyn said...

Mmmm -how beautiful that looks! Plenty of time to give it a try before the garden runs out too - thanks for a great recipe!

Blond Duck said...

I'm obsessed with sweet potatoes right now.

Astra Libris said...

What a fascinating history! Thank you!

Eileen said...

This sounds really good. Something new to try this fall. :)

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