It’s been a John Thorne weekend again. First, I cracked open a cloth sack of artisanal grits from a new (to me) producer, Nora Mill Granary in Helen, Georgia. I had been using Anson Mills grits, and am looking forward to doing an A-B shortly. (Yes, that is an original Sprague Tel-Ohmike capacitor bridge in the background of the photo.) While on the Nora Mills site I took the opportunity to order a jar of old-fashioned candy sticks and a jar of their homemade chow-chow. The grits are almost ready; I’ll be eating these shortly:
Secondly, I fulfilled a long-held ambition and made corn chowder last night. The section on chowders in Serious Pig is just as long and in-depth as the section on chili (which is what got me food blogging in the first place). The absolutely key ingredient for any chowder is salt pork, which is fatty pork meat that has been brined (so it’s similar to corned beef). Ideally you get salt pork belly, but this is a very New England ingredient and is tough to find in New York City, so I had to make do with salt pork from fatback. I could use more lean, frankly. The second thing to know is that real chowder is not thickened – any body comes from the crumbling edges of potatoes cut “thick-thin” (like small axe-heads). Milk – not cream – is used. No corn starch of any kind! Thorne’s philosophy exactly resembles that employed by the great Maine chowder makers I’ve encountered, of which the king is the Maine Diner in Wells, ME. Any trip to Maine should include a stop at this place for their fish chowder.
I made the corn chowder with canned corn, a favorite of my childhood. And it was good, but it tasted of, well, canned corn. Next time I’m going to use fresh corn (though it pains me not to just boil it, which is all that really fresh corn demands). In this recipe, after scraping off the grains, you boil the cobs in the water that will be used for the potatoes… naturally I was unable to do that with the canned version. Look for an update on this, sometime.