Autumn Chowder in Winter

Autumn Chowder 1 - offbeat + inspired

There are certain recipes that are about more than food. They’re scribbled on note cards or written in cookbooks splattered with grease and cake batter. Adjustments and variations have been carefully and thoughtfully squeezed into the margins. They’re the recipes passed between families – from generation to generation, from mother to daughter.

This is one of those recipes – but it’s one that I dare not edit. There’s no tweaking, no adjusting, no making this one my own. It just wouldn’t be the same if I did.

To be honest, I’ve been avoiding sharing this recipe because it’s so near and dear to my heart. Its sounds silly, doesn’t it? It’s just a recipe. But this one more than any others in my repertoire reminds me of my mom.

Autumn Chowder 6 - offbeat + inspired

Autumn Chowder 3 - offbeat + inspired

It wasn’t fall until Mom made Autumn Chowder. It’s as though the leaves changing signaled it was time to start frying bacon, sauteing onions and chopping carrots. This wasn’t a special occasion dish – just one of Mom’s many great weeknight meals.

Since she passed away about a year ago, I’ve gone through many of the “firsts” – first Mother’s Day, birthdays, my parents’ anniversary, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Much to my surprise, the “First Making of Autumn Chowder” was nearly as emotional as any holiday.

This is just one of those recipes. I can’t even explain it – but maybe you know what I mean. Making this without her isn’t really the same. I’ve made this as an adult plenty of times, but I always knew I could call and say, “Hey Mom, guess what I made today? Autumn Chowder!” Or I’d have to call to ask why the cheese wasn’t melting properly or how long it’d take for the potatoes to soften.

Autumn Chowder 2 - offbeat + inspired

Autumn Chowder 8 - offbeat + inspired

Her absence hits me most when I’m cooking. But please don’t misunderstand; I’m not complaining. I’m simply attempting to express what this dish means to me. It symbolizes my family coming together around the dinner table on a crisp fall or winter night. I can see my mom standing over that massive soup pot making a double batch of this decadent soup, ready to feed the family and any guests we had over the house.

When I made Autumn Chowder for the first time this year, I used that big soup pot – the one she always used while I was growing up. Even though it’s only my husband and me in our house, that huge pot reminds me to make a double batch, to have family and friends over, to bring some to the neighbors, to practice hospitality – just like Mom did.

Although autumn has ended and winter is in full swing, this chowder remains a staple in my home during any cold-weather month (and in Chicago we have a lot of those). It’s a recipe that will remain unchanged as I pass it along to my children, hoping that in a small way they’ll know a bit about the wonderful mother who passed it along to me.

Autumn Chowder 9 - offbeat + inspired

Autumn Chowder 7 - offbeat + inspired

Autumn Chowder 5 - offbeat + inspired

Autumn Chowder
Yields approximately 8 servings

1 lb. bacon
1 large onion
2 1/2 lbs potatoes
1 lb carrots
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 cup water
2 cans whole kernel corn (drained)
4 cups milk
12 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup flour

1. Dice the bacon, onion, potatoes and carrots.

2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, fry the bacon pieces until they’re almost cooked through. Drain off some of the fat. Add the diced onion and cook until the onions are tender and bacon is crisp.

3. Stir in the bouillon cubes, water, potatoes, carrots and corn to the pot. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

4. While the vegetables are cooking, in a medium bowl mix the cheese and flour so that the cheese is evenly coated. Set aside.

5. Turn heat on the chowder to low and slowly add the milk. Stir consistently until the milk is heated through (do not boil!).

6. Slowly add the cheese/flour mixture. Stir until the cheese is fully incorporated and the chowder is heated through. Serve and enjoy!

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Comments

  1. Jennifer Langford says:

    Beautiful……

  2. lizzie says:

    This looks just the thing for a snowy night………making it right now !

  3. meds says:

    a lovely, heartwarming chowder.

    I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your mother. I understand, even as this makes the 3rd year that my mother left us. Every time I step into the kitchen, I think of her sitting at the table preparing food for the family. We will always have these sweet memories even if they make us sad for our loss of time. Let’s make meals with their love :)

  4. This is so so lovely…xx

  5. Colson says:

    whats a guy gotta do to get more pictures of bacon?

  6. I could see your Mom too standing at the stove making sure everyone had enough to eat! Your story reminded me how much I missed my Mom when I made her Christmas cookies this year for the first time. There was no one to call to ask if I “was doing it right.”

  7. Stacy May says:

    So touching Sarah. Thank you for sharing. I have this recipe from your family and think of Char every time I make it. She is thought of and loved in so many homes and hearts. And beautiful photography too!

    P.S. I really want to be able to like Colson’s comment.

  8. I’m sorry, friend. I could feel the emotion while reading your beautiful story. Making this ASAP (this Chicago winter is no joke), and giving my mom a call just to say hi.

  9. Beth P says:

    I too felt the emotion as you wrote through your post and the recipe your Mom made! I feel honored to add it to my repertoire of recipes and I will now always remember this loving story you shared of a Mom, a daughter and a family!
    Hugs,
    Beth P

  10. Lora Sue says:

    I immediately copied and pasted this into my recipe folder. Thanks for sharing about your mom. She was truly special!

  11. Kristen Berry says:

    Your mother was a truly amazing and inspiring woman! And a great chef-we always loved her cooking over at the Berry’s house. I look forward to making this recipe in the very near future, it looks delicious!

  12. eole says:

    <3

  13. Peggy says:

    Sarah,
    I know I am a little late but I want to say thank you so very much for sharing a bit of your mother with us! I loved everything you said! We are having this for dinner AGAIN, tonight! (had to use red onion as it was the only onion i had left… note to self pay more attention!!)

    Have a wonderful evening! Stay warm!!

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