Fall Frolic and a Warming Ham, Potato and Cabbage “Chowder”

chowder2On a whim, husband and I decided to take a day trip to the mountains last Saturday for some much needed R&R and a romantic picnic. We hadn’t taken a day for just the two of us to get away and relax since, well, you know the story. This was a restoration of the soul!

And though I think the leaves had just peaked, it was a stunning day in the the North Georgia Mountains, and a day filled with contrasts. There was still lots of beautiful color, and our day started off sunny and in the low 60’s with a gentle cool breeze blowing. You’ve seen my posts before on Wolf Mountain Vineyards and Lake Winfield Scott…both located within a 40 mile or so radius of the Dahlonega area of North Georgia. We started off with a stop at Wolf Mountain Vineyards, then headed to Lake Winfield Scott for our picnic, where we had last been on a lazy summer day in early June. Imagine our surprise as a huge and unpredicted cloud came up, the temperature dropped about 15 to 20 degrees, and it started sleeting on us! We ran back to the car, and headed to Frogtown Cellars, another North Georgia vineyard, about 15 miles away. By the time we arrived there it was sunny again and a bit cooler. Such is the Fall climate of the southern Appalachian mountains! Our last stop was in the little town of Dahlonega itself, sweet but a little touristy.

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We are blessed to be so close to the mountains that one can do all of this easily in a day trip—even this time of year when the days are shorter—and be back home in the city just in time to enjoy a warming, hearty and rich chowder for dinner to take the chill off.

The chowder was inspired by a soup that my mom served us on our last visit to see her—a creamy cabbage soup. To be honest, cooked cabbage isn’t one of my most favorite things and the idea of a creamed soup with cabbage doesn’t get my juices flowing, so I was a bit skeptical about this soup until I tasted it…and it was absolutely delicious! It featured lovely chunks of ham, cabbage and other vegetables in a rich cream broth. I procured the recipe from Mom and brought it home…and then promptly lost it somewhere in the house! But I could remember the tastes—the cabbage and ham of course, plus thyme and maybe onion, some celery and carrot. I headed for the store, decided that leeks and potatoes would be a good addition and headed home.

This “chowder” is my result. I did later find the recipe for the soup, but am quite pleased with my version which is thicker and even heartier with the added potatoes than the original was, and reminds me of a chowder and hence its name. Thanks for the inspiration, Mom! We’ve decided this is a new favorite and I will be making it again this winter for sure. It freezes well, too, which is always a bonus.

Absolutely delicious. You really have to taste it to believe just how good it is!

Absolutely delicious. You really have to taste it to believe just how good it is!

Ham, Potato and Cabbage Chowder
Makes 8 hearty servings

3 small leeks, cleaned and diced, white and light green parts only (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 stalks celery diced, about 1 cup
2 medium carrots peeled and diced, about 1 cup
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 medium head of green cabbage, trimmed and shredded
2 medium Idaho potatoes (or Yukon gold), cleaned and diced with skins on (about 3 cups)
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons flour
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk (whole, 2% or lowfat is fine)
1 lb. fully cooked ham, cubed (I used uncured slow cooked), about 3 cups
1 generous Tablespoon fresh chopped thyme leaves

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the leeks, celery and carrot, 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Sauté the vegetables until they are just tender, about 5 minutes, then add the chicken broth, cabbage and potato to the pot. Bring the vegetables and stock to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and cook until the potatoes are done, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the vegetables are cooking, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter over low heat in a large saucepan or skillet with deep sides. Add the 3 tablespoons of flour and stir until well blended and no lumps remain, about 1 minute. Slowly add the milk and cream to the butter and flour mixture stirring constantly until well blended, then cook the mixture over low heat until it is thickened. When the potatoes are done in the vegetable mixture, add the thickened cream sauce to the large soup pot and stir to combine. Add the ham, the remaining 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt, black pepper and thyme, and stir well to combine. Allow everything to heat through and meld together, about 3-5 minutes more on low heat, taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed, then serve in bowls, garnishing with additional thyme sprigs, if desired.

Our Halloween "Punkitty" and the two kitties that inspire are below!

Our Halloween “Punkitty” and the two kitties that inspire are below!



32 thoughts on “Fall Frolic and a Warming Ham, Potato and Cabbage “Chowder”

  1. Love this…. I’m glad you were able to take a day and relax. 🙂 Your photos are so beautiful..
    The chowder looks amazing…we are a true soup and chowder family, so I’m definitely printing it and adding it to my list of soups to try…. thank you for sharing! ❤


    • Hi BBB, and thank you so much for your kind comments. 🙂 I can’t take too much credit for the photos of North Georgia…it’s just a beautiful place! I do hope you’ll try the chowder and let me know if you like it as much as we do. I never thought I could like cabbage this much!


  2. Aww…now that is what I DO miss about Georgia!! Gorgeous fall foliage, mountain views….what a wonderful afternoon you had with your hubby! And also to come home to warming chowder, sounds so comforting! I have to “imagine” cold weather here when I make warming dishes like this!!


    • I know, I think the mountains are one of the best parts of living in Georgia. 🙂 Sometimes we “imagine” being on the coast when we’re sitting on our deck ;), so I know just what you mean about that part! So glad you like the chowder, Linda.


  3. What great pictures Betsy, and such a nice time of year to regenerate the soul and a bonus of a romantic drive! Too bad about the weather, that was a drastic drop in temperatures. That chowder would hit the spot for us too, but I would change out the 2 cups of cream to buttermilk which is also very creamy but much lower in fat. Thanks for taking us along your lovely trip.


    • Thanks, Eva. I know, this is a rich chowder and the cream does add some fat to be sure, but when it is spread out over all those veggies and 6 cups of broth for so many servings, I don’t think it’s too bad. Plus, I rarely use cream so this is a special treat. Subbing buttermilk might work and I use it for a thousand things, but it would be a whole different flavor profile and the tanginess of it would add to the sour aspect of the cooked cabbage I should think. Different but probably tasty. Let me know if you try it!


  4. Love this soup and I especially love the use of cabbage. Always looking for a good way to use cabbage. 🙂 Hope all is grand in your neck of the woods! I think about you often, just don’t get to blog browse as much as I’d like. 😦 Hugs to ya!


    • Hi Karista and it’s so nice to “see” you here again. Thanks for your great comments and I know what you mean about being more limited in blogging and browsing of late. Things are much better here now that the house is done. I think this really is a great way to use cabbage in the winter. A treat, for sure. 🙂


  5. You did a great job on both the recipe & the photo of the chowder. And I love your new fall photo at the very top! We used to grow cabbages when we had the farm in Quebec. And I used to think the same way about eating cabbage in a soup – but, as we know both know, it’s delicious. I think the key is not to ‘cook the hell out of it’ like my mother used to do. Glad you had a great ‘get away’. I’m going to head up to the Berkshires soon – just for overnight.


  6. I just love all of your photos! The mountains are always beautiful this time of year, especially in the south. The chowder looks just delicious and you plated it beautifully. Love the “punkitty” too…I’ve promised my boys that I will get a little more daring in my pumpkin carving (like straying from my fave “triangle-shaped eyes!”).


    • Hi Allison and thank you so much! This was a rare time when we actually caught good color on the trees up there. Usually we are too early or too late. And thanks also for your plating compliment…most appreciated. 🙂 My cats would never forgive me if they didn’t have some sort of a pumpkin tribute.


  7. Love everything about this soup. I did not grow celery but have celeriac growing in the garden and I think would make a great substitute. Making a big pot when I kids come home for the holidays.
    Beautiful photos and gorgeous scenery. Thanks for the tour.


    • I think celeriac would be a fine substitute, too, Norma and I’m thrilled to bits that you like the looks of this chowder. Do let me know if you enjoy it as much as we did. You’re most welcome for the tour and thanks for your lovely comments. 🙂


  8. What a lovely and well deserved day you had! I love the sound of this warming, hearty soup. We really enjoy filling soups like this at the end of a long hard day of work – I often make a simialr one but without the cream, I think this would take it to another level and I’ll be making it this week!


    • Ooooh, I hope you love, it Tanya! The cream really does take it to another level…far beyond what I would have imagined, in fact. It would be perfect to have another batch right now as we are going down to 28 here tonight in the sunny South…windchill of 19. Quite an early hard freeze for us! Hope your reno is going well. I need to pop over and see for myself! 🙂


  9. Pingback: Part Three: Chilis, Chowders and Some Extra Ideas for Enjoying Them. | bits and breadcrumbs

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