Cheesy Ham and Potato Chowder

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The children who love to watch the eggs hatch in the incubator at Saratoga Springs Public Library each spring might like to know that the eggs are local: they come from the Gifford family’s farm in Gansevoort.

Each Wednesday afternoon at Saratoga Farmers’ Market, Linda Gifford sells eggs, vegetables, fresh flowers, and seasonal decorative items. At this time of year, her stand is ablaze with color, with the last of summer’s pink and red zinnias mingling with golden sunflowers, orange pumpkins, and multi-colored, ornamental corn.

The farm doesn’t attend the weekend Saturday market in Saratoga, since she’s selling up in Glens Falls that day. “We sell at seven local markets a week, all in towns fairly close to our farm,” she notes.

She and her husband, Bill, and their two grown daughters keep busy on a large farm, with not only the products she brings to Saratoga Farmers’ Market, but also 150-200 dairy cows and about 150 chickens.

In addition to the farm’s sale of fresh eggs, “We provide fertile eggs to area schools and organizations that want to watch them hatch,” explains Gifford. The farm’s milk is sold to Agri-Mark, a dairy cooperative.

“We have eight children, six boys and two girls. The girls have chosen to stay on the farm,” notes Gifford. “This is where my husband was raised, so it’s been our family’s farm for a long time. We are the last farm operating in the town of Gansevoort.”

“We have sixteen grandchildren (with one on the way), and three great-grandchildren,” Gifford says. “We’re hoping that some of our grandkids will become farmers.”

When asked about a favorite recipe, Linda Gifford observes that the farm is a busy place, with lots of family and farm helpers coming and going. Her Cheesy Ham and Potato Chowder is a favorite with everyone. “I never have any left when I make this recipe,” she says with a laugh.

Cheesy Ham and Potato Chowder

Ingredients

  • 6 medium potatoes*, peeled and diced
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup chopped onion*
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 6 cups milk*
  • 1 1/2 cups Sharp Cheddar cheese*, grated
  • 2 cups chopped ham*
  • pepper to taste

*Items can be purchased at Saratoga Farmers’ Market

Preparation

In large kettle, boil water; add potatoes and cook until tender. Drain; reserve 2 cups of liquid.

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté chopped onion in the melted butter until soft. Add flour to butter and onion mixture; stir until smooth. Cook for 1 minute.

Slowly add potatoes, reserved cooking liquid, and 6 cups of milk. Stir well; add cheese and ham.

Simmer chowder over low heat, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes. Season with pepper. (No salt needed, as the chowder gets plenty from the cheese and ham.)