I started with my mom's recipe for Ham and Potato Soup, and we've changed it so much over the years that it has transformed into a completely different recipe from my mom's recipe, becoming more of a chowder than a thin soup. And we really like it now. I sometimes top each serving with garlic croutons when I have them, but I usually serve it with Italian rolls or light sandwiches. It goes together quickly, and it's a really delicious chowder that's perfect for those chilly evenings when hot soup is so appetizing and comforting.
Cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towel; set aside.
Melt butter in a stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, 2-3 minutes or until onions are clear. Stir in corn and thyme, and cook 1-2 minutes.
Add flour and whisk until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk and cook, whisking constantly, about 1-2 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Stir in potatoes. Bring to a low boil, and then reduce heat to low and let simmer 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in ham, salt, pepper, cheese, and more milk (if needed to reach desired consistency), and cook 2-3 minutes more or until ham and any added milk are thoroughly heated.
Serve hot, and garnish servings with crisp bacon pieces and garlic croutons (if using).