Lo and behold, another national food holiday just made for northeast Floridians.
Get your stock to pots ready.
National Clam Chowder Day is today.
Let yourself be a chowder head
First, a history lesson:
Purportedly an Americanism coined between 1735 and 1745, the word chowder comes from the French chaudière (pot or kettle).
In the 16th century, North American Indians developed a cuisine very close to what we know as chowder.
In truth, people have been making dishes like modern-day chowders since at least Roman times, when classical cooks wrote recipes for caldāria, stews prepared in cauldrons.
Over time shellfish has replaced other kinds of seafood as the principal ingredient many of the most popular chowders.
Know your clam chowder trivia
- The distinguishing factor among clam chowders is the color of the stock – white, red, or clear.
- It’s perfectly legal to serve clam chowders in bread bowls and with soda crackers, but you’ll want to use good old oyster crackers.
- Most types of edible clams work in chowders, including quahogs (usually eaten raw or in chowders), littlenecks (a small species of quahogs), cherrystones (named for Cherrystone Creak, Va.), pismo clams (discovered on Pismo Beach, Calif.), butter calms (from the Puget Sound in the northwest, known as money clams), longnecks (cold water clams found in the Atlantic north of Cape Hatteras and north of San Francisco in the Pacific), manila clams (also littlenecks, originally from Asian waters), razor clams (shaped like straight-razors and common in Florida waters as well as in the Pacific) and geoduck, pronounced goo-ee-duhk, clams (giant clams from the Pacific northwest that can weigh over five pounds.)
- The most common styles of clam chowders made in the US are: Minorcan using datil pepper developed in St. Augustine, Fla., New England, Delware, Rhode Island, Manhattan, New Jersey Hatteras.
- By the 1800s, chowder became a staple up and down the Eastern Seaboard in the United States.
- Tomato-based clam chowder, like Manhattan style, developed during the mid 1800s because of the large Italian population in New York City and the Portuguese fishing villages in Rhode Island.
- Manhattan-style chowder was first served under the names “Coney Island Clam Chowder” or “Fulton Market Clam Chowder” as early as 1890s. This style of chowder became known as “Manhattan style” by the 1930s.
- Regarded as a politically-correct Friday meat substitute for Catholics, in the US, clam chowder is a tradition during Lent.
Eat clam chowder for your health
Good news – in addition to being so very yummy, most clam chowders are actually very good for you.
Here are Your Examiner’s recipes for the two most popular clam chowders
New England Clam Chowder
- Bacon to taste, cooked and minced
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 medium potato, peeled and diced
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
- 4 dozen fresh clams, shelled and save the liquid
- 2 cups clam stock
- 2 cups milk, cream or half-and-half
- 2-3 oz. dry vermouth
- Sea salt
- Cracked black pepper
- Fresh chives, minced
- Parmesan cheese grated
- Red pepper flakes
- Oyster crackers
- It’s so easy to make, and not just because chowder is a one-pot dish.
- Start by rendering your bacon in a little olive oil in your stock pot or Dutch oven. Leave the bacon pieces in the fat or set them out on paper towels and used them to garnish the finished chowder.
- Add cracked black pepper, diced onions and potatoes to the hot fat and sauté over low heat until the onions are translucent, 10-15 minutes.
- Stir in the fresh garlic and sauté another 2-3 minutes.
- Add vermouth, clam stock and milk, then bring to a very low boil. Be very careful not to burn the milk. Scalding the milk, however, adds a very interesting flavor.
- If you want to lower the fat in your chowder, use 2% cow’s milk, low-fat cream or fat-free hand and half.
- Wait until the stock is boiling to add the clams. Do yourself a favor and leave them in the shell. This catches all the liquid, also called liquor, for even more clam flavor and adds sexy visuals to the finished chowder.
- Clams take about 10 minutes to cook and open. By then the potatoes should be fork tender.
- Throw away any clams that don’t open. They died before they made it to the pot.
- Before you add any salt, taste the stock. Between the clam stock, the bacon and the clams themselves, you may not need any.
Park you chowder in some nice big bowls and garnish – grated parmesan and a dash of cracked black pepper or crushed red pepper flakes, chives and oyster crackers on the side.
Manhattan Clam Chowder
Manhattan Clam Chowder is just as easy to make with three different ingredients.
The biggest change?
Instead of milk, use V-8®, Clamato®, just plain tomato juice or canned tomatoes.
- 2 cups V-8® Spicy Vegetable Juice, low sodium
- 1 medium carrot, minced
- 1 stalk fresh celery, minced, or celery seed
Otherwise, the instructions for preparing the chowder are exactly the same as for New England clam chowder.
Pair your chowder with a good beer – light to amber for New England chowders and a nice dark like Turbodog® or a stout for Manhattan.
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OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years, most recently in Texas and knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pig puts some pizzazz in clam chowder
The secret to a really savory chowder is that hint of smoke that comes from bacon. Too dull? Try pancetta – Italian-style bacon – or prosciutto for a sexier, saltier flavor profile.
You can’t have too many clams
Fresh clams like these quahogs are essential to getting the most out of your chowder. If you can’t get good ones, used canned clams and make sure to buy some extra clam stock.
It’s a matter of taste
Spanish or yellow onions give chowder a mellow sweetness that’s very soothing. For a more peppery flavor, use white onions. Russet potatoes or good, old bakers make great chowder and thicken it without adding flour or corn starch. Skins on or off, it’s up to you.
Treat yourself to good cheese
Parmesan isn’t just for spaghetti. The nutty flavor of good parmesan is a great complement to the smoking, smooth flavor of chowder. The bad news? It’s on the expensive side. The good news is that you won’t need very much. About $5 of grated cheese goes a long way.
Don’t spare the oyster crackers
Oyster crackers, very like hard tack or ship’s crackers, are like bacon. Chowder goes even better with them. Some form of crispy cracker has been used to fortify chowders and diners for centuries. Southerners will enjoy soda crackers, too.