DYK: Clam Chowder
The internet is full of fabulous facts about everything from current events to the history basket weaving. Because of this, as we research for our daily content on food trucks, food carts and street food, we stumble upon some items of knowledge that we just did not know. We have decided when these fun facts pop up, that we would share them with our readers in our section titled “Did You Know?”
For today’s Did You Know fun food facts we will look at Clam Chowder.
The Facts: Clam chowder is any of several chowders containing clams and broth. Along with the clams, diced potato is common, as are onions, which are occasionally sauteed in the drippings from salt pork or bacon. Celery is frequently used. Other vegetables are uncommon, but small carrot strips might occasionally be added, primarily for color. A garnish of parsley serves the same purpose. Bay leaves are also sometimes used as a garnish and flavoring. It is believed that clams were added to chowder because of their relative ease to collect.
- Fish chowders were the forerunners of clam chowder. The chowders originally made by the early settlers differed from other fish soups because they used salt pork and ship’s biscuits.
- In 1832 newspaperwoman, novelist, and ardent advocate of women’s rights, Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880) published her cookbook called The American Frugal Housewife. She described the standard layering technique of chowder-making, but also suggested additional ingredients such as lemons, beer, tomato catsup, and the first written directions to add clams.
- Clams and oysters were consumed in such quantities along the Atlantic coast by the American Indians that, in some favorable gathering-places, empty shells were piled into mounds ten feet high.
- January 21st is National New England Clam Chowder Day.
- New England clam chowder shares the number one spot of most served soups in the United States with chicken noodle.
- In 1939 Maine, Assemblyman Seeder attempted to pass legislation in 1939 making it illegal to put tomatoes in clam chowder.
New England clam chowder
Traditional New England clam chowder is thickened with oyster crackers, instead of flour.
New England clam chowder is a milk- or cream-based chowder, commonly made with potatoes, onion, and clams. Including tomatoes is shunned; a 1939 bill making tomatoes in clam chowder illegal was introduced in the Maine legislature. It is occasionally referred to as Boston Clam Chowder in the Midwest.
New England clam chowder is usually accompanied with oyster crackers (similar to hardtack). Crown Pilot Crackers were a popular brand of cracker to accompany chowder, until the product was discontinued in 2008. Crackers may be crushed and mixed into the soup for thickener, or used as a garnish.
Manhattan clam chowder
Manhattan clam chowder has clear broth, plus tomato for red color and flavor. In the 1890s, this chowder was called “New York clam chowder” and “Fulton Fish Market clam chowder.” While cream-based clam chowder in its New England version has been around since the mid-18th century, no mention of any Manhattan chowder has been found that predates the 1930s. Many restaurants in northern Rhode Island sell both red and white chowders, while the southern coast favors clear and white chowders. Often they are served alongside clam cakes.
The addition of tomatoes in place of milk was initially the work of Portuguese immigrants in Rhode Island, as tomato-based stews were already a traditional part of Portuguese cuisine. Scornful New Englanders called this modified version “Manhattan-style” clam chowder because, in their view, calling someone a New Yorker is an insult.
Rhode Island clam chowder
The traditional Rhode Island clam chowder has a clear broth and is called “South County Style”, referring to the southern beach and fishing counties where it originated. This chowder is still served, especially at long-established New England restaurants and hotels, such as those on Block Island, and on the south coast of the state, where tourists favor white chowders while natives prefer the clear. This traditional clear chowder generally contains quahogs, broth, potatoes, onions, and bacon.
In some parts of the state, a red chowder is served as Rhode Island clam chowder. This red chowder has a tomato broth base and potatoes; unlike Manhattan red chowder, it does not have chunks of tomato, and does not contain other vegetables (such as carrots or beans). This is the recipe served for decades with clamcakes at the memorable establishments like Rocky Point and Crescent Park.
New Jersey clam chowder
Primary ingredients are bacon, onion, chowder clams, potatoes, pepper, celery powder, parsley, crab spice (Old Bay), asparagus, light cream, tomatoes cut & seeded.
Delaware clam chowder
This variety typically consisted of cubed salt pork that is pre-fried, salt water, potatoes, diced onions, quahogs, butter, salt and pepper. This variety was more common in the early and mid 20th century and likely shares most recent common ancestry with New England clam chowder.