…well, it still is a New England Clam Chowder by definition. There are many different variations of clam chowders; the differences lie in their ingredients. While all clam chowders consist of clams, potatoes and broth, what makes a New England (or Newfoundland) Clam Chowder distinctive is its creamy dairy-product base, whether it is milk or cream. Apparently, the Clam Chowder would have been invented by Newfies.
The word chowder, or chaudrée in French, originates from the cooking vessel in which it was prepared: the cauldron, or chaudière in French. However, some speculate that the origin of the word may also be tied to the old English word jowter, which meant fish peddler. The Oxford English Dictionary actually mentions Atlantic Canada in its official definition of the word chowder: ‘‘In Newfoundland, New England, etc.: A dish made of fresh fish or clams, stewed with slices of pork or bacon, onions and biscuit.’’
Since this blog showcases Atlantic Canadian recipes, the obvious choice was to highlight Newfoundland in the clam chowder’s name. A member called Salt Junk from Jamie Oliver’s website beat me to it though. He adds that the inventors of the clam chowder were the Breton fishermen who migrated to New England from Newfoundland.
However, the first printed clam chowder recipe was in fact coined as the ‘‘New England Clam Chowder’’. As stated by Jasper White in his book 50 Chowders, the original recipe was printed in the Boston Evening Post on September 23rd, 1751. At first glance, it looks more like a poem rather than a recipe:
Because in Chouder there can be not turning;
Then lay some Pork in slices very thing,
Thus you in Chouder always must begin.
Next lay some Fish cut crossways very nice
Then season well with Pepper, Salt, and Spice;
Parsley, Sweet-Marjoram, Savory, and Thyme,
Then Biscuit next which must be soak’d some Time.
Thus your Foundation laid, you will be able
To raise a Chouder, high as Tower of Babel;
For by repeating o’er the Same again,
You may make a Chouder for a thousand men.
Last a Bottle of Claret, with Water eno; to smother ’em,
You’ll have a Mess which some call Omnium gather ’em.
White also highlights Atlantic Canada in the chowder’s origins: ‘’For many New Englanders, as well as Canadians from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland, chowder is a connection to their history, made by fifteen generations of their ancestors.”
Acadians have their own versions of fish chowders as well, also referred to as fish fricot. (Fricot is an Acadian stew containing potatoes and meat, fish or seafood.) In A Taste of Acadie cookbook by Marielle Cormier-Boudreau and Melvin Gallant, we find recipes of Fricot aux coques (Clam Fricot) and Fricot aux palourdes (Quahog Fricot), both in which adding milk is considered only as a variation. The Acadians of Chéticamps and Magdalen Islands call fish fricot tchaude. As with most Acadian terms originating from both English and French words, the word tchaude derivates from both chowder and chaudrée.
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) butter
- 4 slices of bacon, cut into lardons
- 1 celery stalk, minced
- 1 onion, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3 cups (750 ml) of bottled clam juice
- 2 Russet potatoes (1 lb total / 0.5 kg total), peeled and cut into cubes
- ½ tablespoon (8 ml) of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of corn starch, diluted in 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of water
- 10 oz (285 g) bottle of baby clams, drained
- 1 cup (250 ml) of heavy cream, 18%
- salt, to taste
- fresh cracked pepper, to taste
- Chopped fresh chives
- Oyster crackers
- In a large saucepan, brown the bacon in the melted butter over medium heat until the bacon renders its fat, about 10 minutes.
- Add in celery, onion and garlic, and sauté until onion is translucent.
- Add clam juice, potatoes, thyme and bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until potatoes are tender. Add water if too much liquid gets evaporated during the simmering.
- Add the mixture of corn starch and water to the chowder, and let simmer for a few minutes to thicken.
- Add clams and cream, and simmer for only a few of minutes then remove from heat.
- Discard the bay leaf. Adjust seasoning to taste. Garnish with chives and serve with oyster crackers.