Clam chowder

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Clam chowder
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New England clam chowder.
Place of originUnited States
Region or stateNew England
Invented18th century[1][2]
Main ingredientsClams, broth, butter, potatoes and onions
VariationsNew England clam chowder also known as Boston clam chowder, Manhattan clam chowder, Rhode Island clam chowder, others

Clam chowder is any of several chowder soups containing clams and broth. In addition to clams, common ingredients include diced potatoes, onions, and celery. Other vegetables are not typically used, but small carrot strips or a garnish of parsley might occasionally be added primarily for color. A garnish of bay leaves adds both color and flavor. It is believed that clams were used in chowder because of the relative ease of harvesting them.[3] Clam chowder is usually served with saltine crackers or small, hexagonal oyster crackers.

The dish originated in the Eastern United States, but is now commonly served in restaurants throughout the country, particularly on Fridays when American Catholics traditionally abstained from meat. Many regional variations exist, but the two most prevalent are New England or "white" clam chowder and Rhode Island / Manhattan or "red" clam chowder.


Clam chowder with whole clams

The earliest-established and most popular variety of clam chowder, New England clam chowder, was introduced to the region by French, Nova Scotian, or British settlers, becoming common in the 18th century. The first recipe for another variety, Manhattan clam chowder, known for using tomatoes and its consequently distinctly red coloring, was published in 1934. In 1939, the New England state of Maine debated legislation that would outlaw the use of tomatoes in chowder, thereby essentially prohibiting the "Manhattan" form.[1]

Primary variants and styles[edit]

Since the popularity of New England clam chowder spread throughout the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries, many other regions have introduced their own, local twists on the traditional recipe.

Delaware clam chowder[edit]

This variety typically consists of pre-fried cubed salt pork, salt water, potatoes, diced onions, quahog clams, 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.

Hatteras clam chowder[edit]

Served throughout North Carolina's Outer Banks region, this variation of clam chowder has clear broth, bacon, potatoes, onions, and flour as a thickening agent. It is usually seasoned with copious amounts of white and/or black pepper, and occasionally with chopped green onions or even hot pepper sauce.

Long Island clam chowder[edit]

Long Island clam chowder is a variant that is part New England-style and part Manhattan-style, making it a creamy tomato clam chowder. The name is a geographical pun, noting that the location of Long Island, just like the recipe, is about halfway between Manhattan and New England.[4] This variant is popular in many small restaurants across Suffolk County, New York.[5]

Manhattan clam chowder[edit]

Manhattan clam chowder has a reddish color from ripe tomatoes

Manhattan clam chowder has red broth, which is tomato-based. 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.

In the 1890s, this chowder was called "Fulton Fish Market clam chowder" and "New York City clam chowder." Manhattan clam chowder was referenced in Victor Hirtzler's "Hotel St. Francis Cookbook (1919).[citation needed]

Minorcan clam chowder[edit]

Minorcan clam chowder is a spicy traditional version found in Florida restaurants near St. Augustine and the northeast corner of Florida. It has a tomato broth base, with a "secret ingredient", Spanish datil pepper, an extremely hot chili comparable to the habanero. The datil pepper is believed to have been brought to St. Augustine by the Menorcan settlers in the 18th century, and tradition holds among Menorcan descendants that it will only thrive and grow in two places: Menorca, Spain and St. Augustine, Florida.[6]

New England clam chowder[edit]

New England clam chowder, occasionally referred to as Boston Clam Chowder in the Midwest, is a milk or cream-based chowder, and is often of a thicker consistency than other regional styles, even though traditionally it is rather thin (with many late 19th and early 20th century recipes using condensed milk as the base). It is commonly made with potatoes, onion, and clams.

New England clam chowder is usually accompanied by oyster crackers. 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.[7]

Traditional New England clam chowder is thickened with oyster crackers instead of flour. (Oyster crackers do not actually contain any oysters.)

New Jersey clam chowder[edit]

Its primary ingredients are chowder clams, onion, bacon, diced potatoes, pepper, celery powder, parsley, paprika or Old Bay seasoning, asparagus, light cream, and sliced tomatoes.

Rhode Island clam chowder[edit]

Traditional Rhode Island clam chowder—going back decades—is a red chowder and is served as Rhode Island clam chowder throughout the state. Rhode Island clam chowder has a tomato broth base and potatoes, but unlike Manhattan red chowder, Rhode Island clam chowder has no chunks of tomato and does not contain other vegetables. The origins of traditional Rhode Island clam chowder are reportedly Portuguese immigrants in Rhode Island dating back over a century. This recipe has been served for decades with clamcakes at memorable establishments like Rocky Point and Crescent Park. Rhode Island clam (red) chowder is served principally and especially at long-established New England restaurants and hotels.

A secondary Rhode Island clam chowder has a clear broth and be found commonly along a stretch of the south coast of New England from eastern Connecticut to southwestern Rhode Island. In southwestern Rhode Island, this clear clam chowder is sometimes called "South County Style" referring to the colloquial name of Washington County, Rhode Island, where reportedly it originated; however in other parts of New England, this clear clam chowder is called Noank Clam Chowder. This clear clam chowder, which generally contains quahogs, broth, potatoes, onions, and bacon, is served mostly along a stretch of the south coast of New England from southwestern Rhode Island, including on Block Island.

Other variations[edit]

Some restaurants serve their own unique clam chowders that do not fall into any specific categories. For example:

  • Clam chowder is sometimes served in sourdough bread bowls, especially in San Francisco, where sourdough bread is popular with tourists, and has been considered a signature dish since 1849.[8][9]
  • Except for the substitution of smoked haddock for clams, the chowders are remarkably similar to the traditional Scots broth cullen skink.
  • Fish chowder is similar to clam chowder except that shredded fish, often cod, is substituted for the clams. Other ingredients are often onions and potato. A clam and fish chowder can be made with both clams and fish.
  • In Pacific Northwest cuisine, such as the cuisines of Seattle and Portland, Oregon, smoked salmon is sometimes added to clam chowder. Salmon chowder is also a popular fish chowder.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Correa, Cynthia. "A Brief History of Clam Chowder". Eater. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  2. ^ "Manhattan Clam Chowder vs. New England Clam Chowder". Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  3. ^ "History of Chowder, History of Clam Chowder, History of Fish Chowder". Retrieved December 1, 2007.
  4. ^ "Long Island Clam Chowder: Secret Blend Slowly Catching On". Long Island News from the Long Island Press. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
  5. ^ Louis Imbroto. "Long Island clam chowder?". Young Island. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
  6. ^ Jean Andrews. "A Botanical Mystery: The Elusive Trail of the Datil Pepper to St. Augustine: Jean Andrews". JSTOR 30148816.(subscription required)
  7. ^ Oliver, Sandy (April 2008). "The Crown Pilot Cracker Escapade: 11 Years Later". The Working Waterfront.
  8. ^ "Bay City Guide : City Sights". Archived from the original on November 2, 2007. Retrieved December 1, 2007.
  9. ^ "Square One Titles". Archived from the original on February 4, 2012. Retrieved December 1, 2007.
  10. ^ Jasper White (2000). 50 Chowders. Scribner. p. 105. ISBN 0684850346.

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