Each year on February 25th people across the nation have a bowl and spoon ready to be filled with clam chowder as they prepare to participate in National Clam Chowder Day.
The origin of the word “chowder” is up for a little bit of debate. The French word for cauldron is “chaudiere”. The English word “jowter” means fish peddler. Both are on the hook for possible origins.
Following is a list of the basic clam chowder variants:
- New England clam chowder. New England clam chowder is defined as “a thick chowder made from clams, potatoes, onions, sometimes salt pork, and milk or cream.”
- Manhattan clam chowder. Manhattan clam chowder is most often recognized by its red color, coming from the use of tomatoes and tomato paste.
- Rhode Island clam chowder. Rhode Island clam chowder, known for its clear broth and its use of quahogs, a type of clam defined by its larger size (they may weigh up to 3 pounds).
- New Jersey clam chowder. New Jersey has also created its own version, which is more similar to Manhattan clam chowder. It’s made with tomatoes, creamed asparagus, light cream, and bacon. It’s also seasoned with Old Bay spice, parsley, and celery powder.
- Hatteras clam chowder. Hatteras Island-style clam chowder — a broth-based soup that skips the cream and tomatoes. It’s commonly made with littleneck clams due to their small size and sweet flavor.
- Minorcan clam chowder. Florida, St. Augustine calls Minorcan clam chowder one of its signature dishes. This one is similar to Manhattan-style in that it’s tomato-based. However, Florida’s version includes one very unique ingredient: datil pepper.
- Delaware clam chowder
- Long Island clam chowder
- Puget Sound clam chowder
- In 1939 a bill making tomatoes in clam chowder illegal was introduced in the Maine legislature.
- New England clam chowder is usually accompanied with oyster crackers.
- Clam chowder is often served in restaurants on Fridays in order to provide a seafood option for those who abstain from meat every Friday, which used to be a requirement for Catholics before liturgical changes in Vatican II.
- 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 The chowders originally made by the early settlers differed from other fish soups because they used salt pork and ship’s biscuits.
- Even before cookery books were published in America, newspapers, magazines and travel accounts mentioned broth and soup as well as recorded recipes. According to the book 50 Chowders by Jasper White, the first and oldest-known printed fish chowder recipe was in the Boston Evening Post on September 23,1751
- 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.
- New England clam chowder shares the number one spot of most served soups in the United States with chicken noodle.
- according to What’s Cooking America, clam chowder was being served in Boston at Ye Olde Union Oyster House (the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the country) by 1836.