Share All sharing options for: A Brief History of Clam Chowder
Clam chowder is popular from New England to Manhattan and is known for both its comforting briny flavor and its diverse varieties. Every state on the East Coast seems to have their own version of the well-known soup, and some West Coast states have modified the recipe to make it their own. There is a chowder for every soup lover, whether they prefer a thick creamy base, a bold red broth, or a clear broth of clam juice. Here is a brief history of the renowned soup and all of its variations.
What is clam chowder?
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of chowder is “a soup or stew of seafood (as clams or fish) usually made with milk or tomatoes, salt pork, onions, and other vegetables.” While there are different types of chowder, the clam variety is undoubtedly the most well-known. The definition of the soup varies depending what part of the country youre in, but most include clams, potatoes, onions, and some form of pork. The biggest different between them is the broth: Some use milk to produce a thick, creamy broth, others use a red broth made with tomatoes and spices, and theres also a clear broth made from clam juice. While each region may prepare chowder differently, they all share one thing in common: all feel their clam chowder is the best.
When was clam chowder first created?
According to Savoring Gotham: A Food Lovers Companion to New York City, it is believed that the New England style of chowder was introduced to the region by French, Nova Scotian, or British settlers and became a common dish in the area by the 1700s. The soup continued to gain popularity throughout the years and, according to Whats Cooking America, was being served in Boston at Ye Olde Union Oyster House (the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the country) by 1836.
Clam chowder was so popular that its mollusk-packed flavor is described in Herman Melvilles Moby Dick:
How many different varieties are there?
The two most popular varieties are the New England-style and Manhattan-style, distinguished by their white and red colors, respectively. However, there are plenty of other distinct varieties from all over the East Coast — and some on the West Coast, as well. New England clam chowder was undoubtedly the first, described adoringly by Cape Cod author Joseph C. Lincoln:
A thick chowder made with clams, potatoes, onions, occasionally salt pork, and milk or cream is referred to as New England clam chowder. As the soup’s base, the recipe typically specifies heavy cream, light cream, or whole milk. The most notable difference between the New England style and the others is the addition of milk or cream, which gives the soup its distinctively white color. In addition, oyster crackers are frequently used to thicken this version, which also only contains potatoes as the only vegetable. Although the soup is now available nationwide, its popularity in the North East remains the highest The two states with the cream-based clam chowder may be Maine and Massachusetts. In fact, it is regarded as a classic in Boston’s historic neighborhoods and is one of Maine’s most recognizable dishes.
Manhattan clam chowder is most often recognized by its red color, coming from the use of tomatoes and tomato paste. The broth is much thinner than the thick New England version and while it also includes potatoes, most Manhattan-style chowders boast a variety of vegetables like carrots, celery, onion, and garlic for added flavor. The first recipe for “Manhattan Clam Chowder” was published in 1934 in a cookbook called Soups and Sauces by Virginia Elliott and Robert Jones. While the name “Manhattan” stuck, the soup has little to do with New York Citys most popular borough.
While it had its supporters, not everyone was a fan of the tomato-based twist on the original. In New York Cookbook, Molly ONeill explains, “Manhattan clam chowder reverberated like an act of sabotage against the New England clam chowder tradition.” She went on to detail the outrage associated with the soups creation:
Not to be left out, New Jersey has also created its own version, which is more similar to Manhattan clam chowder. Its made with tomatoes, creamed asparagus, light cream, and bacon. Its also seasoned with Old Bay spice, parsley, and celery powder.
Going further south to Florida, St. Augustine calls Minorcan clam chowder one of its signature dishes. This one is similar to Manhattan-style in that its tomato-based. However, Floridas version includes one very unique ingredient: datil pepper. The pepper — varying in color from green to a yellowish orange — is indigenous to Cuba and was brought to Florida hundreds of years ago. Its described as sweet, tart, and spicy, giving the soup its one-of-a-kind flavor. The name Minorcan refers to Florida settlers from the island of Minorca, Spain who created the hearty soup with local ingredients in their Mediterranean style.
There is also 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). In fact, the small state also has a red version of the famous soup. Unlike the Manhattan-style chowder, this one is not made with any actual tomatoes — its made with tomato purée— or any added vegetables.
In the Outer Banks of North Carolina, theres a version dubbed Hatteras Island-style clam chowder — a broth-based soup that skips the cream and tomatoes. Its commonly made with littleneck clams due to their small size and sweet flavor. The ingredients are cooked in clam juice diluted with water and brought to a boil to infuse the flavor of the clams into every bite. Classically, the dish only calls for salt and pepper as a seasoning.
There is also Cabo Clam Chowder, a South of the Border-inspired dish boasting bold Mexican flavors like chipotle. The recipe includes vegetables like onions, corns, jalapeños, and peppers, plus black beans, garlic, cilantro, cumin, and lime. Spicy flavors come from chipotle hot sauce and the dish is garnished with tortilla strips.
Follow Eater online:
Chowder’s history is as varied as its flavor, whether it is red, white, or clear.
Sign up for the Sign up for Eater’s newsletter
The freshest news from the food world every day
Check your inbox for a welcome email.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please enter a valid email and try again. By submitting your email, you agree to our.
Does Panera ever have clam chowder?
The New England Clam Chowder from Panera is a hearty soup that can be prepared quickly at home or on the go in a microwave-safe cup. This Panera soup combines chopped sea clams, diced potato, onion, and conventional seasonings simmered in a creamy broth. It’s delicious both on its own and as a base for flavorful recipes.
Is Manhattan clam chowder really a chowder?
Traditional ingredients for Manhattan clam chowder include clams, pork, herbs, tomatoes, and other vegetables. Despite its name, it originated in Rhode Island, NOT Manhattan.
Is there clam chowder in England?
New England Clam Chowder, also referred to as “Boston” clam chowder, is the most popular variety and has a rich, creamy base made of potatoes and onions (but not tomatoes).
What are the different types of clam chowder?
The three most popular regional variations are New England or “white” clam chowder, which contains milk or cream, Manhattan or “red” clam chowder, which contains tomatoes, and Rhode Island or “clear” clam chowder, which omits both