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21 responses to “Clam Chowder, Mom, and Memories”

  1. Sally

    Wonderful post! I live in New England now–and frequent the places you mention. You’re right, no funny stuff in the true Maine chowdah. Love it.

    My clam memories go back to my father, not my mother. We dug them at low tide at the New Jersey shore. My dad and a couple of his buddies built a fire. Then they dragged a big garbage can into the bay until it was about 1/4 full of water (I think). When the water was almost boiling, the clams went in (steamers). There was a little pot of butter melting on the side of the fire. My dad showed us how to slip off the black membrane. Then we rinsed the clams in cups of clam broth from the garbage can and dipped them in butter. We even drank the broth, leaving the sand at the bottom of the cup.

    We ate them on the beach. Lots of kids, lots of running around.The wives and mothers watched and relaxed with cocktails (!) , the dads drank beer. Then we all sat around the fire, bellies full, as it grew dark. Looking back I marvel that we kids ate them–but we did, and gladly. I have a soft spot for steamers, and now you reminded me of it. Thanks!

  2. Nathan

    Even seeing a recipe written out on index cards takes me back.

  3. Ashley

    I am from Ipswich and will always have a special love for steamers. That recipe looks so much like my families. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Barbara

    Lively post. In Western Mass we ate our Jonnycake with pea soup.

  5. Shirley @ gfe

    Lovely tribute to your mom, Hank. And what wonderful clam chowder! That soup is one of my very favorite meals, although I’m kind of whimpy and chop my clams much finer because I don’t like the chewiness. I’ve dug for clams once in my life, in North Carolina, and enjoyed the activity. We also went “scalloping.” I’ve never done either again, but still enjoy clams and scallops. I just prefer that someone else do the work. 😉


  6. Tina

    What a wonderful tribute to your mom! I’ve never gone clamming myself, but I’ve heard many stories about it from my mom. She and her friends used to spend their summers at the Jersey shore, and spent many hours digging clams. Oddly, my mom doesn’t eat clams, or any other seafood for that matter. My earliest memory of clams, other than eating chowder (I can’t remember a time when I didn’t eat chowder), was when I was about 5 and we were at a picnic at the home of a family friend. There were half shells, and since it was well known that I was a very daring eater, one of Dad’s friends dared me to eat a raw clam. I was hooked! I haven’t found a clam preparation yet that I didn’t love. Your chowder recipe looks great; it’s very similar to mine, but I dress it up with cream and celery (and yes, a touch of Old Bay). I still like mine thin, though. Now I need to go buy clams.

  7. Christine

    A very sweet and loving tribute to your mom. When I saw the handwritten index card I got goosebumps; my mother used index cards to write her recipes and I have many of them. The chowder sounds delicious and is going into my recipe file. Thanks for sharing.

  8. semiswede

    Thank you for such a lovely post. It was so interesting to read your mother’s memories of clamming. My husband and I lived in Boston for 8 years before our move to Sweden so we made it to Ipswich a few times for clams. I do miss those fried, fat-bellied clams. Mmmmm. Nothing like that in my current neck of the woods.

    When I was 7 my family lived in Corvallis, OR for a year while my dad was on sabattical. He and my cousin (in his 20s) would go clamming and I remember my cousin being blown away by how quickly my sister and I could down their hard work.

    Thanks for the post and the memories.

  9. Buzzie

    Nice post Hank. Makes me want to make a chowdah.

  10. Laura

    Well done! Maybe there will be a chowda this summer along with my fabulous verson of Mum’s Blueberry Buckle! xoxo

  11. we are never full

    fabulous! on a dreary, rainy day here in new york, i want a huge bowl of this. the addition of the salt pork has got to be one of the things that make this dish. it’s my secret weapon when making my tomato sauce – always brings a complex flavor to it!

  12. Debbie Caldwell

    Nice. From cold Kennebec County in Maine, zero degrees for several days in a row now
    I have taken to the woods for the summers, all by myself in a tent, and I am using your suggestions for foraging and cooking. I just started last year. I was 72 then. It has helped a lot, now that I am retired, bored-with-no-job and no vehicle, and off of the land. Your posts are very realistic and helpful. I’ll be planting mushroom spores that have already come in the mail, and edible ground flowers, and fishing a lot. Thanks.

  13. Anne

    Aw, what a sweet little essay. I lived near Ipswich for about 20 years and you’ve made me miss it all over again!

  14. ESL-Donna

    Thank you so much for sharing your mother’s recipe. I love it and love you mother.
    I live in Washington state, and the best part of clam digging is the sharing with friends and family.
    Nothing like a great clam chowder on a blistery day, and yours will be enjoyed soon.
    Your site is my favorite by far.

  15. Hank Shaw has another great essay.

    […] this thank's for the link..Clam Chowder Recipe, Maine Style | Hunter Angler Gardener Cook Reply With […]

  16. William

    Came upon your site by accident. Was on “The Perfect Pantry” getting a recipe for New England style clam chowder and they had a link to your site. After reading your post and then looking around your site a little I have 1. copied your recipe for Maine clam chowder and decided to buy your books. I have fished very little in my life and have never hunted. but have decided to take up both. I believe the true “American Dream” is supposed to be self-sufficiency not a big house and all the latest gadgets, and I believe that using the knowledge you impart will help tremendously with that goal. Thank you very much for the blog. I loved the story. I was born and raised in Massachusetts and clams were a big part of my childhood.

  17. Laura L.

    This is a fantastic chowder recipe, so full of flavor. I have been searching for one like this, ever since I went to a special Norwegian meal at the Poulsbo Sons of Norway in Washington. I fell in love with the, milky, buttery clam chowder they served up. In the northwest, typical “New England Clam Chowders” are so thick you can stand up a spoon. So…to learn that real clam chowder is thin and buttery, not floured up white sauce…made me really happy. I made this for my husband last night, and we both agree…this is much better than what we were served before. I won’t be ordering it in a restaurant again around Washington. I will keep making my own from this wonderful recipe. Thanks for sharing it! What’s even better, we went clamming this year on the Washington Coast and brought home five days worth of limiting out on razor clams. We have a good supply of clams to work with. 🙂

  18. Stine Gotved

    I lived in Boston some years ago and enjoyed a variation of chowders – this one looks delicious! However, in Scandinavia (I’m Danish and for the first time ever not proud about it, but that’s a totally different story) we don’t have access to bottled clam juice. Is the juice in your recipe from the clams when opened or what? Thanks for sharing!
    (PS I became an instant fan of your blog when stumpling upon your Tabasco recipe – still got half a pint fermenting!)

  19. Stine Gotved

    Thanks! I’ll give the chowder a try with our so-called ‘american razor clam’ (Ensis directus); sounds like the obvious choice! 🙂

  20. Daniel Aharon

    Hi Hank, just wanted to let you know that I’ve made your mom’s chowder almost exactly as described 4 times now, with the sole exception that I can never find quahogs in Philly, so I use littlenecks, cherrystones or hardshell steamers as available. It has become part of our family too, so I’m grateful to yours for teaching me that light and oceanic beats creamy and gloppy.
    I am stirring a pot of the onions and fat at this very moment, waiting to steal a few pork cracklings out.

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