New England Clam Chowder Cooking For You: New England Clam Chowder
By W.DeBord on Tuesday, January 23, 2001 - 07:53 am: Edit

I have several good recipes, I need help with purchasing clams for soup. As a pastry chef I only make this at home and I can never get clams that aren't chewy...HELP! I NEVER put them into the soup until the soup is done and do NOT over heat them.
I live in the mid-west so my options are canned or from the grocery store fish section (I can't buy them thru work...too big of a hassle). Do you have any tips when purchasing thru the fish dept. or brand that you think are pretty good canned?

I love this soup but it's so frustrating and embarrassing to have chewy clams...Help, please?

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Tuesday, January 23, 2001 - 04:53 pm: Edit

Let me qualify these comments, this is coming from someone that has lived his whole life in Southern California.

I have heard the comments about tough Clams before and the logic behind using fresh, frozen or canned. Basically your not supposed to over cook the clams.

If you have ever read James Beard on making clam chowder you will see that the organal was a long cooked stew, If I can remember he describes layering fresh clams, crackers, and vegetables and bring to a boil until they meld together.

Another point the only way to make clam chowder and not "over cook" the clams would be to toss in freshly shucked clams just before service. In other words making it to order. Thats not Chowder.

I can't give a definitive answer about tough clams and chowder, long ago I gave up on the concept and just tried to make the best tasting clam chowder I could. I used Fresh, Frozen and Canned and in the end I use what is at hand with equally good results.

By W.DeBord on Wednesday, January 24, 2001 - 08:07 am: Edit

Yes, I've been adding them at the last second....but honestly that isn't the answer obviously or I wouldn't be asking for help. What you've written is very logical.

Then what do you expect in texture from your clams? Am I asking too much? I must be, because the quality of frozen or canned clams can't vary according to the location they're shipped to.

You must have the same results as I do? One day it's chopped rubber bands in my chowder and the next day it's clams. Is there no logic that one or two companies might have a better product(canned or frozen) over all then it's competitors? Can they be more demanding about the product they buy from the fishing boats? Or it's just a roll of the dice and know one knows if their buying a "better" clam either the wholesaler or me?

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Wednesday, January 24, 2001 - 10:55 am: Edit

I guessing the is a difference. I know that bigger clams are tougher to start with. Have tried baby clams?

By finedining on Wednesday, January 24, 2001 - 03:25 pm: Edit

W.DeBord the best clams to use would be littleneck clams or cherry stones, first you get a deep stock pot and place about three inches of water in the bottom,three ribs of celery on the bottom as a rack bring the water to a boil add your clams and just as soon as they open remove them and place them in a colander over a bowl, reserving all the liquid in the pan as stock, depending on how much soup you make you may need a can or two of clam broth, another note on the clams to insure that they don't overcook, flash them with some cold water when they come out. Good Luck.

By W.DeBord on Thursday, January 25, 2001 - 09:04 am: Edit

I'm not into cooking so much anymore (it's been many years since I worked that side of the kitchen), but are baby clams a Type of clam, or am I looking for baby littlenecks or baby cherry stones, etc...?

This is just for personal home I don't want to jump thru too many hoops.


By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Thursday, January 25, 2001 - 10:17 am: Edit

Cans of Baby Clams are sold in the grocery stores under that name. Or possibly in Italian Delis.

By finedining on Thursday, January 25, 2001 - 05:18 pm: Edit

cherrysones are a type of clam that are readily available at most fish markets, they are commonly used for clams on the half shell, if I was you unless I had to I wouldn't use canned clams for anything, these aren't baby clams, baby clams are reffered to as manilla clams which are used for clam sauces for pasta.

By Peachcreek (Peachcreek) on Thursday, January 25, 2001 - 10:50 pm: Edit

I have never been able to buy canned clams in the grocery as good as I get through my foodservice guy. That aside, I buy canned clams according to the type. The two catergories that I am familiar with are Surf clams or Sea Clams. Surf clams are the small varieties that you see in the fish dept. They can be Manillas, Cherrystones,Little Necks, Razors, and I'm sure that there are more. The "Baby Clams" are some sort of Surf Clam.
Sea Clams are the larger variety. The only type I'm familiar with is the Geoduck, found off the Pacific Northwest coast. They get to be enormous (2-3lbs in shell). Obviously they must be processed to be edible. Most of the chopped, diced or minced clams are this type. This is the type used in most restaurant chowders.
I have found big differences in quality and yield in different brands of canned clams. The best advice is to keep looking around till you find a brand you like. I find putting fresh, yummy surf clams in my chowder kind of a waste. Another thing I have noticed with clams is they are the most tender when they are just barely cooked or really, really, really cooked. Hey! Lets Go clamming! I got my clam gun!

By W.DeBord on Friday, January 26, 2001 - 08:06 am: Edit

You'll laugh, but the best tasting clam chowder I ever had came from a bowling alley dining room in a resort area of Michigan. I'm certain they weren't adding their clams ala minute. Which ties back to what Cheftim first mentioned...this is chowder something traditionally cooked over some time. Now Peachcreek also mentions "or really, really, really cooked". So maybe I should treat them like cheap cuts of meat? First I'll look for baby clams then if they are bad...I'll try cooking the heck out of them.

Well, thank-you everyone, now I have a better understanding of clams and several good leads to follow through and try!

By Gilpatric (Gilpatric) on Friday, January 26, 2001 - 11:32 am: Edit

Although I'm in Ohio now, I lived most of my life in coastal Connecticut and for a time had a seafood restaurant there. In New England, the big quahaugs are also called "chowder clams". These are the best for chowdah. Wash 'em, cover 'em with watta, simma just until they open. Save & reduce the stock, pull the meat from the shell and chop coursely. Remove the stock from the heat and let it settle so any sand will sink to the bottom. Use the stock 50/50 with your cream. The clams will be fine.

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Friday, January 26, 2001 - 12:21 pm: Edit

I havn't had any clam chowder for sometime and this thread got me thinking about it. Last night I broke down and opened the single can of chowder we have had in our pantry. It wasn't as good as I make it but I helped satisfy the craving.

By W.DeBord on Friday, February 02, 2001 - 08:11 am: Edit

THANK-YOU! I made chowder earilier this week and the baby clams turned out fine...not a bit chewie! Finally...*^%$#@! YEAH!!!!!!!

Thanks again

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