One of America’s Favorites – Chowder

April 16, 2012 at 8:18 AM | Posted in Food, potatoes, vegetables | 1 Comment
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In North America Chowder is a generic name for a wide variety of seafood or vegetable stews and thickened soups, often with milk or

cream and mostly eaten with saltines. Some varieties are traditionally thickened with crushed ship biscuit instead of flour, which is more usual. New England clam chowder – perhaps the best known chowder – is typically made with chopped clams and diced potatoes, in a mixed cream and milk base, often with a small amount of butter, it. Other common chowders include Manhattan clam chowder, which substitutes tomatoes for the milk and cream, and typically omits potatoes; Corn chowder ; a wide variety of fish chowders; and potato chowder, which is often made with cheese.

Origin of the term is obscure. One possible source is French chaudière, the type of pot in which the first chowders were probably cooked. (This, if true, would be similar to the origin of casserole – a generic name for a set of main courses originally prepared in a dish called a casserole.)

The phonetic variant chowda, found in New England, is believed to have originated in Newfoundland in the days when Breton fisherman would throw portions of the day’s catch into a large pot, along with other available foods.

Fish chowder, corn and clam chowder, continue to enjoy popularity in New England and Atlantic Canada.

Types of chowder:

*Clam chowder – Clam chowder is any of several chowders containing clams and broth. Along with the clams, diced potato is common, as are onions, which are occasionally sauteed in the drippings from salt pork or bacon. Celery is frequently used. Other vegetables are uncommon, but small carrot strips might occasionally be added, primarily for color. A garnish of parsley serves the same purpose. Bay leaves are also sometimes used as a garnish and flavoring. It is believed that clams were added to chowder because of their relative ease to collect.

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. Though the period of strict abstinence from meat on Fridays was reduced to Lent, the year-round tradition of serving clam chowder on Fridays remains.

*Corn chowder – Corn chowder is a type of thick soup or chowder similar to New England clam chowder, with corn substituted for

Potato and corn chowder

clams in the recipe.

*Southern Illinois chowder – Southern Illinois Chowder is a thick stew/soup very different from the New England and Manhattan chowders. The term “chowder” is of French-Indian origin. In Edwards County, Illinois, it refers to both the food and to the social gathering at which it is prepared and served. It is believed to have been brought to the area by the earliest settlers, or “backwoodsmen”. Traditionally, the chowder time season commences when the first tomatoes ripen and closes with the first heavy frost.

Chowder is usually cooked outside in large black kettles or cauldrons, ranging in size from 20 to 70 gallons. Invariably prepared according to secret recipes, the ingredients are added to boiling water according to their cooking time, so that all are cooked and ready at the same time. The main ingredients are beef, chicken, tomatoes, cabbage, lima beans, and green beans. Traditionally, squirrel meat was a common addition. Chowder is usually considered ready when the ingredients have amalgamated into a fairly thick soup, usually taking four or more hours. The kettles must be stirred almost continuously so that the chowder does not “catch” on the base and scorch. This is accomplished using a wooden blade known as a “paddle”. Measuring between eighteen to twenty-four inches long and six to eight inches wide, a paddle has had several bored holes through the blade and a handle attached at right angles. One cook will paddle the chowder – causing the bones to rise – and another cook, called “the bone picker,” will use tongs to pick out bones as they separate from the meat.

In 1958, the County Commissioners of Edwards County, Illinois, proclaimed their county the “Chowder Capital of the World.”

*Bermuda Fish Chowder – Bermuda fish chowder is a soup that is considered the national dish of Bermuda, a British Overseas Territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. Its basic ingredients are fish, tomatoes and onions, seasoned with black rum and “Sherry Pepper Sauce”. The recipe is believed to have been developed by the 17th century British colonizers of Bermuda. Bermuda fish chowder is of a much lighter consistency than chowders that are thickened with milk or cream. It is sometimes compared with bouillabaisse.

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