I got a little surprise the other day when I realized I had a leftover balance from an old Walmart gift card. I can’t remember the last time I shopped there, so I checked online for anything that I could get for under $10. Of course, I looked for seafood and I found Bar Harbor brand hand shucked chopped clams, with free shipping.
I’ve always wanted to try this brand, not only because they are relatively close by, but just out of curiosity. Their line of products which also include soups, broths and canned fish has such unassuming labels that it must be good…right?
Bar Harbor Packaging
Their products have the most nondescript labels I’ve seen outside of government cheese. The very simple paper labels convey the no-nonsense, thrifty spirit that New Englanders take pride in. These cans of chopped clams are telling me, the consumer, that they don’t need a glossy and colorful label, open up and find out.
The Chopped Clams
The company website states these sustainably caught clams are shucked within days of harvest then are immediately canned using their homemade brine. Within the two 6.25oz cans were a good amount of minced hard shell clam. Some good chunks but not as many as I would like. It was definitely a good product and smelled as if I just shucked them. Two cans amounted to about a whole cup of minced clams along with plenty of clam juice. That should be just enough to make a small pot of New England Clam Chowder.
New England Pantry Clam ChowderCuisine: Seafood, SoupsDifficulty: Easy
Who says you need fresh clams to make clam chowder? This recipe uses good quality canned clams and bottled clam juice. This is not a tried-and-true recipe for chowder, but it seems to work fine even if you don’t measure. I do it by eye based on how full the pot is.
2 cans Bar Harbor Chopped Clams
2 bottles of Bar Harbor Clam Juice
2 medium Potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 small Onions
2 stalks Celery
2-4 cloves Garlic
1/4 stick Butter
1/4-1/2 cup Light Cream
splash of Sherry
Salt, Pepper, dried Thyme and Dill
- Sweat the onions, garlic and celery in your chowder pot with butter (rendered bacon, pancetta or salt pork is even better).
- When softened, add some salt, lots of pepper and thyme, stir until fragrant.
- Deglaze your pot with just a splash of sherry and when cooked down, add the potatoes and cover with the clam juice (top off with water if needed).
- Bring it to a boil then turn heat down and let simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Potatoes should be done by then and now add the clams and their juice plus a tablespoon of butter.
- Bring it back to a simmer before adding enough cream to make it “New England style.” Top with a little dill and from here keep it hot, but not too hot, and serve with oyster crackers.
- Add a mixture of butter and flour before the cream for a thicker chowder. Or go “old school” and use crushed oyster cracker (or common crackers if you can find them).
- Add tomatoes instead of cream for Manhattan style chowder.
- Skip the cream and tomatoes and leave a clear broth for Rhode Island style.
- I have omitted the traditional salt pork or bacon and used butter. By all means use the pork if you like, it is delicious.
- Use as much cream as you like, you can also use whole milk or half and half for a “milkier” chowder. This style is another variant of New England chowder that is popular.
When my wife says it tastes “too clammy” then I know I did a good job. I didn’t make it very thick, but it was loaded with creamy, clammy goodness. I do wish there were more big pieces of clam in the cans, but the flavor was great. I’ve made chowder with canned clams before and although I liked the big chunks, the flavor was not there. In my opinion Bar Harbor Chopped Clams is a pantry seafood staple!