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?
Their products have the most nondescript labels I’ve seen outside of government cheese. The very simple paper labels convey that sense of no-nonsense and thrift that New Englanders thrive on. 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.
Within the two cans were a good amount of minced hard shell clam. Some good chunks but not as many as I would like. However 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.
Buying Seafood’s New England Clam Chowder
- 2 cans bar harbor minced clams
- 2 bottles of clam juice
- 2 small onions
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2-4 cloves garlic
- splash of sherry
- salt, pepper, thyme and dill
- light cream
This is not a tried and true recipe for chowder, but it seems to work fine even though I don’t measure much, I do it by eye based on how full the pot is. Here it goes.
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 flower 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
- Skip the cream and tomatoes and leave a clear broth for Rhode Island style.
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!