History of Clam Chowder

With such a delicious food that was invented long ago, you probably wonder about the history of clam chowder. Where did such yummy food come from, how long has it been around, and what are clam chowder ingredients? We’re here to tell you the facts.

where was clam chowder invented

When was clam chowder invented?

The history of chowder dates back as long ago as the 1700s, and continued to gain popularity until it was served in a restaurant in the mid 1800s.

Where Was Clam Chowder Invented?

It is said to have been created by the French and British. Seafood chowders didn’t start with just clams but rather, any seafood available. There is a story that French soldiers crashed near the coast of Maine and were low on supplies so they tried putting seafood and pork into a creamy stew and they loved how it tasted. The first ever posted chowder recipe was in the mid 1700s, and clam usage in chowder gained popularity in the 18th century. While clam chowder is typically thick and creamy today, it started out quite thin.

Why do they call it chowder?

Good question! The name chowder is derived from the French word chaudiere, which means cooking pot.

clam chowder bowl

What makes a soup clam chowder?

Clam chowder is basically any soup that has both clams and broth, and is usually thick.

When do you eat Clam Chowder?

Being a creamy and filling soup, clam chowder is most famously eaten on cold days as a comfort food. But in San Francisco you’ll find people eating clam chowder every day. Depending on when you are going to eat clam chowder, it pairs very nicely with many other foods.

What are clam chowder ingredients?

Looking at the history of clam chowder and comparing clam chowder ingredients today, they have evolved over time. Today, clam chowder ingredients usually include clams, clam juice, cream, roux (butter and flour), potatoes, and a variety of other ingredients depending on the recipe, like our sister restaurant recipe here.

The history of New England Clam Chowder

If you remember the old classic movie Ace Ventura, you might remember the scene with the password to get into the door. Ace Venture knows the password is “New England Clam Chowder” followed up by the question “Is that the red, or the white?” Many people learn that there is more than one type of clam chowder from this movie scene alone!

If you grew up in San Francisco, you would only know of the white clam chowder as that is the popular pervasive soup the city is widely known for.

The most popular varieties are the New England Clam Chowder (white) and the Manhattan Clam Chowder (red)

New England Clam Chowder, popular in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, is thick and made up of clams, onions, pork, potatoes and cream. It usually does not have other vegetables than potatoes. The cream gives the soup its identifiable white color, which is the main difference between New York and the rest.  This type of clam chowder is also popular in Maine and Massachusetts.

Manhattan Clam Chowder, on the other hand, is red which comes from tomato paste and fresh tomatoes. This type of chowder is thinner and usually includes more vegetables like onions, celery and carrots. The soup has little to do with New York City even though the name would suggest otherwise. The use of tomatoes is attributed to Portuguese immigrants who arrive in Rhode Island.

While those are the most popular varieties, there is also a New Jersey version, Rhode Island clam chowder, Hatters island style clam chowder, Cabo clam chowder which is spicy, and a Minorcan clam chowder attributed to Florida.

What type of clams are in Clam Chowder?

The clams used in clam chowder are typically the slow-growing type, and have diversity of size. For instance, live clams can be littlenecks, cherrystones and quahogs. Of all of the clams, most of the recipes use quahogs which are pretty meaty. Cherrystones are smaller, but are also often used in clam chowder.

Is San Francisco known for clam chowder?

San Francisco

Yes! Since San Francisco was people who moved across the city from New England, it’s no mystery why the while clam chowder became popular in the city by the bay. Being on the bay, with clams aplenty and fresh fish, of course this is the perfect place for a seafood creamy stew. It’s also a great place since clam chowder can be filling, to follow up your meal with a nice hilly walk around the city after eating.

And then came the perfect pairing. San Francisco is famous for its sourdough bread. The fog in the city is the reason for the special sour bread so famous and deliciously popular in the city that visitors from all over can’t wait to taste. And then, a combination was born. They started pulling the insides of the bread roll out to make a bowl out of a large circular loaf of bread. And then, filling it with delicious clam chowder! Not only is it fun to look at and eat, the flavors of the sour bread compliment the creamy comforting chowder like none other.