Clam Chowder

I love New England clam chowder….not the kind with the tomato in it, which is actually strange since I love tomatoes with all my heart. I don’t care how I get the clam chowder. I like it home made, I like it canned in a chunky fashion, doesn’t matter to me!

I was in the grocery store by my house the other day, picking up things to tempt my not feeling good cat to eat, and while grabbing a can of sardines, I spotted cans of baby clams and I snagged 2, feeling very pleased with myself.

It’s really an easy soup and, other than the clams, has ingredients normally stocked at home.

You will need:

  • 4 strips of bacon (I used a small jar of bacon I canned months ago…don’t tell the canning police, bacon is definitely a rebel canning thing)
  • 2 cans baby clams with the juice (I used both cans, but would be absolutely fine with just one – two gives it a LOT of clams)
  • 1 carton of chicken broth (4 or 5 cups worth)
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and chopped (if you like the skin, leave it on. You can add more potatoes if you want, also, or sweet potatoes or both)
  • 2 or 3 carrots (if you love carrots, add more, if you don’t, don’t add them at all)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (I used two small ones and they made me pay! If you don’t like onion, don’t add)
  • 2 or 3 stalks of celery, chopped or sliced (again, if you like celery, add more, if not, don’t)
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced (I use jarred garlic, so I plopped a well rounded teaspoon worth in – 3 cloves worth)
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 3 TB of flour
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup of half & half (or 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream)
  • pepper

In your soup pot, cook your bacon. You can either cook it whole and chop it after, or chop it and cook it, which is easier. When the pieces are done somewhat crispy, scoop all the pieces out to a bowl and then discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.

In the fat, add the onions and cook them until they start getting soft and translucent – 2 or 3 minutes. You aren’t trying to caramelize them, just give them a headstart at cooking. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, til you can smell it. Add the carrots and celery and give them a minute to absorb the bacon flavour because that’s pure yum.

Pour in the broth, add the potatoes and spices, cover and simmer til the potatoes are done. I also added the juice from the cans of clams (NOTE: you should go through the clam meat and check for any slivers of shell…..I found one and it’s the first time I ever have so it isn’t a huge danger, but it would be startling to bite it.)

Mix the flour with some of the milk and make it smooth. Pour the milk and the milk/flour into the soup pot and mix really well. Let simmer a couple minutes til thickened a bit.

Add the clams (I chopped mine into smaller pieces because the cans I bought were whole) and the half & half and let it all heat up. Take out the bay leaves (I found one immediately, but the other I didn’t find, despite hunting hardcore, until I was putting the leftovers in a freezer bag for another night!)

Serve. In the absence of oyster crackers, Goldfish crackers or croutons are good on the top.

Some changes you can do:

You can skip the bacon, it adds flavour, but if you have none or don’t eat it, it won’t ruin the soup if it isn’t there.

After you have added the onions, carrots and celery, you can add the flour and mix it around until the vegetables are coated and there’s no loose flour on the bottom of the pot. Then add the broth, milk, potatoes and flour and cover & simmer. When potatoes are done, you can then just dump in the clams and the half & half and be done with it.

You could add some different, mild tasting vegetables – green beans, wax beans, cauliflower, corn, spinach, kale. It won’t be traditional, but if you prefer those, add them, make it yours.

This could be done in the Instant Pot. Cook the bacon in the insert using the saute function, empty out the grease, add the vegetables, broth, potatoes and spices. Do not add the milk or flour until it’s done, you don’t want the milk to break or the soup to burn on the bottom since you won’t be able to stir it. Set it to cook on the default soup setting (30 minutes using the manual setting). When it’s done, try to let it slow release the pressure for at least 10 minutes, but quick release if you must. Take off the top, turn on the saute function, add the milk, mix the flour & the half & half and add it, mix really well then add the clams and let it simmer a couple minutes until everything is hot, then serve.

If you want to do this in the slow cooker, cook the bacon in a frying pan and transfer to the slow cooker. Add the vegetables, broth, potatoes and spices and let cook for 3 or 4 hours on low. Pop it up to high, add the milk, let it get hot, add the flour mixed with the cream and let it get hot. Add the clams and let the whole works get hot, then serve.

Don’t put the clams in at the beginning….they will get rubbery and no one wants that.

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