I love clam chowder, and I used to make it from canned stuff, canned baby clams are ok, but the real difference is the fresh versus canned juice.
Our Boston by the Spoonful
If you need precise measurements, you'll have to use somebody else's recipe.
Go to a real fish market and get big quahogs, or chowder clams.
Make sure to use real clams, and I use the real big clams, because they are chowder clams. And you would just waste other clams. No there isn't a real difference. And you could use other clams, but they're more expensive.
I usually pick up 5 pounds is a good start, 10 pounds was too many unless you've got a crowd to feed.
Next scrub them with a brush. Make sure they are clean because from this point we are going to be keeping the fluids.
Boil about an inch of water or white wine in a pot.
Add your clams to the boiling water and put on the lid, and let them steam until they open. At this point I strain the clams through a colander and save the juice, setting them aside until they are cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, start rendering about a quarter of your of chopped bacon in a few tablespoons of butter, I like to cook on medium low.
Optional: when your bacon starts to get crispy, add some anchovies, I use about 5-7. You can use salt pork if you want to go traditional.
When your bacon is crispy add a few cloves of minced garlic. Saute that a few minutes, I like it when the garlic starts to get a little brown and pungent, but don't burn it!
Next I will add some really finely chopped onions, celery, and a few sprigs of thyme, and some black and white pepper. Cook it until it's almost soft, then add a few tablespoons of flour. Continue to cook to get the raw flour taste out, you gotta keep scraping it off the bottom of the pan when it sticks, and then add some white wine and a few bay leaves.
Bring it all to a boil. The white wine is optional, but I highly recommend it if you are going for a traditional chowder.
Take your clam meat out of the shells and chop it up.
You will need to work on this step because big clams are tough. Make sure that you chop them small, this will make eatingyour chowder more appealing.
For those of you who are feeling ambitious, rinse your clams in the unfiltered clam juice to get the grit out. I strain the clam juice through a wire mesh coffee filter.
The reason for this to get the sand out of the meat. I use the metal filter because the juice it will clog a paper coffee filter.
New to chowder? Then you will want to taste the clam juice to make sure it is not too salty.
In the event that it is too salty you can dilute it with some water, so when you add the clam juice, it won't mess up your liquids to solid ratio. Whatever you do, do not add milk at this point or it will clot up once you start boiling the potatoes in the next step.
After the wine boils a few minutes I add the clam juice and the potatoes.
Cook the potatoes until they are tender, not super soft, then add some light cream until it looks creamy enough.
I really don't use too much cream because the starch from the potatoes make it very milky in appearances anyways and it will dominate your flavors.
Make sure you taste it at this point, if it is too salty from the clam juice, you might need to add some milk. Add more white or black pepper to taste.
At this point I like to add some smoked salmon. Granted I know that ths doesn't tradiationally belong here, and it is entirely optional and completely nontraditional, but it's quite tasty and I have moved over to this.
This could be a good bacon substitute if you don't like pork.
And last thing I add are the chopped up clams, bring up to a simmer and then shut it off or the clams will get tough.
Take out the bay leaves and thyme stems, scrape the thyme leaves off the stem back into the chowder if you desire.
I love learning new techniques. So if you have some ideas to share I am all ears!