Often times when I make chowder, I’m standing next to my hot cast iron wood stove (on our Maine windjammer) stirring at least a couple of pots, turning bread baking in the oven and prepping yet another baked good slatted for a future meal. I think of how many pots of chowder have been made on wood stoves just like mine and the people these potages have nourished.
It’s a traditional meal that pulls musings of times past and almost demands the ritual of following in the footsteps of cooks that have gone before.
All sorts of chowder recipes abound in these parts, but most of them, while delicious, are not chowder in the book of old-time Mainers. True chowder is milky, not thick, and is slightly thickened with either day old biscuits or oyster crackers (or saltines), not a roux (a flour and butter mixture). In addition, true chowder contains salt pork, not bacon. Always. If either of these things are not in existence, then, I’ve been told, it’s not true Maine chowder, however yummy.
This recipe begins with the required salt pork, something fairly easy to come by in our local Maine butchers or even in the grocery store. This salted, but not smoked, pig belly is the backbone of flavor for every traditional chowder one might concoct. In addition, once the vegetables have sauteed and become soft, day-old biscuits are added – fairly early in the soup making process so they have ample time to soften and disintegrate, becoming indistinguishable and thickening the soup slightly.
Lastly, because I’m often making my chowder on the Riggin where I could be called away from the stove at any moment to drive the yawl boat, take the wheel, or tend to a guest, I use evaporated milk. Evaporated milk doesn’t separate nearly as easily as straight milk when the heat is on for too long. It’s a safety net for me and does add a bit of body and flavor to the soup as well.
Enjoy this nod to the food traditions of the past. Who knows, maybe one of your ancestors made chowder for their people.
Maine Seafood Chowder
6 ounces salt pork
2 cups diced celery; about 3 stalks
2 cups diced onion; about 1 large onion
6 cups potatoes, peeled if need and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 day old biscuits or 6 saltines
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups clam juice
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cans evaporated milk
1 pound haddock
1/4 pound 40-60 shrimp, shells removed and sliced in half
1 pound fresh clams, well-cleaned or 2 cups canned clams
Score the salt pork and place it scored side down in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. When the salt pork has rendered for 5 to 10 minutes, add the celery and the onions and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the potatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the biscuits, salt, pepper, clam juice and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the biscuits have disintegrated and the potatoes are cooked through. Add the evaporated milk and bring to a simmer again. Lastly add the seafood and just cook through, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let the haddock finish cooking.
Serves 6 to 8
Headed off to make biscuits to go with AND into the chowder!
We are sailing away to knit and laugh together and you should come! Heather Kinne of Highland Handmades and I already got a good start on the laughing part when we filmed The Fiberista Files podcast together recently.
The Knitting Getaway is 4 days and 4 nights of a fiber experience with Mim Bird of Over the Rainbow Yarn (Rockland Maine’s LYS), Dyan Redick of Bittersweet Heritage Farm, and Heather Monroe Kinne of Highland Handmades as we follow the start-to-finish yarn process of shearing to spinning to knitting with handspun yarn.
We begin with a sheep shearing and skirting demonstration at Bittersweet Heritage Farm and wind up back at the Riggin for dinner at anchor. Heather from Highland Handmades will also be joining the trip to lead a spinning demonstration where you’ll be able to spin your own fiber (roving and combtop provided) on a drop spindle. Mim Bird will be with us as well to help assess the yarn we’ve created and figure out how and what to knit with it.
Your yarn and your project will be individual… and as relaxing or as type-A as you’d like. This is a pretty special trip and all of the details are on the Riggin site.
Check out The Fiberista Files podcast with Heather and me! The knitting cruise part starts around 22:30.
Particulars: June 8th – June 11th, $779 per person, all inclusive, 5% discount until Jan. 31st (10% for returning guests)
Getting my needles ready
This summer a buuuunch of kids and their families came sailing with us for a Kids and Family trip… and so did a film crew. “North Woods Law,” the wildly popular show on Animal Planet that showcases the Maine Warden Service, decided to catch some shots of Maine from the water for their show, “In a Hot Minute”. Led by supervising producer, Andy Seestedt (yep, our former mate!), the crew detailed life aboard the Riggin for a day. While none of the kids were caught fishing without a licence or sailing without their life jackets, they did catch a bunch of fun moments on board.
Catch the episode this coming Sunday, January 17th at 8 p.m. EST. The segment on the Riggin is at the beginning, so make sure you get settled early! (If you don’t get Animal Planet where you are, they typically post it on the website shortly after it airs.)
One of the many questions I get from folks in the cooking realm is what to do with all the veggies that come for their CSAs. Now that Community Supported Agriculture has taken parts of our country by storm, the questions keep coming. Among them are… What else can I do with my kale? How do I use up that ugly kohlrabi that keeps turning up in my box? Is there a way to combine all of these veggies in a meal or dish?
On our Maine Gourmet Food Cruises we talk about how to combine veggies, what to do to make them interesting, and how to preserve them if you just have too darn much to use in a week’s time.
Vegetable Tip: To keep lettuce and greens longer in the refrigerator, wash the lettuce and remove every bit of water that you can and then layer the leaves with a dish towel or paper towel. Store in a large tub with a lid or in a resealable plastic bag. I’ve used this technique on long, at sea adventures, on the Riggin and in my home kitchen to great effect. Another way to preserve hearty greens is to clean and dry them, ribs removed. Once they are dry, coat them in a thin layer of olive oil. They will last for at least a week and a half in the refrigerator.
Thinking about greens galore and our next Maine Food Cruise, July 6 to 9!
At first glance, soups and stews might not seem all that glamorous in terms of a topic for a gourmet cooking cruise, however, how to begin and season a soup or stew is the very basis for not only many a diners’ dinner, but also the sauces that can elegantly top a seared tenderloin or grilled salmon.
From stock to pistou, we’ll talk about how to make super tasty and healthy soups, stews, and sauces and then sample them for lunch or for dinner. Perhaps it will be a Coconut Curried Lentil and Potato Soup with Nan or a Pork Loin Roast with a Rhubarb and Red Wine Reduction Sauce. Who knows, because the menu is different every week on the Riggin, so your guess is as good as mine.
Soup, Stew, and Sauce Tip: The time a cook takes to saute the vegetables at the beginning of a soup, sauce, or stew can not be underestimated. When the vegetables caramelize a bit and begin to develop a little brown on the bottom of the pan, flavor is building. To rush this process is to forgo the depth of flavor that is possible forever.
Come share some super good food with us! July 6 to 9 is our next Maine Food Cruise, but there are more on the schedule. Check it out!
Fresh sourdough baguette straight from a wood fired oven? Sure! Off the coast of Maine on an historic sail boat? Even better.
Gourmet cooking cruises, culinary travel, or Maine Food Cruises, no matter what you call them, they all have the same thing in common – local Maine food, grown sustainably, and served with care and attention on the deck of the Schooner J. & E. Riggin. We serve what I call swanky comfort food all summer long, but our special Cooking with Annie trips have an additional element – a bit of education.
We aren’t “in class” all day long, so if you have a spouse or friends that are just interested in eating well while you learn a few more tips and techniques to add to your culinary arsenal, this is perfectly planned.
That said, anyone who wants to spend all day in the galley with me, watching and learning, absolutely can. From 6am to 7pm, I’m in the galley making breakfast, lunch and dinner, so there are plenty of chances to get your hands doughy or dirty, so to speak.
The first in the series of topics that we talk about during the trip is bread.
Breads – to knead or not to knead, sourdough or quick breads, baguette or stirata, the world of bread is big and the options are many.
Bread Tip: Did you know that there are two ways to encourage the formation of gluten (what gives a loaf it’s loft and structure) in bread? Kneading is one and more moisture is another. So to achieve a similar result, you can either spend 5 to 10 minutes kneading your bread or you can add more liquid to your dough and let time do the work.
Gourmet cooking cruises? Who doesn’t want to eat well on vacation? July 6 to 9th is our next Maine Gourmet Food Cruise.