For hundreds of years now nothing says autumn in New England like a big bowl of our families clam chowder. Although no one really knows who in the family first started this original family recipe, all of us, in the Torsey family, know one thing for certain……it is the best on earth. Although original to our family, there are thousands of variations out there that all share a few simple things in common, clams, butter milk and an origin of the coastal region of Canada and New England. That’s right folks, clam chowder is a traditional staple in French Canadian households all up and down the East Coast of America and Canada. As a matter of fact, the Abenaki side of my family is from Canada and my Grandma Rachel Torsey’s family is from Canada as well. It is from one of those Canadian influences that this original recipe first came.
However, before I give you our family recipe I would like to give a nod to my ex-husband’s late mother, Marie Petri. The recipe she brought down from Canada with her when she emigrated here during WWII is another of my favorites. In fact, her French Canadian cooking was so incredible I still cannot find a replication of her oyster pudding or her apple brown Betty anywhere. Everything seems to fall short, just like everything I try to cook of Grandma Rachel’s seems to fall short. Maybe that one secret ingredient is missing, the love that only they could provide. Here is to you Grandma Rachel and Mother Marie. Love you loads.
The Torsey Family Clam Chowder
1lb salt pork (soaked in water overnight to remove excess salt)
2 large onions
6 medium potatoes (skin on or off, whichever you prefer) (red or white does well)
1lb can of clam juice
1lb fresh or canned minced clams (whole baby clams do just as well
1 gallon whole milk (Raw w/cream is best. Check your local dairy farms.)
Chop first 3 ingredients into small, bite sized pieces and then fry in a large fry pan until everything is a golden brown. Dump this mixture into a large stock pot along with your butter and clam juice. Bring this up to a boil and then add your clams. Boil for just a few minutes to avoid toughening the clams and then add your milk. Bring the milk up to just scalding and serve. Our family tops ours with oyster crackers and serves it with a homemade dill pickle on the side. Johnny Cake or any other brown bread is another nice touch to serve on the side as well. This recipe usually serves 6 hungry people with plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day. Therefore, you could serve 12 at one meal instead of splitting it into two meals as we do. No matter how you serve it though, the leftovers always taste even better the next day!!