Today - February 25th - is National Clam Chowder Day. I don't know who comes up with stuff like that, but it just so happens that not only do I really like clam chowder, but I also recently enjoyed a can of Bar Harbor Food's clam chowder for lunch.
Although I prefer to make my own clam chowder, the condensed canned variety holds a special place in my memories; my mom served us New England clam chowder the way some other moms served chicken noodle soup. Her preferred brand was Snow's, but after a series of moves, mergers, and buyouts since 1990, Snow's ain't what it used to be and no longer has a place on my pantry shelf. I've tried a number of brands of canned New England clam chowder in the past couple years, and have found the big national brands (Snow's, Campbell's, and Progresso, to name a few) to be pretty nasty stuff.
Not so with Bar Harbor. Stirring a can of the condensed soup with an equal amount of milk (using the soup can as a measuring tool) over low heat just until the chowder is bubbling hot brings me back to Mom's kitchen when I was ten years old. Rich and clammy, smooth and without any of the unpleasant gumminess of lesser brands, I've never had to doctor up a can of Bar Harbor with extra clams or potatoes to make it satisfying. This is a canned chowder of choice.
Just like my Mom used to, I put a pat of butter in the bottom of the bowl before ladling in the chowder, and top it off with a grind of black pepper. There's hardly anything more welcome when coming in from shoveling a snowy driveway than a steaming mug of clam chowder. Well...hot chocolate comes close, I guess.