How to make Uncle Bill’s Clam Chowder (serves 100)

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How to make Uncle Bill’s Clam Chowder (serves 100)

Please note that this is a reblog from my uncle Bill’s Blog Layers of the Onion. I just really love This Recipe and Want as many people to try it out as they can!! — Chris Yarger
     It’s not really my recipe even, but it has become known as Uncle Bill’s Clam Chowder.  Truth be told, I was one of 5 guys standing around a big pot on a family camping trip, who created it and we all contributed our own little bit to the recipe, but after that trip, I was the only one who kept making it, so it became Uncle Bill’s Clam Chowder.  I make it at least once a year at my sister Meter Maid’s Pig Roast (A Swine Time), and have been known to make it a few other times each year too, but in smaller batches.  It is a lot of work to make, so I thought I’d pass along the recipe in case, some time, I’m not able to make it, or someone else might step up to do it.

     I would recommend that you get some ingredients from a foodservice Cash and Carry, or from a restaurant that you frequent.  You will need…

Ingredients, minus the milk, bacon, base, butter and spices

3 lbs thick cut bacon
7-8 # 5 cans of chopped ocean clams
12 cans diced potatoes
6 Spanish onions
6 large carrots
4 heads of garlic
6 peppers any color
1 small jar of chicken base
2 heads of celery
white pepper and salt
2 lbs of salted butter
6-7 gallons of whole milk

      Start by cooking all the bacon, crisp, and then set it aside but reserve all the grease.

The garlic, already smashed and ready to cut

You will then peel all the garlic, my friends John and Stacy taught me to smash the garlic to bring out the flavor, so do that, set it aside and then finely chop it after a half an hour or so. If you don’t want your hands to smell like garlic later, the best trick I know for removing the smell, is to rub your hands on a stainless steel knife, or faucet, it really works well.  Peel and finely chop the onions next, if the fumes bother you, set up a small fan next to you and blow them away from your face.

About half of the onions

You are now ready to start the sauteing.  I use a 16″ non stick skillet that I own and tend to cook the ingredients separately, but it can be done together.  Start by sauteing the onions in a little olive oil, butter, and bacon grease.  You want them soft and slightly darkened.  When they are finished, sprinkle some flour into the pan to absorb and bind all the oils.  Simmer it for a few minutes, stirring frequently.  You are basically making a partial roux right now, and collecting all the flavors that came out while cooking.

You repeat this step with every item you saute. The peppers get done next, dice them fine.  I like to mix the colors.  I add the garlic to each of the items as I saute them, so that it doesn’t get overcooked. It only needs a few minutes to brown and picks up an off flavor if you burn it, so you can cook it separately if you wish.  The celery gets chopped while the peppers are cooking, chop this a little larger than the other items, then saute it like the rest of the ingredients.

The carrots. I cool the ingredients, then bag them to be added

I did miss an important step in the process and ingredient list, which I have to correct now.  Start the whole process by opening a beer.  At many points during the chowder making, beer will spill into the pots and pans, that is both expected and normal, don’t sweat it when it happens, just add the amount you want to.  If you omit this step, please take my name off from the recipe when you serve it (Uncle Bill has a reputation to protect).  The carrots go in next, (my wife wrinkles her nose at this step every time), dice them small and cook them until they caramelize a little.  I like what it gives to the chowder, an understated sweetness, that works well with the whole blend.

Onions cooking, celery cooling, bacon grease in bowl

You are now done with all the sauteing.  When the bacon cools, break the crisp slices into small pieces and set them aside.  You are now ready to make the roux and the chowder base.  I’m not going into how to do a roux, as I have never been trained and there are a lot of resources out there to teach you better how to do it.  I use the bacon grease, the chicken base (base is concentrated stock, you need one with meat first as the ingredient) and butter.  I use an equal amount of flour to the fat and cook it to a blonde color.

A 1.5 gallon batch “finished” with no clams yet

When it looks right to me, I start to add the liquids, again I can’t give too many specifics as to how much to add but the liquids are, some of the juice from the canned clams, beer, and the whole milk.  I whisk this and cook it until it reaches it’s full thickness, right before it boils.  Don’t let it boil, as it may “break” and separate back out.  Since this recipe makes about 9 gallons of finished chowder, I make this step in about 1.5 gallon batches.

I add all the ingredients including the potatoes and bacon into the batches as I do this, except for the clams.  I season to taste with the white pepper and salt.  I like to refrigerate the batches for a day or so, before I reheat them, as I think soups and chowders always taste better on the second day. 
You are now almost finished with all the preparations for combining the batches into 9 gallons of Uncle Bill’s Clam Chowder.  At this point you have probably also finished a six pack of beer. I like to have music playing while I cook, so as you can see you have to leave room on the prep table for the I-Pod player.

Finishing the chowder, note the beer is still needed

To finish the chowder, I use a double boiler system, I put one large pot into another and bring the water in the bottom pot to a slow boil and warm the chowder back up slowly.  I add all the clams at the end, right before serving.  You now have 9 gallons of Uncle Bill’s Clam Chowder.  I suspect it got that name because my many nieces and nephews are so fond of it.  It’s rare, in my opinion, to have kids get excited about a soup, especially a clam soup but they really do get excited about this chowder.  One niece posted on her Facebook last week how she was looking forward to it, and believe it or not, my nephew Jake asked to have it for his birthday meal this year.  If you make it, you’ll have to let me know the results.  If you need some help to make it the first time, feel free to call me to come over, but remember to triple the beer in the recipe. 

Look at all the kids lined up to eat the chowder


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