Summertime…..4th of July parades, fireworks, picnics, and New England Clambakes. Last weekend Paul and I joined a group of extended family at a good old-fashioned clambake in his hometown.
There were over 750 people (not all relatives!) together for a traditional outing held every August. I took pictures of the ‘bake’ as it’s called for those of you who don’t have a clue as to what I’m talking about.
Here’s a picture of the bake when it's just about ready to be uncovered and served. Usually there’s a Bakemaster in charge. He's helped throughout the day by a couple dozen people. A multi-stage process, everything has to be done right or you've got a very expensive disaster and lots of unhappy people.
What you’re looking at is a concrete pad where early in the day they layed down a layer of round stones. You can dig a pit in the sand if you have the room but this is an established location for clambakes. Over the stones they spread a layer of logs which they burn down until they get the stones red hot so they can be used to radiate heat during the cooking process. At the right time, they pull the logs off and cover the stones with a thick layer of seaweed which was probably brought in that morning and soaked with seawater.
Over the seaweed are layers of wooden baskets filled with the ingredients of the bake: sweet potatoes, white potatoes, peeled onions, bags of seasoned white fish, hot dogs, bock wurst, chourico & linquica (Portuguese-style sausage), stuffing, fresh corn on the cob still in the husks and soft-shell clams or what we call steamers.
Then the entire mound is covered with canvas that has been drenched in sea water to seal in the heat and prevent the canvas from burning. The food is allowed to steam for several hours. It takes an experienced Bakemaster to get all the combinations of food, heat, seaweed & timing just right. For a bake this size you’re talking thousands of dollars worth of food and it’s not something you can stick back in the oven or back on the grill if it’s not quite done.
Here's last weekend's bake being uncovered.
The food is served right from the baskets and we dig in!
....so I never travel to a clambake without my trusty Wet Ones.