Thursday, August 12, 2010

Summertime and the Eatin' is Easy

Summertime…..The season for reruns and 4th of July parades, fireworks, picnics, and New England Clambakes.

This post was actually written last August after Paul and I went to a good old-fashioned clambake in his hometown. This is an annual event put on by a local fire department, and we were there again last weekend. Clambakes this good are a big deal in this part of the woods and tickets sell out quickly. In fact, you sort of have to know someone who has tickets to even get them.

We sat at a table of 26 near and distant relatives; some who traveled from several states away. This year Pam, Geoff, Katie and Madeleine came with us and Katie and Madeleine got to meet some distant (literally and figuratively) cousins they have never seen.

Here ya' go.....

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!

As you can see this is 'finger food' and the clean up can get messy........ I never travel to a clambake without my trusty Wet Ones.


Anita said...

I swear I must have missed this last year. What an amazing process.......and yummm on the results!
Love the family picture, everyone looks great, and I can say that because I've seen 4 of those people in person!

~Kristen~ said...

Gotta love a traditional New England clambake!!! Now I want me some steamers, like, now!!! lololol

Anonymous said...

I have ALWAYS wanted to try a clambake! It looks so yummy! We don't have stuff like that in Idaho, because, well...there are no oceans nearby, lol. I love your pictures. I never even knew how those were done so it was really cool to learn. Thanks :)

Pam said...

Clambakes and clamboils are one of my favorite parts of summer in New England. Something I look forward to every year.

Jeanie said...

Hi, Sandy -- First, thanks for stopping by The Marmelade Gypsy -- it's fun being a BON!

Loving your blog -- I've looked at all the posts and so many resonate -- I used to have a Jack Russell (Jack, original, isn't it), LOVED the Taylor/King concert (and I might say, it did fairly well for us on PBS, too!) and the post on the beans! (Next year, I'll try beans!)

But I've always wondered about a clambake, loving all seafood -- and this is fascinating and fun! Cheers!

Laoch of Chicago said...

Unfair that we do not have this in the midwest!

Just Breathe said...

I have never been to a clam bake. Oh my it is so large! I bet it was awesome and delicious. I must experience this someday.


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