Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The Location: Portsmouth, New Hampshire
2013 population: 21,440; 88.5% white, 3.9% Asian, 3.9% Hispanic. 2013 per capita income: $40,437

Prior to the European invasion, Portsmouth had been home to the Abenaki and other Algonquian language-speaking tribes. Martin Pring is the first recorded European to explore the area in 1603. By 1630, Europeans were colonizing the area. A British fort, Fort William and Mary, was built near the village of Portsmouth, giving it added protection. Portsmouth is located on a river harbor that opens to the ocean, and is thus a strategic location for trading. Other industries included lumber, ship building, and fishing. By 1645, enslaved Africans were being used as a labor source. Portsmouth profited greatly from their role in the Atlantic Slave Trade.

The city was first incorporated in 1653. In 1679, it was named the capital of the colony of New Hampshire and also became a place of refuge for Puritan exiles from Massachusetts. In 1774, Paul Revere rode to Portsmouth and warned people that the British were on their way. During the Revolutionary War, the slaves helped defend the city from the British. Once the war ended, in 1779, a group of 19 slaves submitted a petition to the state asking them to abolish slavery in exchange for the role they had played in the state and the nation's freedom. The petition was ignored, but New Hampshire did eventually unofficially abolish slavery in 1783 when they changed taxation codes and reworded the state constitution. It was not officially abolished in writing, however, until 1857, when the state passed legislation that stated that a person's decent may not be used to deny them citizenship to the state. Though it wasn't until New Hampshire ratified the 13th Amendment on July 1, 1865, that it was truly and officially ended.

Portsmouth was incorporated as a city in 1849. Though President Lincoln toured through the state of New Hampshire, and the state sent soldiers to fight, the state itself was too far north to have had any battles fought on its soil. Though Portsmouth lost many men to the war, the city itself remained unscathed.

Today, there are many museums and historical buildings dedicated to preserving the early American history of Portsmouth. The city itself now is considered a politically liberal city with many colleges and universities. The publishing company, Heinemann USA, is located in Portsmouth. Portsmouth is home to a plethora of well-known names throughout history. A few recent names include: Ilene Woods, the voice of Disney's Cinderella, Brooke Astor, philanthropist, Samantha Brown of the Travel Channel, and Tom Bergeron, tv host.

The Food: New England Clam Chowder and Brown Bread

I couldn't not do New England clam chowder at some point in time with this blog project. It is so quintessentially New England that it would be criminal of me to neglect it. I know there are several types of clam chowder, but I wanted the traditional New England kind, with a dairy or dairy-like base and no tomato products in it. And soup needs bread, right? One of the most famous kinds of New England breads, is Boston baked bread, the brown bread with raisins, baked/steamed in a cleaned out metal can. But this isn't Boston and so I couldn't do that one. But I found a similar bread and made that one instead. The bread recipe comes from my own recipe collection, at this point in time, the source is unknown. The clam chowder recipe came from online.

Raisin Rye Bread
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/4 cup water, 105-115 degrees
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup butter
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. caraway seeds
1 1/2 cups rye flour
2 3/4-3 cups white flour(I only needed the 2 3/4 and probably could have used less. I had to add a bit of water to get it to mix properly because it was too dry.)
1 cup raisins

1.) In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
2.) In a saucepan, combine the milk, molasses, and butter.
3.) Heat to lukewarm, 110-115 degrees. Pour into yeast mixture.
4.) Stir in the salt and caraway seeds. Beat in the rye flour and white flour with the raisins.
5.) Form a soft dough. Knead on a lightly floured board.
6.) Let rise in a buttered bowl, covered, until double in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
7.) Shape into a round loaf. Let rise on a buttered baking sheet, covered, for 30 minutes or until almost doubled. Slash the top.
8.) Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
9.) Let cool on a rack.
Makes one loaf, 16-20 slices
The bread was kind of tough to knead. I had to add water to it to get the flour to incorporate fully and I feel like it never rose as much as it was supposed to. In spite of all that, the flavor was fantastic! I bet you never thought that a caraway flavor would taste good with raisins, but it does! This is a nice, rustic bread that is good with lots of butter on it. I am going to try toasting a slice today and I bet it will be really great that way! This was super easy to make.

New England Clam Chowder-Dairy and Gluten Free
I have made the base for clam chowder in the past, when I worked in the restaurants I used to work at, but have never actually made it from start to finish before. I think it's a soup that people are intimidated by for some reason, but there is no reason to be. I wanted a recipe that was dairy-friendly and this one is! It's also gluten-friendly for those who need that. The original recipe that I will put in my sources section, has instructions for using canned and fresh clams. Because I used all canned, I will only write out the recipe the way I did it.

3 (6.5 oz.) cans chopped clams with liquid (Strain these with a strainer into a bowl. Keep the clams separated from the juice because you will add them at different points in the cooking process.)
1 (8oz.) can clam juice
3 strips bacon, chopped (I recommend freezing the bacon before chopping, it will make it so much easier.)
Olive oil, if needed (I ended up needing it, my bacon did not give off much fat.)
1 small onion, chopped
2 leeks (I used one large and it was enough.)
1 cup finely chopped celery, with leaves
2 Tbsp. sweet rice flour (Can use regular flour if gluten is not an issue for you. I had the rice flour on hand so I used it.)
1/2 cup white wine (I didn't have any on hand, but you'll note that sherry is listed as an optional ingredient in this recipe, at the end. I used it in place of the white wine at the earlier step instead.)
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram or thyme (I had marjoram on hand so I used it.)
1 bay leaf
1-1 1/2 cups almond milk or alternate to dairy milk of choice (I used coconut milk and it was wonderful in this. Not the kind from the can, the kind from the cardboard carton like you would use for cereal. You'll find it at the store in the same place as the almond milk. Probably the same brand too.)
1/4 cup sherry, optional

1.) Cut off and discard root ends and green tops of leeks. Slice leeks in half lengthwise, remove outermost layer and discard. Run leeks under water, separating layers to rinse out sand. Slice leeks thinly.
2.) Cook bacon in a large pot, until crisp. Remove bacon from pot and leave about 2 Tbsp. bacon fat in the pan or use olive oil to make up the difference, if there isn't enough.
3.) Add chopped leek, onion, and celery to the pot and saute over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes.
4.) Add flour and wine and stir about 30 seconds. Working slowly at first to avoid lumps, stir in the clam juice and deglaze the pan. 

5.) Add potatoes, marjoram, bay leaf, and pepper. Liquid should cover the potatoes. If it doesn't, add water to cover, and bring to a boil.
6.) Reduce heat to simmer and cover, for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Remove the bayleaf and discard.
7.) Using an immersion blender, puree about 1/3 of the potato mixture. Mix in the almond milk, reserved bacon, and the clams, and heat back to a simmer. Add sherry, if desired.
This was fabulous! I am looking forward to reheating this tonight because you know how soup always tastes better the next day. I ate this with the bread and some potato chips and it was a perfect meal for a chilly winter night. The clams and clam juice weren't smelly, which is nice. If I had had Saltine crackers or some oyster crackers, that would have been a lovely addition to the soup.

Clam chowder is easy to find in canned form at the grocery store, or in restaurants, but it really is not hard to make from scratch. If you have always wondered what it's like to make, you really should try it out. It did not take long at all, I had much better control over what went into it, and it tasted delicious! If you want to try out a dish that screams "New England," this is it!

New England Clam Chowder Recipe

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Slavery in New Hampshire

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