MCRD PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- Thanks to the countless numbers of Americans who eat, slurp and ladle more soup in January than any other month, January has been named National Soup Month.
The history of soup can be dated as far back as 6,000 B.C. when hippopotamus was the ingredient of choice for soup. In the 1800s, President Abraham Lincoln served turtle soup to his guests and Alexander Graham Bell was known for drinking his soup through a glass straw.
Today, there are soup cook-offs, soup eating contests and countless recipes for soup containing everything from turtle to peanuts or duck blood.
While most of the 10 billion bowls of soup consumed each year in America are by people who prefer the more traditional soups like chicken noodle or tomato, in honor of National Soup Month, Depot mess hall personnel offer their secret recipe for one of the America's favorite soups:
Makes four servings, Time: 45 minutes
One cup white wine
Two cups soft-shelled clams
1/4 cup salt pork, diced
One medium onion, chopped
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, or one teaspoon fresh thyme
*Note: if you are using fresh thyme, do not add until last 10 minutes of cooking time
Two teaspoons salt
Dash of pepper
Two cups water
One cup fresh celery
One 1/2 cup potatoes cubed
One cup heavy cream
One tablespoon butter
One tablespoon flour
One tablespoon fresh parsley
One tablespoon diced pimentos or chopped, roasted red pepper
Steam clams in white wine, reserve leftover wine. Fry pork and onions together until crisp. Halve clams, separate hard parts. Add garlic, thyme*, salt, pepper, water, potatoes, celery, heavy cream and remaining wine to pan. Bring mixture to a boil and immediately reduce to simmer and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Reduce heat and add clam. Thicken with blended butter and flour. Cook uncovered until chowder comes to a boil; then boil it for two minutes. Just before serving, sprinkle the parsley and pimentos or pepper on top.
"The trick to making the best soup is not to overcook it," said food service specialist Cpl. Don Clark, a cook in the H&S Bn. mess hall, "Otherwise the clams will get hard. For the best tasting chowder, use fresh ingredients whenever you can."
And H&S Bn. chefs say there is a certain trick when it comes to choosing the best clams for the chowder.
"If you can, go to the fresh seafood market because it's easy to find quality, fresh seafood at good prices. If you can't, your local grocery store will do, but because Parris Island is right near the ocean, there are plenty of seafood markets here," said Clark.
The best clams for chowder are the smaller clams, but no matter which type of clam you pick, make sure the shell of the clam is closed tightly.
"The clams you're buying are still alive, but they might be dormant from the temperature they've been stored in," added Clark. "Tapping the shell wakes them up and makes them snap their shell closed and that way you can check if it closes tight before you buy the clam."
Have fun celebrating National Soup Month and keep this Jewish saying in mind: "Troubles are easier to take with soup than without."