Bar Harbor Seafood
Gourmet Clam Chowder & Canned Seafood
Courtesy of The Nibble
CAPSULE REPORT: Canning small-batch seafood “fresh from the docks,” in Downeast Maine, Bar Harbor seafood produces gourmet-quality, tender canned seafood products—and one heck of a delicious clam chowder. We’ll buy it by the case! The line is all-natural—no artificial preservatives, no trans fat and no MSG. The smoked herring and mackerel products are kosher-certified. Support the small, artisan business; Bar Harbor Foods is the only multiproduct cannery left in Maine.
You’ll find Bar Harbor Foods on a picturesque wharf on a beautiful sheltered cove in Downeast Maine, Holmes Bay. Gulls fly across the water in front of the small, two-story modern facility and fishing boats are tied up at its dock—the same boats that have brought in the “fresh off the docks” catch that gets canned by Bar Harbor Foods. A dedicated team makes gourmet seafood products in small batches—clams, soups and sauces packed and canned mostly by hand, as it has been done for generations.
Bar Harbor Seafood Products
New England Clam Chowder
What wonderful comfort food this is: pinky-beige chowder with lots of salmon-pink colored pieces of clam and diced rectangles of white potatoes. We weren’t even motivated to add our customary grind of fresh pepper to enhance it, although a bit of fresh parsley hit the spot. This is our favorite product of the Bar Harbor line, and it took almost no effort to turn it into a delicious dish. Although the soup is condensed, we added just 1/4 can of milk to make a thick, hearty chowder. Although it would serve four as a dinner portion, the can makes a full meal lunch for a hearty eater, and left us in eager anticipation of the next can. The company makes other chowders—corn, fish, lobster and salmon. We look forward to trying them next.
There are also four bisques—clam, crab, lobster and salmon. The difference between a chowder and a bisque is that a bisque is a more elegant recipe, puréed until smooth, and often contains sherry.
If you like clam juice in your Bloody Mary (a.k.a. Bloody Caesar—not after the Roman emperor, but, as with the chef at the Waldorf who created Caesar salad, more likely a culinarian or a bartender by the same name), use this one. It is a world apart from the supermarket brands—it’s the pure liquid left over from processing the clams. If you use clam juice to make broth or soup, this clam juice will improve the flavor.
Fancy Seafood Meats
Canned clams, mussels and lobster meat are the best of their kind. If you use canned seafood for chowder, lobster rolls, pasta dishes, sauces and soups, we can recommend them. The meat is tender, and the packing liquid so delicious, we drank it all.
We personally only cook with fresh seafood, and there’s a world of difference in flavor. We were, however, enamored by the can of lobster meat: two small claws and assorted bits of meat. We made lobster mashed potatoes for two, mashing the bits in with the potatoes and inserting the claws as plumes in the top of each mound. It was impressive!
This is the only shelf-stable (non-refrigerated) Maine lobster in the U.S. However delighted we were to receive this as a gift, for $19.95, it isn’t a lot of lobster meat. If money is no issue in your home, load up! In our home, we need to stretch our lobster dollar, so we look for bargains in fresh or frozen tails, which are closer to fresh lobster flavor.
The Newburg Sauce was the least interesting of the products to us, because it is made with canola oil and milk—not the cream we’d use to make our own Newburg Sauce. While the label indicates sherry as an ingredient, it’s not discernable—it needs to be added at the end, right before taking the sauce of the stove, or the flavor will cook out. We really want to taste the sherry in our Newburg Sauce, not just a hint, so we found ourselves adding 1/4 cup of sherry to the 10-ounce can to get it to our satisfaction (plus several grinds of fresh nutmeg). That’s not a complaint—it’s to be expected with a canned product; our problem was that the canola oil couldn’t deliver the kind of richness that our own cream-and-egg Newburg Sauce recipe does.
Still, people who don’t want to invest the time making a Newburg Sauce from scratch can use this for a base. We used it to create “Eggs Newburg,” an easy and impressive brunch dish with poached eggs atop poached salmon. You can use smoked salmon on an English muffin as well.
Eggs Newburg Recipe
A NIBBLE exclusive:
1. Toast an English muffin, add poached salmon or a slice of smoked salmon, then the poached egg. Top with Newburg Sauce.
2. If you have a boiled shrimp, use it to crown the top.
3. Snip fresh parsley, chives or thyme in a pretty pattern around the plate.
4. If you don’t have a shrimp to garnish the top of the eggs, use a sprig of thyme or parsley or two cuts of chives in an “X” pattern to garnish.
This was a welcome change from Eggs Benedict, and much easier than making Hollandaise Sauce from scratch.
But for a truly exquisite Newburg Sauce for dinner, you have to do it the hard way, starting with a white sauce (cream sauce). Add an egg yolk, sherry, brandy, nutmeg and cayenne. You’ll see many variations of Newburg Sauce that include minced onions, tomato paste, thyme and other ingredients, but this is the classic.
Amidst all of the non-kosher lobster and clams, there are actually kosher-certified items in the Bar Harbor line.
* Wild Herring Fillets in Cabernet Wine Sauce and Smoked Wild Herring Fillets Seasoned with Cracked Pepper
* Smoked Wild Kippers
* Smoked Atlantic Mackerel
High in protein and omega 3-fatty acids, they make healthy snacks, quick hors d’oeuvres and gifts for kosher friends. The herring and kippers are the only non-Maine products; the smoked fillets are purchased from Canada and sauced by Bar Harbor foods.
The History Of Canning
We take canned food for granted, but like most things, it is a relatively recent invention—and we owe it to Napoleon Bonaparte. In his time, food preservation was basically limited salting, drying and pickling, techniques that had existed for thousands of years.
Needing a better solution for his troops, in 1795 the French general, known for declaring that “an army marches on its stomach,” had the French government offer 12,000 francs to anyone who invented a new way to preserve food.
The prize was finally won by Nicholas Appert, a chef, confectioner and distiller, who began experimenting when the award was announced and finally submitted his invention 14 years later, in 1809. He hermetically sealed food in airtight glass jars and heated them—a method similar to today’s home preserving in Mason jars. Appert thought that driving the air out of the containers prevented the spoilage, but 100 years later, Louis Pasteur showed that it was the elimination of bacteria through sterilization that did the trick.
Napoleon tried to keep the new process a secret so that enemy armies would not have the advantage, but the word leaked out. Appert’s method was so easy that it quickly became widespread. The following year another Frenchman, Pierre Durand, patented a method using a tin container. In 1812, an English company purchased both patents and began producing canned preserves. Canning emigrated to America, where canneries began to preserve seasonal foods and perishables; but most Americans still cooked from fresh and dried staples, and canned food did not become the everyday food delivery system we known until the beginning of the 20th century (the company that produces Bar Harbor Foods was established in 1917). Appert is known as the “father of canning,” and also invented the bouillon cube.
But forget that bouillon cube and order yourself some chowder!
BAR HARBOR FOODS
Gourmet Canned Seafood Products
Fish items certified kosher by Orthodox Union
* Clam Chowder
* Clam Juice
* Newburg Sauce
Prices and availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. Shipping is additional.
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