Clam base is a bouillon paste that is often used in seafood soups and chowders, namely in clam chowder. While many recipe versions of clam chowder call for clam juice or broth for the flavor, some experienced cooks have found that mixing in clam base adds a more pronounced flavor and prevents blandness. This bouillon paste can either be used as a substitute or mixed with the required amount of clam juice. Clam base is usually purchased in jars and can be found alongside other bouillon flavors in most grocery stores; several brands can also be ordered online. Those who like to make seafood meals at home from scratch can also easily make their own versions of this ingredient.
Most prepared clam base is made from a mixture of finely chopped or pureed clams, a small measure of clam juice, salt, various seasonings, and sometimes lemon juice. Since it is a thicker ingredient than clam juice alone, it usually needs to be first mixed with an additional amount of either clam juice or water. The mixture is then heated for about two minutes before being added to the rest of the chowder ingredients. This can be done either in a microwave or in a saucepan on the stove depending on the volume of chowder that will result. The average clam chowder recipe calls for about two tablespoons of clam base mixed with two cups of water or clam juice, though these measurements can be doubled for larger batches.
Cooking with clams is usually a simple process when it comes to making this clam-flavored ingredient. Home cooks who make their own clam base often claim the best results come from freshly dug, shelled, and cleaned clams. Canned clams can be used instead for those without easy access to fresh ones. Once the clams are cleaned and drained, they are usually pureed in a food processor along with lemon juice, salt, and sometimes a pinch of black pepper. Some cooks also like to add small amounts of their other favorite spices such as garlic or oregano.
Professional cooks who specialize in seafood meals can often have different opinions on whether a soup thickening ingredient should be used along with a clam base. Some report good results when they add flour, dried potato flakes, or even prepared mashed potatoes to their chowders. Others believe these thickeners can detract too much from the texture unless they are added only in small amounts and blended thoroughly.