St. Augustine Minorcan Clam Chowder

St. Augustine, Florida, Minorcan Clam Chowder

In 1513, explorer Juan Ponce de León was the first European to discover the area of modern-day Florida, claiming the land for Spain. In September 1565, Spaniard Pedro Menéndez de Avilés named a northeastern coastal portion of the area St. Augustine and established the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the United States, decades earlier than the Jamestown and Plymouth settlements.

Today’s St. Augustinians proudly preserve a culinary history that is distinctly theirs: cultivating datil chile peppers. It’s believed that indentured servants from Minorca, an island off the eastern coast of Spain, brought these chiles with them centuries ago, and they have continued to be grown in and around the area. Datil peppers have a heat level similar to incredibly spicy habañero and Scotch bonnet chiles, but datils also have a natural sweetness that tempers the heat. A favorite way for locals to use the datil is in clam chowder, which can be found in restaurants and cafés all over the region.

datil chile peppers, grown in St. Augustine, Florida
Datil chile peppers, photo courtesy of FloridasHistoricCoast.com
St. Augustine Minorcan Clam Chowder
Makes about 2 1/2 quarts
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Ingredients
  1. 1/4 pound salt pork or bacon, diced
  2. 1 medium onion, diced
  3. 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  4. 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  5. 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  6. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  7. 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  8. 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  9. 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  10. 1 (15-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
  11. 2 cups fish or seafood stock
  12. 1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
  13. 2 (6.5-ounce) cans chopped clams, drained and liquid reserved
  14. 3 bay leaves
  15. 1 datil pepper, seeded and minced, or datil pepper hot sauce, to taste
  16. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  17. 3 small red potatoes, peeled and diced
Instructions
  1. In large saucepan, cook salt pork or bacon over medium heat, stirring frequently, until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove from pan, and let drain on paper towels, reserving drippings in pan.
  2. Add onion, bell pepper, and carrots to drippings; cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and garlic; cook for 2 minutes. Stir in chopped tomatoes, fish or seafood stock, clam juice, reserved clam liquid, bay leaves, datil pepper or sauce, and salt, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour.
  3. Stir in potatoes, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in clams and cooked pork or bacon, and cook for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
Notes
  1. Datil pepper seeds can be purchased online. Datil pepper hot sauce is sold in Publix grocery stores throughout Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, and is available online through multiple sources, including minorcandatil.com, datildoit.com, cowgillshotsauce.com, and amazon.com.
Adapted from Florida's Historic Coast
Paula Deen Magazine https://www.pauladeenmagazine.com/
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