New England’s Textile Heritage, and what that has to do with ClamBoils!
What do Portuguese cooking and quilting have in common? I was raised in Rhode Island, on Narragansett Bay. There was a very large Portuguese population in that area that was drawn to Fall River and New Bedford MA by the fishing industry and by the Textile Mills.
Not only have the Portuguese contributed their own flavor to our local cuisine, but they’ve been instrumental in the development of the cotton printing industry that supported the quilting tradition in the US. When I was in college studying Textile Chemistry, I worked at two different textile mills in Fall River, MA. About half the workforce was Portuguese. I enjoyed growing up around the Portuguese culture of strong family values, hard work, and spicy cuisine!
Quilting inspiration comes from everywhere!
It must be my New England roots that make me fascinated by this simple patchwork and quilting pattern.
The Clamshell was traditionally made with curved piecing or English Paper Piecing. Like most curved pieced blocks, there is an easier applique alternative. For anyone who does not have applique experience, I recommend a straight-set clamshell to practice this simple technique. Clamshells can be cut four at a time with Template D from the four-piece Hearts and More template set.
I made Kaffe Clam Shells for the cover of my book, Hearts and More Rotary Cut Applique. The book has detailed instructions on making Clamshell quilts and borders using Hearts and More.
Learn to make Clam Shell Quilts
The pillow is a fast, easy project that features clamshell quilting as well as clamshell raw edge fusible applique. Look for the Clever Clamshells workshop in “Ahead of the Curve” applique lovers membership for an easy introduction to clamshell quilts.
This clamshell baby quilt has an added bonus when you cut 5″ squares into fusible clamshells with the SPD method. The nap mat is a bonus quilt made from the leftover pieces from cutting clamshells. The Clam Shells and More pattern includes the baby quilt, the bonus quilt, and the pillow.
More advanced Quilters will love “Belle en Rouge”
“Belle en Rouge” is a quilt I designed using clam shells in an unusual way. The four setting triangles frame the medallion center set on point. The Tim Holtz version, “Belle en Bleu” reminds me of summer in New England! The ocean-color background sets off the tan clams that resemble the color of “steamers”, small long neck clams that New Englanders use for a good, old-fashioned, backyard clam boil. Add some beach roses and this quilt reminds me of summer, sand, and scrumptious steamers cooked in Rhode Island.
Machine Applique this pretty quilt in the “Petite Belle Quilt-Along”
Make your own medallion style quilt with me during the Petite Belle Quilt-Along, starting in August. The finished quilt is 42″ square when you do the 5 month quilt-along with me! The full course is 9 sessions and in nine months you can continue and make the wall quilt into any size from 42″ to 84″.
If you are excited to focus on the clamshells, and the basket of flowers, the shorter 5 month session is perfect to get this wall quilt done in about 21 minutes a day!
This lovely, queen-sized version of “Belle en Rouge” was a stash- busting quilt made by Mary Russell, also from Massachusetts.
How to make a New England Clam Boil
Native Americans in our area passed on a tradition for a clambake to early settlers. After building a fire on the beach, large stones were placed in the fire, and when they were glowing hot, wet seaweed was used to cover the hot stones. Clams, potatoes, corn, and onions were placed on top of the seaweed and the whole thing was covered with more wet seaweed. The clam and veggies would steam beautifully with the clam juice running over the veggies to flavor the entire meal with salty goodness.
The Portuguese have a strong fishing history and amazing cuisine that often features seafood, particularly shellfish, along with Chourico, a spicy pork sausage. When you add Portuguese Chourico to the Native American dish, the best of both worlds come together!
The same ingredients can be more easily prepared on the stovetop rather than on the beach.
Make your own Clam Boil
Last week we had our annual family clam boil with 100 of our closest friends and relatives. I thought it might be fun to share the ingredients for such an event with a photo or two.
The secret to a good clam boil is making sure you boil everything in one pot so the flavors blend. We use a BIG POT! Don’t worry if you don’t have 99 friends to share this with… I’ll give you the “clam boil for two” recipe at the end of this blog post!
Clam Boil for 100 Guests
Soak a bushel and a half of clams in a large cooler with a 1/2 cup of black pepper. Rinse and repeat.
Saute one head of peeled crushed garlic in 2 cups olive oil in the bottom of a large pot.
Add 1 cup salt, 1/2 cup pepper, 1/4 cup red pepper flakes, 1 six-pack of beer, and 3 gallons of water. Bring to a boil.
Add 100 medium-sized scrubbed yellow thin-skinned potatoes and 100 medium-sized sweet onions, peeled without cutting off the ends.
Add: 100 hot dogs, 100 breakfast sausage, and 12 lbs Chourico or linguica (spicy Portuguese sausage) cut into 2″ chunks
Cover and return to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove one potato and one onion from the pot.
Add one and a half bushels of steamers. Place the potato and the onion on top of the steamers. Cook until the potato and onion are soft (another 10 minutes). Remove each layer of ingredients into serving bowls. Add 50 ears of fresh sweet corn, shucked and broken in half back into the broth. Boil for 5 minutes.
In a saucepan, melt 6 lbs butter. Dish out into small dixie cups for dipping clams. Pour 1/2 cup broth into a coffee cup for washing clams.
Clam Boil for Two
Get one pound of steamers per person. Soak in the sink with cold water and a Tablespoon of black pepper to remove sand. Drain water and rinse repeatedly to remove as much sand as possible. Discard any clams that are broken, or floating.
In a stockpot on your stovetop, saute one small chopped onion and two cloves of garlic in a large splash of olive oil. Add a pinch of crushed red pepper, a teaspoon of salt, and a 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Add a sprig of fresh thyme.
Add one can of beer and 2 cups of water. Scrub 2 medium-size yellow, thin-skin potatoes (more if desired, or use small new potatoes) Peel two medium-sized onions. Add potatoes and onions to the pot and cook for 10 minutes. Shuck two ears of corn.
Add corn to the pot, then add cleaned clams, 2 hot dogs, 2 links breakfast sausage, 2 pieces of Portugese Chourico (2″ length), and 2 eggs in that order. Cover and steam clams for 7-10 minutes after returning to a boil. Discard any unopened clams. Serve in large bowls with melted butter and broth on the side.
I hope you are taking time to relax with family this summer and that you are inspired by the flowers, the ocean and nature all around us!
I hope applique the fast and easy SPD way makes you “Happy as a Clam”! ~~Sue Pelland