North American Indians were having clambakes before the first settlers from Europe arrived at New England. The Indians cooked their clams, corn and other food, much as several New England clambakers have done, in pits about 2 feet deep lined with stones.
First a fire was built on the stones to heat them, and damp seaweed was laid on the hot stones to create steam. Then the food was placed on the seaweed and more seaweed was laid on the food. Cooking time using this traditional method was 8 to 10 hours, a testimonial to the patience of the Indians andearly settlers.
A different clambake cooking technique involves digging a pit in the sand, sinking a large barrel almost to the top in the pit, and putting a small amount of water to the barrel. Stones heated in a separate fire are then placed in the barrel, followed by consecutive layers of seaweed and food until the barrel is full. A tarp is bound over the barrel top, which is then covered with sand. Cooking time using this processis only a few hours, but it takes a long time to dig the pit and heat up the stones.
The clambake technique common today substitutes for the pit or barrel a sheet of steel about 4 by 8 feet, placed on rock or cinder-block supports built I 1/2 to 2 feet above ground. A wood fire heats the steel sheet, and layers of seaweed and food are laid on the steel, and then covered up with a tarp. Cooking takes around an hour and the setup can feed dozens of people easily, making it ideal for club, neighborhood or community groups. Splitting up the costs of the structural ingredients over a large group also makes such clambakes more palatable financially. The edible ingredients (lobsters, clams, corn, potatoes, onions, chicken and hotdogs) will be pricey enough today.
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