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Wayne Hallock of Hallock Cider Mill in Jamesport is still making his family’s clam chowder recipe. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Some people pass down family heirlooms to their relatives, like an old watch, a piece of furniture or a lacy dress.

In Wayne Hallock’s family, they pass down a clam chowder recipe — one that dates back to before the founding of the United States and remains a crowd-pleaser at the family’s farm stand today. 

“The men in my family taught me how to make chowder,” said Mr. Hallock, who runs Hallock’s Cider Mill in Jamesport with his wife, Maryanne. “I’m 11th-generation on Long Island and I’m passing it down to my son and my grandson … So we’ve got 13 generations making chowder here on Long Island.”

Mr. Hallock dates his family’s clam chowder back to 1642, the year his ancestor Peter Hallock arrived on Long Island after landing at Plymouth 12 years earlier.

“They were Methodists and they didn’t get along with the Puritans up there, so I think they got pushed down here,” Mr. Hallock said. “There were only a handful of men that landed there.”

That’s when Peter developed the recipe for clam chowder as a means to survive.

“In my family, there were a lot of baymen, a lot of clammers,” Wayne Hallock said. “They came here to Long Island and you had to harvest what was here to eat.”

Look at all those clams being used for one batch! (Credit: Paul Squire)
Look at all those clams being used for one batch! (Credit: Paul Squire)

That’s where the clam chowder came in. Or is it a stew?

Mr. Hallock said the recipe is certainly heartier than an ordinary chowder, with huge chucks of vegetables. The style of chowder likely reflects the times it came from, he said.

“It was made as a meal,” he said. “You had a bowl of soup for your meal and maybe a piece of bread and that’s what you had for dinner.”

Since its creation, the recipe has been passed down through the family line on scraps of parchment and strips of paper. The recipe has been inevitably tweaked a few times over the years, with each generation adding or subtracting a bit. But the core recipe has stayed the same.

First, there are the sautéed onions, then chopped celery and carrots. The potatoes get chopped and tossed into the pot next, along with the juices from the clams to use as a broth. Spices are added next to give the flavors some pop: bay leaf, thyme and parsley.

The cook saves a taste for himself. (Credit: Paul Squire)
The cook saves a taste for himself. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Finally, the clams are thrown in to cook and tomatoes finish off the dish. Mr. Hallock said he makes the recipe multiple times each week, along with a more recent New England clam chowder recipe and a shrimp and corn soup he developed last year.

“[Customers] can’t believe they come to a farm stand and find the best chowder available out there,” he said. “It’s awesome. I just love to cook and I love to make the chowder.”

Mr. Hallock said his first memories of the recipe go back to when he was just 4 years old, and would go clamming in the North Fork’s bays with his father.

“He’d have a day off work or something and he knew it’d be low tide and he’d say ‘Let’s go clamming and we’ll make some chowder after,’ ” Mr. Hallock recalled, smiling. It’s those same memories he’s instilled in his own sons and grandchildren, who went clamming with him and help make the chowders.

“The men in this family like to cook,” he laughed.