Fred Overton’s Bonac Chowder

East Hampton Town Trustees’ Largest Clam Contest

   It takes Fred Overton, the East Hampton Town Clerk, two days to make 30 gallons of chowder. He does the kitchen prep the day before and puts everything together in two 15-gallon vats on the morning of the East Hampton Town Trustees’ Largest Clam Contest.
   Clams and potatoes in equal amounts — 50 pounds apiece — are the main ingredients. (The Seafood Shop in Wainscott sells 10-pound “setups” of clams and their juice. Mr. Overton uses five setups.) Then, 8 to 10 pounds of onions — “I don’t like too many onions, they overpower the soup,” he said — and about eight 28-ounce cans of canned whole peeled tomatoes.
   The number of tomatoes “depends on what it looks like.” Bonac chowder should not be too red.
Borrow a vat from the firehouse if you can and line the bottom with quarter-inch strips of salt pork (one package lines one vat). Add equal amounts of clam juice and water: 10 quarts juice, 10 water. Add potatoes, chopped onion, diced tomatoes, and “just a pinch of thyme.” Simmer. Put the clams in last, “not until after the potatoes are done. Otherwise they get rubbery.”
   Season to taste. Some people add carrots or celery. This recipe serves at least 200.
   A story on the contest and its winning clams and chowders appears elsewhere in today’s Star.