History of Clam Dip

Who and where was Clam Dip created?
So it is going to be kind of wonky the way I answer this question. The way the dip as we know it got into the American food lexicon was when the dip was presented on the Kraft Music Hall television show in the 195Os. There were versions of the dip before the 1950s but it would have more likely been spread on bread or crackers. One of these such recipes appeared in Irma Rombauer’s cookbook Streamlined Cooking. Actually, Jean Anderson of The American Century Cookbook traced the first print of the dip through some amazing sleuthing to President Woodrow Wilson’s second wife Edith Bolling Galt Wilson. Wilson wrote it down on a piece of paper but did not note where she got it. Again this would have most likely been used as a canape as dips did not became a thing really until the midcentury.

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1951 Food Favorites that featured popular recipes featured on the television program.

What ingredients are in Clam Dip?
Clam dip is a simple dip made with canned minced clams in a base of cream cheese with seasonings. A mid century variation was using chive cream cheese instead of plain or mixing in cottage cheese. In the 1960s, some versions included cheese or used condensed soup. Jane and Michael Stern joked in their cookbook, Square Meals, that the substitution of fresh clams for canned is “out of the question”.

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1955 Newspaper ad

When was Clam Dip popular?
The 1950s was the complete height of popularity of this dip. After it was presented on the Kraft Music Hall show, canned minced clam sold out in New York City in 24 hours. That decade loved themselves some clam dip. It was considered “an easy to make and delicious appetizers for parties”. A 1955 newspaper ran a food contest for “snick and snacks” to serve at New Year’s Eve parties with clam dip winning second prize. In an article for college students in 1953, the author reminded the young hostesses not to “forget that wonderful clam dip that mother adores”.

By the 1960s, you could find premade versions in grocery stores. Helen Gurley Smith, who used to be the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, in her 1969 Single Girl’s Cookbook proclaimed that clam dip was her favorite to serve at parties and that she even makes it just for herself.

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1960s newspaper ad

Why should I make Clam Dip?
It is a wonderfully easy dip to make. If you are nervous that it will be too clammy in taste, it actually comes out quite subtle. I also think it would be particularly good with the tomato starter I made for the 1963 Thanksgiving dinner. Though if you hate shell fish of any sort, there will be no convincing you. There are many people fond of this classic dip. Sylvia Lovegren in her cookbook Fashionable Foods says that “clam dip is an American classic, worthy of an appearance at your next cocktail party”. Jane and Michael Stern says that the dip is “easy to prepare and always in the best of taste, clam dip adds an elegant fair to snack time (especially elegant if the potato chips are rippled)”.

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How to make Clam Dip?

Clam Dip

  • Servings: 8 - 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A classic dip from the 1950s.

Ingredients

  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 6.5 ounce can of minced clam, drained with the liquid reserved in a bowl

Directions

  1. Rub the mixing bowl with the garlic glove
  2. In bowl mix, together the cream cheese, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and minced clams.
  3. Slowly add in up to 4 tablespoons of the reserved clam juice liquid until you get the desired consistency.
  4. Serve with your favorite chips or other dippers.

Notes: You can add other ingredients to this basic recipe such as a few dash of hot sauce, 1/4 cup chopped chives or green onions, or use chive cream cheese instead of plain.


Sources:

Anderson, Jean. The American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century. New York: Clarkson Potter, 1997.

“Going Back to School Can Be On Exciting Adventure.” The Day. August 19, 1953.

Lovegren, Sylvia. Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads. New York: Macmillan, 1995.

Miller, Mary Sue. “A Lovelier You.” Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

“‘Mish-Mash’ Dip Wins”. St. Petersburg Times. December 30, 1955.

Stern, Jane and Stern, Michael. Square Meals: America’s Favorite Comfort Food Cookbook. New York: Lebhar-Friedman Books, 2001.

Stern, Jane and Stern, Michael. American Gourmet: Classic Recipes, Deluxe Delights, Flamboyant Favorites and Swank “Company” Food fom the ’50s and ’60s. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991.

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