Clams are bivalve mollusks.
They are a favorite of most shell fish eaters world wide both historically and
present day. You can eat them raw, baked, fried, deep fried, steamed, barbequed
or chopped in chowder. Clams have a mild, briny taste and a more or less chewy
texture, depending on size and variety.
Many, many species from many different families of mollusc are called clams.
(see my Common Names Page).
I will just cover a few here:
- Hard-shell (also call
Quahogs) are usually sold by size
- littlenecks are
tender and sweet and have shells measuring less than two inches (5cm)
across. They are often eaten raw or steamed.
- cherry stones
are a little larger and are quite tender
- chowder and mahogany
clams, are often chopped and made into soup and are the largest of the
- Soft-shell clams (also
called steamers, fryers, and long necks) have hard, thin shells, with neck-like
siphons sticking out of them.
- Surf clams have large
white shells and are usually cut into strips for restaurant use.
- Razor clams are large,
tough clams with shells shaped like straight razors.
- Pacific littlenecks
(not to be confused with Atlantic littlenecks) are small clams suitable for
- Manila (Japanese)
clams, introduced from Asia, are good steamed or raw.
- Geoducks (pronounced
gooey-ducks) are giant Pacific Northwest clams with siphons that may protrude
up to three feet (about 90cm).
- Butter clams, also
native to the Pacific Northwest, are small clams enjoyed raw, steamed, or
- Western Jackknife
clams are similar to East Coast razor clams.
Buying and storing tips:
- Clams can be collected
fresh or purchase live clams that are tightly shut or will close when tapped
lightly on the shell. They should smell clean, like the ocean. The shells
of most live clams are tightly closed. Some clams with protruding siphons
cannot close up when out of the water, but the siphon should pull in somewhat
- Live clams in-the-shell
will remain alive up to seven days in the refrigerator when stored between
38°F and 40°F in a container with a slightly open lid. Drain excess
Clams can be shucked and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator
for up to seven days. If using that day, after cleaning (see below), refrigerate
clams in a bowl, covered with a damp towel. Clams should be cooked as soon
- To freeze clams, remove
clam meat from shells and wrap them in freezer paper or plastic; then over-wrap
with a plastic bag. Store for up to two months.
place frozen clams in the refrigerator overnight. To thaw faster, wrap clams
in waterproof plastic and place in a sink with cool running water, allowing
about 30 minutes per pound (450 grams). For fastest thawing, use the defrost
cycle of your microwave, letting clams rest between brief zaps (as one minute
defrost to one minute resting).
- If collecting live
clams; be sure to know if there is a red tide on. Clams are filter feeders
and are thus affected by this algal bloom
- Collect only from
non-polluted waters only. Harbours and near by industry can pollute clam beds
- Know what local regulations
there are for collecting both for number and size of clams.
- Live clams are available
year round, but they dont stay fresh as long during the summer, when
they are spawning.
- Be aware if you have
an allergy to shellfish. If in doubt, the first day try only one clam or a
very very small helping, if no ill effects are seen in 24 hours, then it is
usually safe to to consume normal portions. Also those with liver problems
should not eat large quantities of clams as they contain large amounts of
Most clams available
commercially have been cleaned, but if you dig your own, you must remove
the sand and grit from inside the shell. Either use salt water or make enough
saltwater brine (1 cup of salt per 3 quarts of water) to cover clams. Soak
clams in salt water in the refrigerator several hours or overnight. This
is particularly important for clams with protruding siphons. For tightly
closed hard-shell clams, it may be enough to simply scrub the shells to
To shuck clams, first
put them in the freezer for five minutes to loosen their hold. Work over
an empty bowl to collect any clam juice. Hold the clam in your hand with
the shell hinge toward your palm, and insert a thin, dull knife (never a
sharp kitchen knife) between the shell. Work the knife around so you can
cut through the hinge. Open the shell and slide the knife between the clam
and the top shell. Then detach the clam by sliding the knife between it
and the bottom shell.
(0.6cm) water (wine and seasoning optional; lemon makes an excellent
seasoning) in the bottom of a large pan. Add clams in the shell. Bring
water to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until shells open (four to
five minutes). Throw away any clams that dont open, or cook them
until they do. Serve clams in bowls along with the cooking broth.
- Place cleaned
and scrubbed clams in the shell directly on to the grill, about 4 to 6
inches (10 to 15cm) above prepared coals or fire. Turn after two minutes.
Cook until shells open slightly, about four minutes.
- Pan frying
- Heat the frying
pan, then add butter or oil. Add clam meat and sauté until brown,
two to three minutes.
- Deep frying
- Pour oil into
a wok or deep fryer; it should be at least 1 1/2 inches (3.8 cm) deep,
and the cooker should be less than half full of oil. Heat oil to 375°F
(190°C), using a thermometer to monitor temperature. If using geoducks,
cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) pieces. Dip clam meat in batter, drain, and then
slip pieces into hot oil. Cook until brown, about two to three minutes.
Clams (raw), 3 oz. (84.9g)
Total Fat: 0.8g
*Excellent source of: Vitamin B12 (42mcg), and Iron (11.9mg)
*Foods that are an excellent
source of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended
Daily Value, based upon United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines.
Foods that are a good source of a particular nutrient provide between
10 and 20% of the USDA Recommended Daily Value. Nutritional information and
daily nutritional guidelines may vary in different countries. Please consult
the appropriate organization in your country for specific nutritional values
and the recommended daily guidelines.
Clams are not a source
of omega-3 fatty acids.
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