This time of year, North Carolina shellfish lovers are left with an empty feeling. We are sad that Oyster season has closed and we can’t wait to get our hands on some softshell crabs that are still a few weeks away. What is a shellfish lover to do? Eat clams. Yes, friends, this is the time for North Carolina clams to shine. Briny, abundant, and affordable, clams pack a wallop of coastal flavor at a great value. We are featuring clams this week and encourage you to make them a part of your seasonal seafood menu. Stop by the State Farmers Market on Sat, April 25 and get a taste. We will be offering free samples.
Talking About Brine
With oysters and clams you will hear the terms “briny” and “high salinity” that speak to a concentration of salt flavor. The opposite of salty is “mild”. When you hear shellfish flavor described as mild it means there is a lower level of salt and brine in the particular batch. The level of salinity is primarily impacted by two factors:
1. The proximity to salt water currents. Clams harvested closer to the ocean near an inlet can have higher levels of salinity creating that briny flavor.
2. The amount of freshwater in the sound. After a heavy rain or snow melt clams tend to be milder as there is less salt water in the brackish mix of fresh and salt water where clams live.
Check out recipes for clams below.
How to store your clams
To store the clams, place them in an empty bowl (no water) without a cover in the fridge. This keeps them alive and fresh. Prolonged exposure to tap water will kill your clams. When you’re ready to cook them, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes to an hour so they will purge themselves of any grit (sand). This is a necessary step anytime you cook fresh clams.
How to cook your clams
If you are one who likes that strong brine flavor the best thing you can do is simply steam the clams for 8 minutes or until they open. While they are steaming, warm up some butter and then eat them right out of the shell. This can be a great appetizer while you are heating up the grill for your entrée.
Looking for something new and slightly more gastronomic to do with your clams? Give clam pizza a try. It will take about 2 hours, but it can be a fun way to prepare clams while drinking spring wines like Rose or Sauvignon Blanc with your friends.
>> from NC Seafood Recipe Book
Note from Ryan: We have always omitted the butter and lemon (sometimes pepper too) and it turns out great every time. We use the broth for other recipes, but often for bloody mary’s, and we stew red potatoes in the broth.
2 dozen clams
½ teaspoon pepper
½ cup water
¼ cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
Scrub clams thoroughly, discarding any shells that are cracked
Combine water, wine, Old Bay seasoning, and pepper in a large Dutch oven. Bring mixture to a boil; add clams. Cover, reduce heat, and steam until shells open wide, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove clams with a slotted spoon, reserving liquid. Serve clams hot in shells with reserved clam liquid, melted butter, and lemon wedges.
Yield: 2 servings