Let’s Go Clamming!
I desperately need a break from my laptop screen. Some of you, like me, are on the hunt for a new summer activity? While it's not official yet, at Piper and Dune we’ve declared it unofficial summertime because we all need a reason to celebrate lately! We think there’s no better way to spend a summer day than clamming in the tidal ponds and bays of your favorite shoreline. For years my family spent the summers at our Aunt Martha’s vacation home in Narragansett, Rhode Island. We always wanted to try out clamming there, but the traditional clamming spots near Point Judith and the Salt Pond always looked too overfished and overpopulated for us, so we kept putting it off. It wasn’t until one of our weekly stops at Casey’s Farmer’s Market that we learned from a local vendor of Little Neck clams where he fetched his bounty. In Potter’s Pond, we felt we found a secret treasure. After that, we started to ask our restaurant servers and other locals where they have heard of to go clamming. It didn’t take long to build a list.
Clamming doesn’t require much to get started. You’ll need a shellfishing license (check online), a clam ring (a plastic gauge that indicates if the clam is too small or if it needs to be thrown back), a bucket, and a clam rake (some use a pitch fork, but it lacks the basket to hold the clams), and your Crocs, water shoes or an old pair of sneakers are a must so you don’t tear up your feet on broken shells! Clamming takes a little work, but if you are lucky enough to find the right spot, it can be really exciting.
There are several decisions you need to make before venturing out, so depending upon your meal preference for dinner that night, your first decision will be to decide what type of clams you’d like to catch:
- Littleneck – these are best for raw clams; the smallest legally obtainable size, you’ll get 7-10 of these in a pound
- Cherrystone – these are best grilled; these ones are mid-range in size at 6-9 per pound
- Quahog – also known as ‘chowder clams’; these are the largest at 2-3 per pound
In many of the salt bays of New England, they sprinkle millions of newborn clams, so by midsummer there are plenty of full-grown shellfish to catch and eat, and if you are lucky you will hit the jackpot and find a honey hole where several clams are hiding out together. Your clamming hole will determine the method you use to fetch your clams. Growing up my Mom would take me and my brothers back to where she grew up on Laurel Beach in Milford, CT. It was there that my Grandpa Casey would teach us and our cousin Francine to go clamming. My Grandpa loved to make Stuffed Clams (a.k.a. ‘Stuffies’ in R.I.) Grandpa’s two favorite clamming methods were: 1) wait until low tide at the end of the day, walk out on a sandbar, bring a big spoon or gardening tool, and look for an old fashioned keyhole that sometimes spit or gurgle- that was where we were supposed to dig or 2) go in a little deeper water, bring a tire tube with a round laundry basket tucked inside, secured to the tube with robe or a few bungee cords to hold the harvest. I remember dragging our floating bucket of clams around while we did ‘the twist’ feeling for clams under our feet, reaching down and securing our find. Others might choose to rake in deeper water as well. You will find your own method and by all means, take your lead from the locals.
Clamming is only half the fun. When it comes time to prepare something with your catch, be sure to store your live clams in a cold (32 to 35 degree Fahrenheit) refrigerator in an open container, covered with a moist dish towel or paper towels and they should remain fresh for two to three days. Whatever you do, don’t put the live clams in an airtight container or submerge them in fresh water or they won’t make it. Next, grab a cookbook, don’t forget to garnish them with some fresh herbs too. Serve them on a beautiful tray , the clams are guaranteed to taste better because you caught them yourself, enjoy!
Explore What Excites You!
Chris and The Piper and Dune Family
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