North Carolina has long been known for its bountiful seafood. Our local fishermen harvest a variety of top quality seafood products, including shrimp, blue crabs, grouper, flounder, oysters and clams to name a few.
This month we celebrate one of every seafood lover’s favorite: NC Clams!
Clams are bivalved mollusks that can live up to 35 years and grow up to five inches in diameter; however, most N.C. clams are harvested when they are two years old at the minimum harvest size of one inch thick.
The status of the clam fishery in N.C. is “unknown”. Landings have remained fairly steady over the years, but it is felt increased fishing pressure, poor water quality, and habitat loss have impacted this fishery. More detailed studies need to be conducted to accurately determine the status of the hard clam.
Clams are harvested with rakes or by hand in intertidal areas and shallow water along much of coastal N.C.. They are also caught with tongs and bull rakes in deeper water and by dredges and “kick boats” in Onslow and Carteret counties.
Briny, abundant, and affordable, clams pack a wallop of coastal flavor at a great value. We encourage you to make them a part of your seasonal seafood menu.
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.
Recipe: Steamed Clams
>> from NC Seafood Recipe Book
Note: You can omit the butter and lemon (sometimes pepper too) and it turns out great every time. You can use the broth for other recipes, and for bloody mary’s, or 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
Recipe: Pasta & Clam Sauce
Here is a simple, classic recipe that will want to turn to again and again after a great day walking on the beach or when you unexpectedly run into some friends whom you invite over to dinner on impulse and who accept the invitation just as unexpectedly.
You will probably have everything that you need except for the parsley and the basil. You may even have both of those on hand if you have planted an herb box or a garden just off the back steps.
If you don’t have them, you can just make a quick drive by shopping excursion at your local grocery store, and while there you might also want pick up some delicious crusty French bread and the items for making up a quick salad.
Recipe: Pasta & Clam Sauce
2 (10-ounce) cans whole clams in juice, undrained
12 ounces uncooked linguine
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Garnish: fresh basil leaves
Drain your clams and keep the juice.
Cook reserved clam juice in a small skillet over medium heat 15 minutes or until reduced by half; set aside.
Cook pasta according to package directions, and drain.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add garlic, and cook until golden.
Add reduced clam juice and parsley; cook 2 minutes or until parsley is tender.
Stir in clams, wine, and basil, and cook 5 minutes or until wine has reduced by half.
Add pasta and black pepper, tossing well to coat. Garnish, if desired. Serve immediately.
Recipe: Clams Casino
2 dozen clams 4 slices bacon, chopped ½ cup chopped onion ¼ cup margarine or butter 1 clove garlic, minced 2 tablespoons chopped pimento 1½ teaspoon Worcestershire ½ teaspoon white pepper ¼ cup dry white wine
Serves 2 people.
Rinse unshucked frozen clams under cold running water to remove any foreign particles. Shuck clams, reserving half of the shells for use in the recipe as small baking receptacles. Scrub the reserved shells and boil in water for 2 minutes. Remove the shells from the boiling water and drain.
Preheat oven to 425 degree F. Fry bacon until crisp. Add remaining ingredients except clams and white wine. Cook until onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Add wine; remove from heat. Place clams in reserved shells. Arrange shells in a shallow baking pan. Pour wine mixture over clams. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
Comprised of many second and third generation commercial fishermen, this industry has faced and adapted to many changes through the years. At present, however, the seafood industry is facing a “Perfect Storm.” Population growth in coastal regions has caused such a demand for waterfront property that many fishermen can no longer afford dock space for their vessels. This, coupled with sharp fluctuations in fuel costs and influx of lower-cost imported seafood is threatening the fishing industry, both locally and throughout the United States.
In order to promote and highlight the Brunswick County seafood industry, a dedicated group of commercial fishermen, seafood dealers and restaurant owners developed a local seafood recognition program called Brunswick Catch.
Formed with the assistance of the Brunswick County Economic Development Commission, Brunswick County Commissioners, North Carolina Sea Grant and Carteret Catch, the ultimate goal of the program is to sustain the livelihood and heritage of the Brunswick County seafood industry. Through public education and promotion we hope to increase the demand for locally harvested seafood among residents and visitors, with a long term goal of making Brunswick Catch seafood a recognized brand throughout the eastern United States.
Look for this symbol on quality products
produced, packed or processed in North Carolina