Clams · Fishing · My Family · Seafood

Clambake – An All-Day Affair


A couple of Saturdays ago, Bill and I took the kids and some clam rakes and metal baskets and gloves and the kids' plastic gardening tools and my camera down to Galilee to dig clams.  Bill had bought about four pounds of soft shell clams, or steamers, earlier, but in order to do the clambake we needed rockweed (a type of seaweed) and since we had to get that, we might as well dig for more steamers while we were there.

This is where we went to dig:


The area is referred to as "the mud flats" because the sand is actually a mixture of mud and sand.  We got there as the tide was going out – perfect for our purposes.  We could work our way farther out as the tide went out, and our chances of finding fresh areas where no one had dug yet, and the clams would be closer to the surface.  You can see plenty of people already out there digging.


Here we go….


Julia's legs are kind of short, so she started to lag behind…


Here we are at the first spot.  In order to decide where to dig, we stomp around on the sand and watch for water to squirt out through tiny holes in the sand.  This tiny little fountain is an indication that there's a clam hiding down under there. 

Bill's digging with a clam rake, but you can also dig with your hands, or whatever else works.  I use my hands – I don't have as much finesse with the rake as Bill does, and I tend to jab the tines through the delicate clam shells.  I didn't dig on this day – I was busy playing Pioneer Woman of the Mud Flats of Galilee and taking a zillion pictures so I could chronicle the adventure.  (I must credit Pioneer Woman with unknowingly reminding me that I have been taking pictures since I was very young and I have a great camera so WHY aren't I doing more of it???  Thank you, Ree, for the slap upside the head!)

Anyway, while Bill stomped and raked and moved along and stomped and raked and so on, the kids were on a mission to find the rockweed needed for the actual clambake that we would put together later.


This is rockweed.  You can also see a little crab scuttling away in the upper middle portion of the image.  This type of seaweed attaches itself to rocks (hence the name) but comes off easily.  It was primarily Alex's job to locate the rockweed and bring it back to the baskets.


He gathered nearly all of the rockweed himself.  Julia helped some, but it didn't hold her interest for very long.


She just wanted to play.



Bill kept digging….



Alex's other job was to rinse off the clams and place them in the baskets with the rockweed.

I don't even know how long we were there, but it got to be a bit too long for Julia.  She had to go potty at one point and since there were no bathrooms out there, I kind of helped her go off to the side near the deeper water.  She ended up sitting in the sand and was rather uncomfortable from that point on.

At one point, after whining about wanting to go home, and Bill saying "just one more hole" and me trying to convince Julia that LOOK!  What's Daddy going to FIND?! Isn't this EXCITING??!!, Julia had finally had enough of clams, sun, seaweed, and sand in her shorts.  She stood as tall as she could, her clenched fists at her sides, and shrieked, through clenched teeth, in a horrifying voice I have never heard before, "I WANT TO GO HOOOOMMMMME!"  She actually shook with anger.  Really.

So, finally, we did.


And once home, the preparations began…

After we got back in the truck, we stopped at one of the seafood markets nearby and got 4 lobsters.


First thing we do is heat up the charcoal in the little chimney.  Be careful.  Fire is hot.


Once the coals are good and hot (see above), some of them go into the bottom of the grill…


then you put the beach rocks on top, and then put more hot coals on top…


And then you put some hunks of wood on top of that and let everything burn.

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While that's going on, you take a two foot long piece of chimney pipe, 8 inches in diameter.  Interlock the edges so they click into place.  (Sometimes the wife needs to lend some assistance with this part, heh heh heh.)


Once it's pretty much all burnt down to ashes, your rocks will be hotter than hell and ready to go to work.


Place the chimney pipe on the rack at the bottom of the grill and place the VERY HOT beach rocks inside.


Be careful – the rocks are really very VERY hot.


See them down there?  Okay…


Now dump in some of the rockweed…


And then the lobsters. 

And then you put in the steamers, and potatoes, and sausage or, in our case, linguica.

Put the rest of the rockweed on top of that, and (don't laugh)


cover the whole thing with a wet pillowcase.  Okay, I know it's not really the official standard traditional swamp yankee way…but it helps keep the seaweed on top wet, and it worked, so just bear with me.

We left this for about an hour and fifteen minutes.  Bill just now, as I'm typing, said next time he might go an hour and a half, but an hour and fifteen worked.  The rule of thumb is – when the potatoes are cooked through, the bake is done.


As the heat from the rocks and the moisture from the rockweed cook the lobsters and clams and everything, the smoky, salty perfume of baking seafood will begin to escape from the pillowcase.  Here you see Alex…sniffing….(and I just noticed that on the windowsill you see motrin and tylenol.  Julia's back molars are coming in and she's been rather cranky about it at times.)

But anyway…


You can see how hot it gets – see the steam coming off the top.  It's a good idea to spray some water on the pillowcase every now and then.  Not a lot – you don't want to cool things down.  But you want to keep the moisture in.


And when you think it's done (in our case, about an hour and fifteen minutes later), you remove the top layer of rockweed, stick a knife in one of the potatoes to see if it's cooked through…and then…


you check one of the clams.  It should be open and the flesh firmed up like you can (sort of) see above.  I could stare at that picture all day. 


There's the top…cooked through and smokey and sea-salty and heavenly.


So now you dump the contents into a great big bowl…and you try to prevent your small son from grabbing all the lobsters for himself.


It doesn't get much better than this.


One thought on “Clambake – An All-Day Affair

  1. I am pretending to be a part of your family right now. I love lobster. I love potatoes. I want to do a clambake. I don’t know how. I know you tried to teach with pictures, but I would still have to hire you and Bill and Alex. I wouldn’t even make Julia get sand on her ass.

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