Clams · Seafood

Mercenaria mercenaria

Sometimes we think about leaving.  Sometimes it’s a frustrating state to live in, our Little Rhody.  The economy is still struggling, and my husband is a teacher, and what this state is doing (and has done) to his pension is appalling. 

So sometimes we think of going somewhere else.  Starting over.  Doing something different.  We’ve talked of farming.  I would love a cow, some goats, a bunch of chickens.  We’d both love more land so we could raise more of our own vegetables.  And we think we’d make a good go of it.

Until this happens….

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Hard-shell clams.

Mercenaria mercenaria, of the family Veneridae, the Venus clams.

Bill and a friend went digging yesterday for steamers (soft-shell clams) and quahogs, and this is what Bill brought home. 

Roughly twenty pounds of them. 

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One hundred and sixty-six assorted little necks and cherrystones, which are the common names for the smaller sizes.  The common name for the clam itself is the quahog.  Kwaw-hog or Kaw-hog, or Ko-hog, depending on your preferred pronounciation.  Used in chowders (or chowdahs, except not ALL of us Rho-dylundahs leave our Rs at home) and clamcakes and stuffies (stuffed clams) and clams casino and white or red clam sauce over pasta, to name a few well-known applications.  (I’m realizing I haven’t actually ever posted recipes for stuffies or clams casino on here, and I am hanging my head in shame right now because that’s really just unforgivable.  Or chowder, either?  What has been my problem????)

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On Sunday, Bill and the same friend dug for steamers in another spot and Bill brought home about 7 pounds, which we made short work of (steamed, rinsed in broth and dipped in butter) at dinner that same night.

The fun thing is, we’ve never dug clams in winter.  But the friend Bill went with grew up digging year ‘round.  And with this being such a mild winter (so far), there’s no reason for Bill not to go digging again.

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Usually Bill does one or two big digging trips in the summer, we steam the clams and pack them – in their own broth – in bags in the freezer.  Our supply lasts us until the following spring, as long as we don’t eat them all in one month. 

But now…now our supply could increase quite a bit, and if we chose to, we could eat them every week.

We don’t have a farm.

But we have salt water and a lot of shoreline.

And if we moved too far away, we wouldn’t have moments like this…

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We eat littlenecks – the smallest size – raw when we can have them fresh.  When they are cold and soft and briny and taste of the ocean.

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Bill wasn’t sure how these would taste (sometimes they are stronger than we like), so he opened a few for us to try.  And “us” included Alex.  Julia doesn’t like them raw.  But Alex?  He would have eaten all 166 of them if we allowed it.

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After much deliberation, chewing, and thought, Alex pronounced them good and worthy of his table.

Or something like that.

Sometimes the clams don’t want to be opened, or shucked.  I don’t really blame them.  There’s not a lot of life left to live between the digging and the shucking, and right after the shucking comes the eating, which, well, that’s pretty much the end for our little bivalve friends. 

When this happens, rather than hack away at the clam and ship off bits of shell in the process (bits of shell aren’t much fun to eat), Bill will put the clams in the freezer for a few minutes, quickly killing the clam and thus relaxing the strong muscles that hold the shell closed.

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Bill put about twenty littlenecks in the freezer for a while, and then he summoned our boy.

Class was in session.

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No, it wasn’t as bad as that.

Bill set Alex up with a clam knife, a cloth to protect his hand, and a littleneck.

And hands-on instruction.

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Success!

And, naturally, Julia wanted to learn, too.  Bill wasn’t sure her hands were big enough or strong enough, but he found one little clam that hadn’t clamped itself completely shut. 

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More success!

She still didn’t want to eat them raw, but that’s okay. 

All the more for us!

Anyway, we had about twenty or so, raw, with dinner, steamed the larger ones and packed them into 4 bags, with broth, and put them in the freezer.

The rest?  They’re in a bowl in the fridge.  I’ll be making something yummy with them today.  Just haven’t decided what, yet.            

4 thoughts on “Mercenaria mercenaria

  1. This is possibly one of the best photo shots I’ve seen for Alex. Especially the taste-test ones. That last one! Hee hee!
    I’m with you – the idea of moving out to the west and having acres of land, rather than my current homestead in NJ, and being able to have a real farm is very very tempting.
    My FIL has acreage in W. Virginia in the middle of the woods… just imagining the life I could live being out there and able to do my artistry in the peace of the mountains… /sigh
    But I would have a hard time moving away from such a plentiful bounty if I had that! Mmm… hungry just thinking about those clams. And please! Post the recipe for Clams Casino! [I gotta get my dearest to eat more shellfish…]

  2. We have lots of land to farm in Texas, but the only fairly reasonably priced land is out west where you’d have to irrigate (better suited for ranching) and with the drought we’ve had the past few summers, we can’t even do that (many animals were turned out to fend for themselves because of lack of water on some ranches.) We do have a coast line, but I don’t know if we have little necks and kwahogs. As for teaching jobs, TEA just allowed our school district to hire back some of the teachers we let go last May. The grass always looks greener….

  3. Ack! They’re alive when you shuck them? I had no idea! Won’t change my enjoyment of clam chowder, though. 😉

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