Clams

clamsClams are abundant and therefore are one of the cheapest shellfish available on the market today. They are bivalves which mean they have two shells that are connected by a hinge. They burrow themselves into the sand where oysters and mussels attach themselves to things in the water such as rocks and under water structures. Because they bury themselves in the sand they must be cleaned thoroughly before using to rid them of dirt and sand. Scallops are bivalves that can swim where clams can’t. Clams are a good source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids. All clams are a lean meat with less than 2% fat and the soft-shell clams are also very low in salt. They can be baked, broiled, sautéed, steamed, poached, deep fried, barbequed, pan fried or eaten raw.

Coquino Clams
Ametxa / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

BEAN AND COQUINO CLAMS
The bean clam is a small edible clam usually less than 1 inch long and native to southern California. The coquino or wedge clam is its east coast cousin. They have a very good flavor but being very small, it is a tedious job cleaning them so they are usually used in soups or stews.

Butter Clam
Butter clams are hard-shell clams that are found on the Pacific coast from Alaska to California. They have a thick, oval shell that averages 2-4 inches long. They are sometimes called beef steak clams, money clams, Washington or Oregon clams. Butter clams have a sweet, mild flavor and are best served steamed, baked, fried, sautéed deep fried or eaten raw.

Cockles
A cockle is a small edible member of the saltwater clam family. They can be found on the Pacific coast from Alaska to California. They can be distinguished from other clams by their prominent ribs that start at the hinge and stretch out evenly to the edge of the shell, however there are cockles that have smooth shells. There are over 200 different species of cockles but only about 6 that are harvested for food. The cockles shell closes tight which gives them the keeping quality of other hard-shell clams. They are not as important commercially as most other clams and not as popular in the United States as they are in Europe. Raw cockle meat is gray or brown and turns creamy white when cooked with a taste similar to clams. Many people believe the cockles with a lighter color have a better taste. The best way to cook cockles is to bake, sauté, poach, steam or grill. The most popular is steaming.

Gaper Clams

Gaper clams are native to the west coast of the United States and can be found from Alaska to California. They are the second largest variety of clams averaging 4-8 inches in length and weighing up to 4 pounds. There are a few different varieties of gaper clams such as big neck, blue clams, cockerels, empire, horse clams, great Washington clams, horse-neck, otter shell, rubberneck and summer clams. The gaper clam has a rough gray shell and about the only way of cooking their large necks is to use them in soups or chowders, preferably grinding them first. They have a large hole in the shell where the neck protrudes and therefore they don’t keep very well.

geoduck clam
ChrisGoldNY / Food Photos / CC BY-NC

Geoduck Clam
The geoduck clam, often called the king clam, is the largest of the soft-shell clams and can reach up to 12 pounds but averages around 3 pounds with a neck up to 3 feet long. It is one of the longest living animals in the world, often living over 100 years. It is native to America’s northwest coast. The goeduck clam is very expensive and is considered a delicacy. It has a distinctive taste that is best fried or sautéed and the large neck can be chopped up for stews or chowders.

<ahref=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/artizone/6834477237/”>artizone / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

HARDSHELL CLAMS
Hard-shell clams are also known as quahogs or round clams. They should not be confused with the ocean quahog which is a different species. They have a very hard shell that closes very tightly, therefore it has the best keeping quality out of water but they are also the hardest to open. The hard shell clams are found on the east coast of the United States from Maine to Florida and are most abundant in the Cape Cod to New Jersey area. The hard shell clams are graded according to size. Littleneck are 2-3 years old, 1-2 inches long and are named after Littleneck Bay on Long Island New York. The littlenecks are the sweetest of the clams and are best served fried, steamed or raw on the half shell. Cherrystone or top neck are 5-6 years old and 2-3 inches long. They are named after Cherrystone Creek on Virginia’s east shore. Cherrystones are best served baked, broiled, chopped for chowders or eaten raw. Chowder clams are over 3 inches long and can be over 30 years old. They are normally chopped and used in stews chowders and crab cakes.
Hard shell clam meat has an ivory to yellowish color when raw and turns pinkish-white when cooked. It has a sweet and mild flavor

Ocean Quahog
Cool Librarian Photographer / Beach Photos / CCBYNcND

OceanQuahog The Ocean Quahog is the longest living animal known to man. There has been evidence of them living to over 400 years. They are slow growing and slow to reproduce, not reaching harvest size until about 20 years of age. Because of this they are under tight fishing restrictions. Larger quahogs are used for soups and stews and the smaller ones, sold as mahogany clams, are eaten raw or steamed. The ocean quahog is found in the north Atlantic from Iceland to North Carolina. The Ocean quahog meat is pink in color and firmer in texture and stronger in flavor than most other clams.

RazorClams Razor clams are found on both coasts. The Pacific razor clams can be found from Alaska to California, and the Atlantic version from Canada to South Carolina. They are very meaty and can reach about 6 inches in length. They get their name partly from its shape, something like an old fashioned straight razor, and from their very sharp edges. They have near transparent shells that don’t close completely; therefore they have very poor keeping quality. Also known as bamboo, or jackknife clams, the razor clams have a cream colored, sweet tasting meat that is best served steamed, fried, sautéed or deep fried.

Mr TGT / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Soft-shell Clam Soft-shell clams have an elongated, thin, brittle shell averaging 2-4 inches in length. Because their shells do not close tightly they do not keep as well as hard shell clams. Soft shells are found mostly on the Atlantic coast with the highest concentration from Maine to Maryland. Some of the varieties include the Eastern soft-shell, the mud clam, the nannynose and the steamer. It is best to place live clams in saltwater for a few hours before cooking. This will help clean the sand from the clams. Adding a little cornmeal to the water helps this process. They can be used in any recipe for clams but are best fried or steamed. The large ones can be used in stews and chowders. Their meat is sweet and mild and ivory to gold in color.
SurfClam The Atlantic surf clam is known by different names such as bar clam, beach, hen , skimmer or sea clam. It is the largest edible salt water clam of the North Atlantic and is found on the Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia to South Carolina. The United States is the only place Atlantic surf clams can be found. It is commercially important and has a sweet meat that is commonly used for clam strips, breaded clams, chowders and sushi. The surf clam can average 5-7 inches and is too big and too coarse to be eaten raw. It can live to about 35 years and reaches market size of 5 inches in 5-7 years. The raw meat of the surf clam is whitish-orange. When cooked it turns ivory or yellowish in color. Surf clams have chewy meat and do not have as much flavor as hard shell clams.

Tips on how to clean or how to cook clams

Other Clams

Bar clam; see surf clam
Beach clam; see surf clam
Big neck clam; see gaper clam
Beef steak clam; see hard shell clam
Butter clam; see hard shell clam
Cockerels; see gaper clam
Cherrystone clam; see hard shell clam
Chowder clam; see hard-shell clam
Empire clam; see gaper clam
Great Washington clam; see gaper clam
Hen clam; see surf clam
Horse clam; see gaper clams
Horse neck clam; see gaper clam
Jackknife clam; see razor clam
King clam; see goeduck clam
Littleneck clam; see hard-shell clam
Manila clam; A small hard-shell clam from the Pacific coast caught wild and farmed. See hard-shell clam.
Money clam; see butter clam
Mud clam; see jackknife clam
Nanny nose clam; see jackknife clam
Oregon clam; see butter clam
Otter-shell clam; see gaper clam
Pismo clam; A hard-shell clam found mainly on Pismo beach California
Rubberneck clam; see gaper clam
Sea clam; see surf clam
Skimmer clam; see surf clam
Steamer clam; see jackknife clam.
Summer clams; see gaper clam
Washington clam; see hard shell clam
Wedge clam; see bean clam

 

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