Hard Shell clams are sorted and sold according to size…the smaller the clam the more tender and expensive.From Smallest to largest, the categories are:
- Little necks clams: The most tender: excellent raw, steamed, or used in whole recipes.
- Top Necks clams: Tender, can be used as little necks.
- Cherrystones clams: Not quite as tender as the above two. Good raw or steamed. Chop and use in recipes calling for minced clams.
- Quahogs (or) Chowder: Named by the Indians they’re not tender, and are best used minced or ground in clam chowder, etc.
Soft-shell clams are called steamers because they’re best served that way! Wash well and place in a pot with 4 tbsp. water. Simmer, covered, 5-10 minutes until shells partially open. Remove from pot with slotted spoon and serve in individual dishes. Dip each clam by its long neck into melted butter, laced with lemon juice. Then remove the black skin (covering the neck) and eat the neck too. It’s chewy and delicious! Strain the broth and drink it., seasoned with celery salt or mixed with tomato juice.
When you purchase clams, they should be alive. You can keep them alive in the refrigerator for several days. It is very important that they can breathe so do not place them in airtight plastic bags. When opening clams, examine each one, make certain they are still alive. If the shell is opened slightly, tap on it and it should close at least partially. Give it a little time as some move very slowly. If it doesn’t move at all, discard it.
Rinse clams under cold running water.
#1 Hold a clam with the hinged part against the palm of your holding hand. With your other hand, place the blade of your (or strong paring) knife against the crack between the shells. Squeeze the knife between the shells with the fingers of your holding hand. Then inserting the point, work the knife around inside the shell until both muscles are severed. Spread shells apart and scrape all the clam into the bottom shell twist off top shell. Scrape under the clam to be sure it’s completely detached from the lower shell.
#2 Hold a clam hinged side up, with the side of the hinge with the small black protrusion pointing toward the palm of your hand. Insert the point of a strong paring knife on the other side of the hinge where the two shells meet. Carefully work the knife in and then around the clam, and proceed as above.
Clams will relax their muscles and be easier to open if placed in a freezer for an hour or in a 450 preheated over for 5 minutes.
Seagulls have to work at opening clams too…they often fly 50 feet in the air with a clam, and drop it onto a hard surface.