There is nothing better than a fire roasted clam, a squirt of lemon, and a cold beer on a cool summer night. But keeping your clams nice and happy until their delicious demise can prove to be tricky during the hot summer months. Here’s the best way to keep your beautiful bivalves nice and fresh until dinner.
Quick note: do not “purge” clams in water, or in water with soaked corn meal. Clams are filter feeders who will ingest water when submerged for too long. If that water isn’t ocean water, those clams will die. The grit in each clam should be there from when that clam was harvested from the water, until it’s cooked into your next meal. The grit from the clam comes from the ocean, and is not harmful to health. If you don’t like gritty surprises, then clams might prove to be tough for you.
Okay, so the quantity of clams you purchase, and how quickly you will consume them will determine your method of storing them. If you are having just a dozen or two for a casual dinner, I usually recommend getting your biggest colander, and pouring the clams into it. If its big enough to hold all of the clams, wet a dish rag and place over the clams. Put a tray or shallow bowl underneath the colander and set in the refrigerator until use.
If a colander is too small or nonexistent, grab a small cooler, and pack with ice. Ice is always the best way to pack Seafood.
If you are having a party or large gathering and you purchase a 1/2 bushel or a full bushel of clams (200/400ct) do as follows. Get the largest cooler you can find. If you are a regular host of parties, and a fan of clams, it may behoove you to invest in a large cooler. (Igloo makes a wonderful product). This allows for plenty of surface contact with ice and the clams, ensuring they stay cold and fresh. Start by making a platform in the bottom of the cooler so the clams will rest above any pooled water in the bottom. (Think a milk crate cut very short, inserted into the bottom to allow water to pass, but can support weight of clams) If you can’t make a platform just make sure you tend to the clams and drain the cooler often so the clams don’t go for and icy dunk. Pour a nice layer of ice into cooler, and then proceed to dump the clams. This is where I usually check for broken clams, or clams that are opened. A very small chip or exposure on the edge of a clam is perfectly safe to eat. If in doubt, throw it out. If the clams are opened slightly, squeeze them closed. Sometimes clams need to rest their muscles and open their shell for a period of time. If the shell doesn’t stay closed after you squeeze it discard. Pack ice on top of clams, or lay a wet towel over the clams. Close the lid, and enjoy when the time is right.