I followed your advice to put the steamers in water for a couple of hours, come to find out that what happens is you drown the steamers. You should only let them sit for 10-15 minutes. They have to breath to stay alive. Found out from the seafood place where I bought them.
Hi Kathie, did you follow the directions for how much salt to add to the water? Steamers need to soak in strongly SALTED water, like sea water. They will die if you put them in unsalted water. These steamers you see in the photos on this recipe soaked for several hours in salty sea water.
Your comment is very confusing. It should not matter what kind of fire you use or what kind of pot you use, once they start steaming, it only requires 5 to 10 minutes to cook the clams, just as this recipe states.
How does one prepare soft shelled clams for frying? I’ve tried shcuking them raw, just doesn’t work. I love fried clams form my days at HoJo’s back in the 1960’s, tough to replicate at home though
Thanks for this post. The photos are amazing. They made me homesick.
The newspaper on the table really took me back too, I’m ready for a trip now ;-)
(I’m born and bred R.I., raised on the beach & dug my own clams & quahogs … )
Just a few suggestions:
#1 Prepare your broth ahead while the steamers are soaking. Saute celery, onion & garlic then add your water (and Old Bay, a little pepper & parsley) and simmer it ahead of time to prepare a broth. (some used to add braised sweet italian sausage, linguica or chourizo too but I prefer it without) –
It really doesn’t matter if you steam or put them straight into the broth, just don’t have TOO much water because not only can you dunk your steamers (& we always loved to sip it in a big coffee cup…) BUT you can ALSO always use any left over clam liquor to make other recipes just as you do with chicken stock)
They come out so delicious, you don’t even need the butter (but it doesn’t hurt) ha.
Thanks for the tips. Just dug out the Old Spice from the cupboard.
I’m from Mass. And haven’t had them yet this year. I’m dying looking at the pic! My family always threw them in the kitchen sink, covered with cold salted water & sprinkle in a cup of cornmeal. Soak for 1hr. From what I was taught. Supposedly the clam ingests the cornmeal and it cleans them of grit. Not sure if its true but that’s the way my family always did it. My great uncle ran a fish market. :)
I grew up preparing steamers by soaking them in a pot of salted water and a pound of cornmeal and in the fridge overnight, only discarded a couple and of course the cornmeal works very well
I absolutely love steamers! My daughters enjoy them as well. Growing up in New England, mostly MA, I grew up eating steamers and lobster. However the steamers don’t look anything like they used to. Their bigger, their bellies are fatter and their necks are longer. Does anyone know why this is?
Steamers (soft shell clams) come in all sizes. We just bought five pounds up here on the Maine coast and they are small, about two inches in length, which I think is perfect for steaming and eating whole. The larger ones are better suited for chowders and other dishes in which you can use chopped clams.
I loved how the page started, how you made a memory and then it made me think of my memories too. I am not a good cook. It is hard for me to follow recipes. I always end up not doing good and it can get frustrating sometimes. But this recipe was easy and what was even better the instructions were easy!! I cant believe everything came out for once. Not only that the steamers were out of this world. Thank you for making your recipe so easy to follow and thank you for giving me my first delicious meal!! I am saving this website as a favorite and I am coming back here for every recipe I will need from now on!! :)
Wwoow! Just ate cherrystone clams for the first time in my life & if tasted delicious. Caught more than a dozen wash them clean & steamed for 15mins adding pepper+garlic+ginger+sliced onions…a serving for 2 with boiled yam & butter:D
I have canned clams .what can I do with them?
Clam dip, fried clams, even clam chowder.
#1 Seafood sauce – your choice – small scallops, shrimp, sliced up squid, the clams, garlic, white wine, a little cream, Old Bay seasoning, parsley, pepper – Heaven.
#2 Clam cakes
#3 stuffed clams
My father showed me how to eat clams when I was little. Lobster, steamers, and crabs at a place called Zelby’s on the Jersey shore. I go years without wasting the clams, mainly b/c the restaurant went out of business years ago. So, yesterday I picked some up at the store and came across your post when I realized I didn’t know how long to cook them. I read the post and soon as I want back to the stove they were opened and ready. Perfect timing. Steamers are soooo delicious! Thanks for the post.
I have been cooking clams & clam pots for many years either at home or camping. Delicious… My way, put clams in colander, rinse several times. Put in pot or sink and fill with clean cold water then put a good amount of regular table pepper on the top of water and they will sneeze out the rest of sand. Drain water and rinse several times. Bring water to a boil, about 4/5 inches, add can of beer and add clams. I have a very large pot. Easy as that! Clam pot, prepare clams the same way, layer clams, sausage (not breakfast), sliced potatoes (about 1 inch thick) and put 10-12 clams on top. When they are opened, the pot is done cooking. Try a little of each, yummy. In season, I always serve fresh corn on the cob with them. Broth is delicious! ENJOY!!!!
Steamas’ and fresh hot melted butta! Lol.
ok i am from Rhode island.. the ocean state!…you have the recipe wrong.lol
. you need pepper and an onion in the water some put a tiny bit of garlic also . you need to put enough water in the pot to cover the steamers or quahogs!. you then bring to a boil and wait till they all open. anything that does not toss out…..
now,,,,you also have pure Rhode island gold… all the broth!! you filter it through a cheese cloth and save the broth!! that makes great sauce for paste and what ever!!
like for instance this simple recipe:
1 box of pasta.. your choice
clam juice as it is called properly here..lol
pepper to taste
seafood of your choice.. clams,shrimp, fish
cook the pasta aldente…very aldente..
bring your clam juice up to a boil in a separate pot
drain pasta..and get rid of the water. put back into the same pot…then pour your clam juice into the pot and bring up to a simmer. you should have enough juice to get mostly sucked up by the pasta. you want a little more juice than you need because you want to have enough juice to have a really loose pasta
then add what ever seafood you want..simmer till seafood is cooked…..
Sounds like a great use of the clam broth Rob, thank you!
I’m form Upstate New York. I remember when my husband was stationed at Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod back in 1972 – we went to the local fish market for clams and what they gave us were these soft shelled clams that you speak of. I said to the fella, our clams in New York don’t have those long necks or tails sticking out. He said “of course they do, that’s how they eat” but at the time I was grossed out. In New York we have the Cherry Stones or Little Neck clams. Would love to go back to the Cape to try these, especially after reading all the great reviews.
In Rhode Island we called what you’re referring to (the Cherry Stones & Little Necks) a version of Quahog. An actual Quahog is larger & typically chopped up for chowder, clam cakes, stuffies etc. They’re still physically similar but the necks don’t stick out and you don’t have the ‘turtleneck sock’ to remove from the neck ;-)
My favorite way to eat cherrystones is raw with cocktail sauce, lemon and horseradish. Mmmm
For anyone in the Philly/South Jersey area who remembers Hackney’s in Atlantic City (which unfortunately burned down in 1971), this was where I remember my first steamed clam experience. While vacationing in Ocean City as a kid, we’d make at least one pilgrimage up to Atlantic City to satisfy mom’s craving which, upon introduction, immediately became my own. I remember a bucket of 100 steamers was $1.25 with a generous cup of broth and an equally generous cup of melted butter. But that was 50 years ago when a whole steamed lobster with fries and pepper hash was still $3. *Sigh*
Steamers! One of my favorites! However, the traditional way to serve in RI and MA is to have a bowl with the clam broth in it – separate from the clams. Remove clam from shell, pull off the “skin”, dip in the broth, then the butter and enjoy! Best served with a cold beer! :)
And that’s exactly how I’m recommending them to be served here. So good! Other people have suggested adding things to the broth which also sounds good. But I’ve only had them with a plain water broth for dipping, mostly to get rid of any sand or grit. And then dipping them in butter. I love love love steamers. ~Elise
Yum! We have these regularly in the summer here in MA. The smaller ones are preferred in our house; we think they are sweeter but it’s a matter of preference. I throw a bit of Old Bay in the steaming water which adds a nice–if old school–flavor.
Big bowl of steamers and home made lobster rolls make us happy as clams for sure! hee hee!
This Rhode Islander loves steamers and I go digging for them all the time. Instead of salt or cornmeal, I use sugar. The clams come out so sweet and tender. I like to throw a couple of cloves of garlic, one onion quartered and one link of hot chirozo into the boiling water. The broth is so delicious that you definitely must serve it with a nice crusty roll.
Brilliant! I love the aromatics and the chorizo in the broth. ~Elise
You steam them alive?
Yes, they must be alive. ~Elise
You think those clams look happy to see you? Check out our PNW geoducks!
…absolutely use the pepper and meal…also,throw some sliced or chopped onion and some dried herbs into the pot just before steaming..a little olive oil..and drink the broth after eating the clams..clam nectar..from another Cape Cod clam digger.
I fell in love with these at The Clam Broth House in Hoboken, NJ back in the 1980’s. We used to add a couple dashes of hot sauce to the clam broth. When we were done eating we’d sip the broth carefully so we didn’t stir up the sand on the bottom.
When you soak them try sprinkling some pepper in the water. The clams ingest the pepper and ‘spit’ it out along with any remaining sand. Also, if you add corn meal to the water when soaking the clams the clams will eat the meal and sweeten the taste. from Cape Cod
what.. no way!! I am going to try that.. does it work with mussels too
Clams do NOT ingest sand (if they did, they’d die). The sand comes from around their necks and between/on their shells. If you wish to eat shriveled, dead clams, by all means, put pepper or cornmeal or flour into their water.
If you prefer live, plump, sweet clams, soak those you just dug up in salt water/salted water for a day, refrigerated. Swirl them around a few times. Rinse. Then use them in your favorite recipe.
However, my suggestion is to buy them straight from your favorite fishmonger and cook/eat them immediately. A reliable fishmonger knows how to treat clams, and you couldn’t possibly do any better.
As for steamers, I HATE wine in the broth. It adds a level of sourness not needed nor wanted. I’m rather a purist when it comes to seafood. I was raised in a household where the person who caught it set the standard, and ours was my uncle, a man who loved to catch/dig the seafood he gave us.
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add some sliced onions and celery. Add the steamers (after you’ve picked through them and discarded the ones who didn’t retract their necks upon touching them). Cover and boil for 5 minutes. Uncover and check. Remove the ones whose shells had opened. Keep boiling and removing until all steamers are finished (if there are some stubborn ones, discard them as they were probably dead before you bought them or just shells filled with sand). Do NOT strain the broth. Serve each person with a cup of broth and a custard cup (in my day) of melted butter.
Remove the steamer from its shell. Peel off the tough, black “hide” from the neck clear down the body. Rinse in the broth. Dip in the melted butter. Enjoy.
Actually they do ingest sand. Years ago in New England, I dug my own. I’ve gone through all of the steps listed here and then some. If you don’t clean them properly, the bellies can have too much sand in them and be gritty. We always used bread crumbs in the water when soaking them. Corn meal is too sandy.
Here’s a great post by Hank Shaw about purging clams of sand: http://honest-food.net/2014/06/19/how-to-purge-sand-from-clams/ For the record, clams do not eat sand (so they don’t ingest it), but since they spend a lot of time in sand, with partially open shells, sand gets inside of their shells, hence the need to purge them of it. Cornmeal apparently does nothing to help with this process.
Seems funny to me, for the few people who keep insisting clams don’t ingest sand it makes me wonder how often they’ve eaten them.
The REASON people ever started to soak them in anything, was biting into a clam with a belly full of sand. SAND, IN the belly.
There are other websites aside from that one that ALSO discuss the fact that wild clams are not PRE Filtered and that different beaches and clam beds have different sand conditions….
Personally, I never used cornmeal.
PS: Everyone that’s insisting sand can’t get inside a clam – should Google “Pearls” since they ALSO get inside clams – and that happens HOW? The fact that they siphon their food through sand and sand gets INSIDE them.
My mom always adds some cornmeal to the soaking water – and changes the water too, as you suggest – apparently the steamers take in the cornmeal & spit out the sand…
To all: I have dealt and dug soft clams or steamer clams for over 60 years. First, these clams DO NOT ingest sand. I cannot believe that chefs and some of the best cooks do not know this. The sand is from around the OUTSIDE of their long feeding tube and some from around where the two shells meet. The way to get the sand away from these areas is to put the clams in salt water and leave them there for at lest 24 hours. After a time their feeding tube will come out as they will look to feed or eat. That way the sand will drop off of that tube or neck as some call it. At the same time their body will swell and the sand that is caught between the shells will also drop off. Putting all this crap into the water will in time kill the clam as the will tend to feed as soon as they detect water. Most all clams tend to feed as long they are under water. That is why they grow so fast. There are ways to harvest steamers so that they lose most of their sand, %95 is to dig them while they have a few inches of water above them.
I grew up in New Hampshire and worked summers at a Clam Shack near Hampton Beach (Little Jacks!) Charlie is 100% RIGHT ON THE MONEY. Putting pepper and other stuff in the water is just going to give you dead clams, and I guarantee you, NOBODY wants to eat a dead(bad) clam. Cheers!
I also agree with you Charlie. We buy our clams from a wholesaler up here on the Maine Coast and they have been processed (cleaned) using pure sea water, but we still rinse them a few times in salt water, changing the water every half hour or so. I don’t like any sand or grit in my clams. All of this stuff about pepper and cornmeal is a bunch of hogwash.
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