Carey and I have been working on getting this workshop finalized for a while now, and I am *so* incredibly excited for it. Not only will it combine both photography and cheese (two of my favorite things in the world) but it takes place on the gorgeous coastline of New England surrounded by some of the most breathtaking scenery on the eastern seaboard, and Jennifer Farley of Savory Simple will be joining us, too! The workshop takes place in a traditional turn of the century saltbox home overlooking the Ponds of Plymouth and will cover photography, adjusting internal camera settings and their effects on the image, lenses and their focal lengths, manipulating natural lighting, plating, styling, and cheese making using both cow and goat’s milk. Guests can expect to learn to make both soft and hard cheeses, and we’ll go over the necessary steps and environments for aging cheeses at home, as well! I’d love to have you join us, you can register and find out more information at the link below, hope to see you soon!!
As for the clams, last month was Jeremy and mine’s 9 year anniversary (I know!!! Time goes by crazy fast) and we decided to celebrate it with the clamming adventure on the Oregon coast. Neither of us had been clamming before, so like the foraging nerd that I am, I did an unnecessary amount of research online before we headed over to the coast. It turns out that one of the best places on the Oregon coast for clamming is Girabaldi Bay in the general Tillamook Bay area, so that’s where we went. The clamming permit was only $7 for a year, and you could go home with a really good amount of clams per person (about 20 each, but that varies depending on the variety of clam), so this is definitely going to become a regular activity. But make sure to check your local shellfish harvesting laws, permits, and seasons since they’re different in every state. In Washington, for example, the general public can forage for oysters with a permit, but in Oregon it’s illegal for regular citizens to do so (giant sad face).
Clamming should be done at low tide because that’s when the clams that live in the sand are most accessible. Different clams live in different environments, although pretty much all of the ones in the US live in sand or rocks along the shoreline. Cockle and littleneck clams live near the surface of the sand and you can catch them using a clam rake (all of the 15 clams were caught were cockle clams). A clam rake is a long-handled rake with a metal or wire basket at the end and teeth on one edge that are spaced about 2 inches apart. You gently drag the teeth through the wet sand and wait to feel a little bump as you drag it, as if you’ve dragged it over a little rock. If the dragging feels smooth, theres no clam, if you feel the bump, you may have a clam there, so you turn the rake up and pull it out of the sand and see if the clam is in the basket.
Butter and razor clams live deeper in the sand and are supposed to be some of the tastiest, tenderest ones and make for great steaming. You need to dig for these clams or use a clam gun. A clam gun is not an actual gun, (don’t worry!) it is just a wide tube, usually made from metal or plastic, that is hollow and has a large hole at the bottom and a very small (think paper punch hole-sized) hole near the top. You plunge the tube into the wet sand along the shore and then plug the small hole with your thumb and pull up. Plugging the small hole at the top creates a vacuum inside the tube and when you lift it up and then release your thumb from the hole, all the sand in the tube gets spit out and you can sift through it for clams.
We brought along a clam gun but didn’t have any luck with it, likely because the area of the bay we were clamming in had more cockle clams than butter or razor clams. The different types of clams tend to congregate together, so you’ll usually catch mostly the same type of clam in the same spot. It’s up to you to move around to different areas of the shoreline if you want to try and mix up the variety of clams you’re catching. Butter clams especially tend to live in the rockier areas of the shoreline rather than those made up of completely smooth sand, so hit up both types of shores to spice things up a bit. If you decide to dig for clams, you need to be very gentle and careful not to push the shovel into the sand too forcefully, otherwise you risk breaking the shell of any clams you happen to hit, which pretty much destroys them.
As you’re clamming, you should store the clams you catch in a mesh bag that allows for air to flow around the clams. You should *not* store them submerged in water. When you’re transporting them in the car, you may want to have some ice ready in a bag the backseat to set them on just to keep them nice and cool until you get them to the refrigerator. When it comes to storing live clams until you can cook them, the general rule is to set them in a bowl in the refrigerator with a damp paper towel over the top of them to keep them from drying out from the refrigerator fan, since clams like to stay slightly moist. You can keep them this way for 24-48 hours depending, but it’s usually best if you cook them as soon as possible after you catch them. During the cooking process, if any clams don’t open they should be discarded. This is because they were dead by the time you cooked them (live clams will open instinctively when exposed to high heat) and may not be safe to eat.
I decided to steam the clams we caught in a white wine and lemon broth; there’s just something about the pairing of citrus, shellfish, and wine that never fails to please, and this recipe is no exception, my friends! The ingredients are simple, and it’s largely because the fresh-caught clams don’t need any crazy cooking methods or ingredients to bolster their delicious taste. Just a bit of steaming in a covered pot provides enough salty fresh flavor to make this dish as unforgettably exquisite as it is easy. So grab a rake and get clamming!
Steamed Clams with White Wine + Lemon Juice
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon tomato paste
- 15 fresh whole clams
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large tomato chopped
- 1 shallot diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- In a medium sized pot whisk together the wine, wanter, lemon juice, and tomato paste over medium heat until the tomato paste has disintegrated into the liquid. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover, and cook for 10 minutes until the clams pop open. Remove from heat and serve immediately.