Steamed clams are a year-round indulgence in Massachusetts. Nevertheless, nothing compares with friends and family sharing big bowls of steamers, and some first-rate locally brewed ice cold beers on a hot summer evening. This is my favorite summer food and drink pairing. I also provide instructions for buying, cleaning, cooking and serving steamers.
2000 Clam Varieties – Photo of 3 lb Clam
You may be surprised to learn there are approximately 2,000 varieties of clams. Ever wonder what the the biggest clam weighs? From the waters of the Northwest Pacific, a clam called “Geoduck,” appropriately pronounced gooey-duck, tips the scale at an average of three pounds. The “Geoduck” yields over a whooping pound of meat. View this outrageous clam. Warning: The photo of a “Geoduck” is not for the weak of heart!
1. Purchase – I purchase steamers by the pound at a small, but highly reputable, fresh seafood market. Many grocery stores carry clams either on a regular basis or as a special item at certain times of the year. Figure in a pound per person when making your purchase.
2. Clean – It is important to get your clams home as soon as you buy them. If you have other errands, tend to them before purchasing any fresh seafood. Transfer the clams to a clean sink and cover with cold water. Add a few sprinkles of sea salt and let soak, changing the water once or twice.
The soak helps remove mud and sand from the clams before steaming. Soaking at least two hours will ensure nice clean steamers. If you do not take the time to clean the clams, you will be crunching on bits of sand.
3. Steam – In a large pan with one-half to three-quarter inches of cold water, add the clams. Layer clams no more than two high. You want plenty of room for the shells to open while steaming. On high heat, bring water to a boil. When all the shells open, the clams are ready to serve. This should take 15 to 20 minutes. Important note: Discard any clams that did not open during the steaming process!
4. Clam Broth – Transfer the steamers into large bowls for immediate serving. Pour the hot water the clams steamed in (now clam broth) through a strainer into a bowl. Divide the broth into small bowls for each person. I favor soup mugs because handles make it easier to carry the steaming broth. You will utilize the hot broth for a final rinse after removing the cooked clams from the shells.
5. Melted Butter or Substitute – Most people prefer their steamers in warm melted butter. I have never liked the taste of butter, so I use the liquid substitute “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter®. It heats up nicely in the microwave. Whatever your preference, in a microwave safe dish, melt one stick of butter per person. Quickly pour into individual small bowls, enough for each person and serve. You can simply use a squirt of fresh lemon on the steamers, too.
6. Removing Clams From Shell – Half the fun of eating steamers is the process of removing them from the shell. Leaving the belly intact, you must remove the inedible membrane on the neck (siphon). If the clams are fresh, the membrane should slide off easily. Swish the clean clam in the hot broth to remove any hidden sand or mud. Drop into the warm butter to steep while you repeat the process with the rest of the clams. That is if you can wait that long to eat them! Enjoy!
Locally Brewed Beer
Naturally, I top off good company and steamers with a great seasonal beer selection. My favorite summer food and drink pairing is steamed clams and Wachusett Brewing Company’s Summer Ale. Wachusett Brewing Company is an up-and-coming brewery located in Westminster, Massachusetts, a stone’s throw from beautiful Wachusett Mountain.
I prefer Wachusett Summer Ale because it is a crisp, light, not-too-hoppy beer that makes a marvelous complement to the steamers. I also believe a lighter beer is a smart drink choice. Steamers served up in real butter is enough heavy substance on the stomach at one sitting. Enjoy!
Wachusett Brewing Company