How To Have A Traditional Clam Bake
A traditional clambake is a beach picnic of lobster, clams and sweet corn cooked in a pit dug in the sand. Learn how to clambake.
With summer comes lazy days at the beach with your friends, surfing, swimming, tanning and the classic clambakes. A clambake is a beach picnic of lobster, clams and sweet corn all cooked on a pit dug in the sand. If you have never participated in a clambake you have certainly missed the ultimate beach experience. But before you run out and start collecting clams you will need to check with local authorities since many require a permit for clamming. Check to make sure the area where you will be collecting clams has pollution free water and that the clams are safe to eat. When you are sure that clamming is legal and safe in your area, grab a garden fork and you are ready to start. On the east coast you can find soft shelled clams from North Carolina to Labrador. On the west coast soft shelled clams can be found north of Monterey. Wait until low tide to begin and then watch for small holes or sudden small clouds of mud in the shallow waters. Hard shelled clams are found mainly on the gulf coast and east coast. When the tide is low they can be found by probing the bottom with a clam rake that has a basket behind the tines.
When you have gathered enough clams, scrub the shells with a stiff brush and rinse several times. You can also clean the clams by giving them a cornmeal bath. This is done by covering the clams with water and then sprinkling in a handful of cornmeal. Let the clams set in this bath for 3 to twelve hours before cooking. Any clams that float, do not close their shell when touched or have broken shells should be discarded. While the clams are in their cornmeal bath you can gather everyone to dig the pit. You will need a clean spade and rake, some chicken wire, enough canvas to cover the pit, seaweed and rocks that are 3 inches thick by about 8 inches across. The combination of the wet seaweed, hot rocks and canvas will create a steam that will cook your clams and corn.
In choosing a place to dig your pit, be sure to choose one that is above the high tide line. The pit should be about one foot deep, with a width and length that will hold all your foods in a six inch layer. The bottom and sides should be lined with rocks that are set close together. Using dry driftwood, build a fire that will stay hot for at least 45 minutes. After you start the fire allow it to burn down to coals and ashes. Dip your unhusked corn into seawater while you wait. When the fire is ready rake the ashes and coals from the stones, which should be red hot. Cover them with a 2 to 3 inch layer of wet seaweed and place the chicken wire over the top. Arrange all the food in layers beginning with potatoes, lobsters, clams and corn. When all the food is on the fire, layer the top with more wet seaweed. Cover this with the canvas, then anchor it with five inches of sand and rocks. Allow the food to steam for an hour then remove the rocks and sand. Pull back the canvas and using barbecue tongs, transfer the food to trays. Be sure to bring along some butter so it can be melted and served with your feast. A clambake is not the best place for picky people. There is always a little sand in the butter. This is something you will want to share with your more easy going friends who will enjoy the experience and won't mind a bit of grit.