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The term clam refers to fresh water,as well as, sea water animal which is regarded seafood in the world of cookery. Clam belongs to the family of mussels and used as edible species. It is also popularly known as shellfish that is enclosed in a hard shell. Clams, like other seafood, are typically used to make seafood recipes or more precisely clam recipes. Some of the most popular clam recipes are clam chowder, clam bake and stuffed clams.

History of Clams

The old English world 'clamm' is the derivative word for the term ‘clam’ that basically means ‘bond’ due to closely bonded shell of clams. It is believed that in ancient times, Native Americans use clam shells as currency. ‘Clambake’ is one of the most popular clam dishes at that time, which was introduced by the Americans. In 1930, the first clam fishery was pioneered by The National Marine Fisheries, Milford and the commercial hatching of this shellfish has been started in 1960. Since then the clams are being much loved seafood in global cuisine.

Culinary Use of Clams

Clams are usually eaten for their meat; hence shells are discarded while cooking. It is recommended to wash clams thoroughly before cooking as they are digged in the sand. The skin of the clams are generally grounded and added in the soups and chowders. Creamed clam recipes are also quite popular and make use of grounded clam skin. Clams are often stir-fried with tomato, garlic, pepper and other seasonings as well-liked savory dishes. Like other seafood, clam also lends itself to many recipes served as appetizer, side dishes as well as main dishes. Pasta and rice dishes are fondly cooked with clams. Several baked clam recipes are widely eaten that may also include other seafood such as lobsters, oysters and shrimps. Clam curries are the main clam recipes in some of the cuisines. It is observed that small clams are the most desirable seafood items that can be eaten raw. Overcooking may toughen the meat hence cook them at low heating. While taking out the meat from the warm clam shells, clam juice comes out that is popularly known as ‘clam liquor’ This liquid can be taken as an appetizer or can be incorporated in other clam recipes.

Popular Clam Recipes

  • Clam chowder – It is one of the most popular clam dishes across the world. Clam flesh is minced to make this well-accepted chowder dish.
  • Fried clam fritters – This dish is also known as ‘fannie daddies’. In this dish clam meat is fried until crispy.
  • Clams casino – It is among the classical clam recipes. This savory appetizer is made by broiling the breadcrumb coated clams.
  • Clams posillipo – It is an Italian-American classic dish made by stir-frying the clams with tomatoes and garlic.
  • Cioppino – It is a very popular American seafood stew that includes clam as one of the main ingredients. This dish basically originated in San Francisco.

Cuisines Commonly Making Clam Recipes

Clam dishes are quite popular in North American cuisine. Various varieties of clams, including hard shell clams, soft-shell clam as well as surf clam are widely used as edible clams in the cuisine of North America. Clam chowder, world famous clam recipe basically originated in US. Clams are typically cooked on hard rocks in the popular New England Clambake. Italian cuisine incorporates clams in pasta dishes as well as cooks them with other seafood. Vongola and cozza are the main varieties of clam used in Italian cooking. The Konkani food in Indian cuisine is famous for making clam curries. Even many side dishes are also prepared with clams in this region.

Preferred Methods of Making Clam Dishes

  • Steamed – Clams are usually steamed with the shells on and clam meat is taken out when the shell opens on its own after getting warm. The clam juice is served as an appetizer.
  • Boiled – Boiled clam recipes are quite popular in global cuisines. Clam chowder is typically made by this method.
  • Fried – fried clam fritters and many other clam dishes are prepared by frying method.
  • Stir-fried – Clams are often stir-fried with the ingredients such as tomato, garlic and some seasonings. Clam curries are usually made with this method.
  • Baked – Baking is also one of the most common methods of making clam recipes. Clam meat is generally included in such dishes.

Nutritive Value of Clams

  • Clams contain very low fat contents and an excellent supplier of omega-3 fatty acids. Both these properties make clam recipes heart friendly.
  • It also supplies good amount of phosphorous that helps in building bones.
  • Protein contents are also very high in Clam dishes; hence clam is a very good food for athletes.
  • People having deficiency of iron should consume clams as they are good source of iron.
  • Proper functioning of heart and a good level of blood pressure can be ensured by the regular consumption of clam recipes.
  • Vitamin A present in clams is helpful in maintaining a glowing and healthy skin.

Consumption Criteria of Clams

Though clams can be eaten raw it is recommended to cook them before consuming. Clams are often contaminated with chemical pollutants from sea and with a bacteria called Vibrio vulnificous. This bacteria may cause serious health problems in the people who consume raw clams.

Buying and Storing Tips of Clams

  • Clams are generally available all year round. It comes in canned form as well. Fresh and frozen clams are highly sold. The ammonia like smell should not come from the shellfish while buying. Clams should be heavy in weight and look fresh.
  • While storing clams, ensure that cooked clams should not be kept in refrigerator for more then 4-5 days. Cooked clam dishes should not be frozen as freezing may make the meat stingy. Clam is an highly perishable seafood; hence it should be consumed as and when bought.

Type of Clams

Broadly clams are classified into two groups: Soft-shell clams and hard shell clams. Soft clams are found inside the mud on the coastal areas, whereas hard shell clams are generally present on the beaches.

Some of the varieties of clam are as follows:

  • Steamers – This is a soft shell variety. It is mainly used in New England Clambake can be eaten raw. It is also recommended to soak them in water before cooking in order to remove the sand from the shell.
  • Quahogs – It is a hard shell clam from India. The clam shells are widely used as ornaments.
  • Little neck – This is the smallest variety of clams and also the hard shell clam. Often eaten as raw or added in clam casino.
  • Cherrystones – A hard shell variety that is large in size and incorporated in various clam recipes.
  • Chowder – It is of very big size and has a very hard shell. It is typically used in making soups and used for stuffing purposes.

Clam Trivia

  • The largest quahog is Ocean quahog that is also known as mahogany clam due to its mahogany brown colored shell.
  • British biologists have found a 450 years old clam in ocean and it is believed to be the world’s oldest living animal.