Steamer Clams…some say this is the best seafood one can eat…personally I think digging them is great fun and eating them is just plain disgusting…but I’m only revealing this opinion in case you were to ask me later to join you for dinner…
Digging for clams is easy…choose a day when the breezes are warm, the tide is conducive to your vacation schedule and you feel like pretending to be being productive.
Anywhere in Maine you need a license from the town hall and someone to tell you where the local flats are open. In Searsport, you can buy a 3 day recreational license for a mere $15 (granting the rights to dig for one peck of clams each day) and head out to the flats on Sears Island for a day of digging in the mud and wading in the water…miles of undeveloped shore land waiting for you to explore! How much is a peck of clams? 1/4 quarter of a bushel or approximately 12 pounds of Maine’s most famous bivalves.
Go to the clam flats on a falling tide, at low tide or at the earlier stages of the incoming tide. Then, just walk and look for holes in the mud. The holes will typically be the same circumference as your index finger. There is a clam down there! You can use a rake, but in our gravely sand, a trowel may be more useful. Your hands will do, but be sure to wear gloves. Another great tool is a plunger… for interesting conversation, look along the beach for other diggers and see their favorite tool…you’ll hear dozens of opinions.
Plunge, rake or dig a hole with your hands about a foot deep. Be careful not to break the clam and very careful not to cut your finger when reaching down to extract the clam from its hole. The top edges of the clam are sharp, so grab carefully (think paper cut from a cardboard box, rubbed liberally with salt). After finding and digging your first few clams you’ll start to see the air holes everywhere. Not to create too much pressure, but your goal is to harvest enough for dinner before the tide floods the flats.
Once you have them safely in your clam hod or bucket, you’ll want to let them soak in a liberal amount of seawater with a handful of cornmeal. The cornmeal is eaten by the clams and causes them to disgorge the sand inside the shell. It seems to me you should do this at least twice before cooking them.
During our lobsterbakes here at the campground, Steve dips them for a few minutes in boiling water and seaweed and then puts the whole bag of steamers onto the fire surrounded by rockweed and covered with a wet canvas tarp so that they’ll steam open. Once they’ve opened, dip them in butter and pat yourself on the back for a meal well earned.