Sunday, October 28, 2012

Littleneck, Cherrystone and Quahog Clams - Gatherer's Free Treat

We hunter gathers who seek deer, ducks, grouse, geese, woodcock and fish of all kind to fill our freezers give little thought to other forms of food available in nature.
One coastal treat are the various sizes of quahogs found in the saltwater mud and sand flats. Quahogs are clams, not the soft shell clams associated with fried clams and steamed clams served during typical Maine lobster bakes. These are very hard shelled clams that come in several sizes. Quahogs are hard-shelled, found in estuaries along the coast. Beads made of quahog shells were used as currency in early New England. Quahogs are known by name in three categories: littlenecks, cherrystones and quahogs. Quahog classes are usually over four inches wide and also referred to as chowder clams. Mahogany quahogs are in a class by themselves and legally different. You aren’t likely to find any mahogany quahogs. So, I guess you could say there are really four sizes of quahogs. In Maine, there is a personal use harvest limit on one peck, which in general is about two gallons of water. No license is needed for personal use. Personal use means just that, you can’t sell them. A minimum size limit is one inch at the hinge. You can buy a legal measure at most marine stores along Maine’s coast. Ones you locate a place to rake for quahogs, a method of harvest is required. As seen in the photo, there are small clam rakes available that can be pulled through the sand or mud with tines that guide the quahogs into the net tray attached. When you come in contact with a quahog, it feels like a small rock hitting the steel tines and hopefully falling to the trap area. You work the rake in and lift it straight up so nothing falls out. You do this recreationaly while wading in relatively shallow water. There are several ways to eat quahogs. Steamed and dipped in butter are good. Shucked and lightly sautéed in virgin olive oil, butter and chopped garlic is good. But my favorite is raw with a horseradish, tomato sauce, served over an ice tray. I like to chill the clams for two days in the refrigerator prior to shucking. You should always check laws and coastal closure areas prior to harvesting. -30-

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