Clams are a favorite Outer Banks delicacy
Life on the Outer Banks often means grocery shopping in the water. If you have a fondness for sandy toes and a desire for salty freshness, grab a rake and head to your favorite clam hole.
Remember, there are limits on how many you can keep per person and per boat. The current size limit is that hard clams must be at least 1-inch thick, and the bag limit is 100 clams per person per day, not to exceed 200 clams per vessel per day.
The local clams you will find are medium and large quahogs and are perfect for Hatteras-style chowder and other chopped-clam recipes. One of the most popular places to go clamming is the area west of the Oregon Inlet bridge in the Pamlico Sound, though many locals claim that the soundside waters of Hatteras and Ocracoke islands are the best places to rake up your supper.
Clams are bivalved mollusks, and according to the North Carolina Department of Marine Fisheries website, they can live up to 35 years and grow up to five inches in diameter. However, most are harvested when they are two years old at the minimum harvest size of 1 inch thick.
The best way to try your luck at clamming is with a small boat to keep your stash. You’ll need a clam rake and a vessel for holding the clams, preferably one that floats so you can keep it in the water next to you. You can also use your toes to find the clams in the sand and mud, but that is quite a workout.
When you have your limit, invite pals over to dinner and amaze them with a complete spread made with clams. Here are a few easy recipes to try. And if clamming isn’t your thing, but eating is, check out one of the many local seafood shops on the islands and buy a bag; call ahead first, just to make sure, as clams sell quickly.
Creamy Clam Dip
By Amy Gaw
Everyone probably has a recipe similar to this because it is pure comfort food.
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 pint chilled, steamed clams, chopped, plus 2 tablespoons reserved liquid
2 tablespoons green onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Dash of Tabasco
Combine all ingredients and thin with a bit of clam juice until a spreadable consistency is achieved. Serve with crackers, veggies or bruschetta.
Hot Clam Fritters with Sea Salt and Honey
By Amy Gaw
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1⁄3 cup clam juice
½ cup organic, whole milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2½ cups coarsely chopped, drained clams
Local sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Local honey to drizzle and powdered sugar to garnish
In medium-size bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add eggs, lemon juice, clam juice, milk, butter and cayenne and whisk until the batter is almost lump free. Add parsley and clams, a generous pinch of salt and a crack of fresh black pepper and mix until incorporated.
Heat vegetable oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. There should be about ¼ inch of oil in the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot (not smoking!), add spoonfuls of the batter, being sure not to crown the pan. Use about 2 tablespoons of clam batter for each clam fritter. Working in small batches, fry each morsel until golden on skillet side, then turn fritters and continue frying until cooked through. It is always a good idea to make a test batch for the cook to try and to ascertain when the inside is as done as the outside. It should only take a few minutes on each side.
Drain fritters on paper towels. Drizzle with honey, sprinkle with powdered sugar and flakes of sea salt and serve while hot.
Hatteras Clam Chowder
From Ketch 55 Seafood Grill
2 strips salt pork, diced
2 quarts fresh clams, chopped, but not too fine (save juice)
4 to 5 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 bunch of green onions, chopped
1 large can clam juice
1 quart water
Salt and pepper to taste
Add all ingredients in a stock pot. Fry off salt pork in a separate pan. Add pork and some of the grease to the stock pot. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about an hour. Then add salt and pepper.
Let a local help you go clamming. Here are a few options:
Sam Bell, Tightlinez Charters, 252-305-4137; tightlinezcharters.com
Rudy Gray, The Hook-up Charters, 252-475-4576; thehookupcharter.net
Lee Setkowsky, Hatteras Adventures, 252-564-2220; hatterasadventure.com
Jerry Teal, Got-Em Charters, 252-987-3143; gotemcharters.net
David Wilson, Little Godspeed Charters, 252-995-3311; godspeedcharters.com