clams in water

Cooking with Clams

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Clams and other shellfish were abundant along the east coast in the 1800s. Many of the old cookbooks included fish and shellfish recipes.

Take forty or fifty clams and wash and scrub the outsides of the shells till they are perfectly clean. Then put them into a pot with just sufficient water to keep them from burning. The water must boil hard when you put in the clams. In about a quarter of an hour the shells will open, and the liquor run out and mix with the water. This must be saved for the soup and strained into a soup-pot after the clams are taken out. Extract the clams from their shells, and cut them up small. Then put them into the soup-pot, adding a minced onion, a saucer of finely chopped celery, or a table-spoonful of celery seed, a dozen blades of mace, with a dozen whole pepper-corns. No salt, as the clam-liquor will be quite salt enough. If the liquid is not in sufficient quantity to fill a large tureen, add some milk. Thicken the soup with two large table-spoonfuls of fresh butter rolled in flour. Let it boil a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes. Just before you take it from the fire, stir in, gradually, the beaten yolks of five eggs. Cover the bottom of the tureen with toasted bread, cut into square dice about an inch in size, and then pour in the soup.

Wash clean as many round clams as required. Pile them in a large iron pot with half a cupful of hot water in the bottom, and put over the fire. As soon as the shells open take out the clams, cut off the hard, uneatable “fringe” from each with strong, clean scissors, put them into a stewpan with the broth from the pot, and boil slowly till they are quite tender. Pepper well and thicken the gravy with flour stirred into melted butter.

Take fifty small or twenty-five large sand clams from their shells; if large, cut each in two. Lay the clams on a thickly-folded napkin. Put a pint bowl of wheat flour into a basin, add to it three well-beaten eggs, half a pint of sweet milk [fresh milk] and nearly as much of their own liquor. Beat the batter until it is smooth and perfectly free from lumps, then stir in the clams. Put plenty of lard or beef fat into a thick-bottomed frying pan and let it become boiling hot. Put in the batter by the spoonful and let them fry gently. When one side is a delicate brown turn the other. Drain on brown paper and eat warm.

Wash clean one hundred clams. Use the soft part whole and the tough part chopped fine. Put a layer on the bottom of a buttered baking dish. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne and a little mace and sprinkle over plenty of stale bread crumbs and a quantity of bits of butter. Repeat the layers until the dish is full. Put plenty of butter on top and pour in a cup of the water from the clams. Bake in a moderate oven [about 350 degrees F] one hour, and when half done pour in a tumbler of sherry.

Put a dozen small clams into a cold bowl and pour over them a teaspoonful each of vinegar, lemon-juice, tomato catsup, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce. Add a little salt, and a few drops of tabasco sauce. Serve very cold in small glasses.

Chop fine two dozen hard clams. Make smooth in a saucepan two small spoonfuls each of butter and flour. When they cook through, add the clams and one-half cupful of the juice. Season with red pepper, simmer for ten minutes, then add the thickening and half a cupful of cream. Boil up once and serve.

Chop fine two dozen clams, removing the hard parts. Mix with half the quantity of bread crumbs, a teaspoonful each of grated onion and parsley, and three tablespoonfuls of melted butter. Season highly with salt and pepper, and add a few drops of Worcestershire sauce. Put into buttered clam-shells, cover with crumbs, dot with butter, and bake until brown.

Lay the clams on a rock, edge downward, and forming a circle, cover them with fine brush. Cover the brush with dry sage, cover the sage with larger brush, and set the whole on fire. When a little more than half burnt (brush and sage), look at the clams by pulling some out, and if done enough, brush the fire, cinders, etc., off. Mix some tomato sauce or catsup with the clams (minus their shells), add butter and spices to taste, and serve. Done on sand, the clams, in opening, naturally allow the sand to get in, and it is anything but pleasant for the teeth while eating them.

photo by Marlisth

Posted in Fish.


  1. Any kind of clam dish isn’t very common in the UK and I’m not a fan of seafood in general but you have certainly given a plentiful selection of things to do with clams!

    • I’ve only had fried clams in restaurants and I’ve made clam chowder from canned clams, which turned out well. The clam fritters sound interesting and something I could make.

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