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Pioneer Potluck: About Leatha, me and all our kids, clam digging at Clam Gulch

Posted: April 16, 2013 - 2:59pm  |  Updated: April 17, 2013 - 9:23am

1972 or ’73

Because clam tides are here for the next couple of weeks, I have one more clam digging story for you.

 

My other first friend in Alaska when I first got to Alaska was Leatha. She is the gal who shared everything she baked with me and the kids. I will never forget the homemade breads, cookies and cakes and once in a while a pie! She taught me a lot about sharing what little you have with someone else that had very little too. Her generosity was so much appreciated. We also sewed for our kids and made welding shirts and hats for our husbands.

A little background here – I was married to Richard in 1969 – he had three cute little girls and I had two cute little girls and a handsome son. He was sorta the king – as the girls relied on him to “fix” things, bikes mostly! So at times our family consisted of 5 girls and a boy. When we went anywhere we went as a “herd” to quote my Dad. We had a 4-wheel-drive pickup and we just piled in and never gave a thought to seat belts and chair seat. There were teeth marks on the padded dash from the little kids setting on our laps though!

When it came time for the clam tides and clam digging, we would load up our families and off we go to Clam Gulch. Most of the time during the clam tides it was sunny and warm but once in a while the cold wind blowing off the water and down the beach was bone chilling. We would dig clams until our fingers were frozen-cold inside our mittens. We would just clean off the sand and the mud and stick them in our pockets until they warmed up. Usually we worked in groups of twos, the digger with the shovel and the kid that lay down in the sand, mud and stuck their hands in the clam hole to pull out their prize. In the early 70s the clams were very large and very plentiful. Our limit of 60 per licensed clam digger usually took about two hours and we were ready to carry our buckets up the beach, up the long, long steep hill to our pickups and cars. That climb up the steep hill was the most dreaded of the day!

Then Leatha and her husband Gene bought a 4-wheel-drive pickup with the big cab-over camper, that they could drive down on the beach so the littlest of the kids could get warm inside the camper.

One warm early morning, Leatha and I, her four kids and our six kids went clam digging. We were tough, strong and thought we had the ability to do most anything. AND we did!

We accomplished our dreams most of the time. It took a lot of planning the night before making sure every kid had a warm coat, warm hat, two or three pair of warm mittens and rubber boots with two or three pair of spare socks. We also made cookies and packed peanut butter and jelly and loaves of bread.

We zinged down to Clam Gulch with 10 kids in the camper! Kids from 13 years down to 3 years were singing, playing or sleeping in the back in the camper. Leatha driving and me jabbering, catching up on the latest gossip. We were about as happy as we could be. We planned what we were going to do with the clams once we got them – and how our husbands would be so proud of us. Most of the time during clam tides the husbands were on the platforms or working many, many hours a day in the oil fields, so it was up to us if we wanted clams to can or freeze for the rest of the year. Some of the time the whole families would go to Clam Gulch on a Sunday morning and spend the day “catching clams.” That was fun too!

Leatha carefully drove down the steep hill onto the clam beach – the high tides the week before had left a “shelf.” She slowly dropped off the shelf onto the beach and drove to a spot and parked. Everyone got dressed in boots and coats, hats and gloves and piled out of the camper, bigger kids in charge of littler kids. Leatha, me and the older kids had clam shovels and off we marched down to the shore line to look for “dimples” in the sand. Forever etched in my mind is little kids of various sizes with there little butts stuck in the air looking for dimples! They were good at it!

This particular day we had our limit in about two hours and more than ready to get the cold, wet, muddy, sandy kids back in the camper. They too, were ready to get their sand caked coats and boots off, and we warned them to brush sand off before they got in the camper. Everyone in and settled, we pushed the clam filled buckets in the aisle, I got in to make peanut butter and “jolly” sandwiches. Leatha, before she closed the camper door and started the pickup, told everyone to hold on “cause she might have to hit the shelf a little hard’ to get up and over that and up the steep sand covered trail to the top.

I opened the bread wrapper and had two or three sandwiches made and handed out, when Leatha “wound-up” the pickup to get over the shelf – she hit the shelf straight on – bounced up over the shelf and roared up the hill in 4-wheel-drive like a pro at a NASCAR race track. The problem with that was all the kids and me in the camper were bouncing around in and out of the beds, hanging onto anything they could hang onto including their peanut butter and jolly sandwiches. The clams bounced and jumped out of the bucket, a bucket turned over, the peanut butter and jelly and the open loaf of bread ended up on the floor in the sandy muck. The clams and I ended up catty-whompus wedged up against the door and the floor. Clams, muddy inlet water, sand and gray mud splattered everywhere … in our hair, on the ceiling, on the beds and on every piece of clothing in the camper! It happened so fast that we were still setting in a shocked position when Leatha pulled the truck up to the top of the hill, stopped and got out to get her a peanut butter sandwich and let me get in the front seat with her.

When she opened the door to the camper, clams and muddy water went pouring out and kids were either screaming, crying or laughing! (Mostly because their sandwich had sand in it!) I uncurled from my wedged position, crawled out of the camper-looked at Leatha, who had an extremely shocked look on her face and we started to laugh! We laughed and laughed – the kids laughed – then demanded another sandwich without sand in it.

We got clams back in the bucket, kids back in the beds after scraping off sand and mud from the blankets, hair and ceiling. Straightened the clam buckets and hung up the coats and pushed the boots back under the beds. “Everyone ready?” asked Leatha, “Sure – can I have another sandwich?” Good thing we brought three loaves of bread!

I am sure that camper bore the marks of clam juice, inlet mud, silty gray water and peanut butter and jolly for a long time!

 

I love this story and have told it many times. Kids were so resilient and so forgiving and besides that, it was fun!

Camped out on the beach, fish, clam and shrimp stew.

We did this after clam digging or pulling in our nets for the night, seated around a big roaring campfire with all your friends and family. Before going to the beach you have to be a little prepared for this with the big pot with a lid and a sack full of the following: This recipe depends on how many people are around your campfire. This recipe serves twelve.

1 large onion chopped

1 cup of chopped celery

2 cans of diced tomatoes or diced stewed

2 cans of chicken broth – 2 cans of water

1 half bottle of white wine-pass the rest around or steal one of Bobs beers (optional)

1 lemon sliced

1 tablespoons garlic salt

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 whole peppercorns

2 bay leaves

 

Put a small pan of water to simmer on the hot coals for later….

Dump the above ingredients (but NOT the hot water) into the large pot and settled it down in some glowing coals to bring to a simmer. Add large bite size chunks of skinless halibut or salmon or both. Simmer 5 min. covered

Add various types of scrubbed clams and simmer 5 min. Covered. Add shrimp and simmer 3 to 5 min. until the clams open. You may have to add more water-from the pan of water on hot coals (so it is hot if you have to add it to the pot.) But remember the idea is to steam NOT boil.

Scoop into various large bowls, (glass pie plates work well! We used coffee cups!!) Pass the Parmesan cheese, campfire toasted garlic bread, a spoon and a napkin (paper towels.). Find a rock or a log and eat as you listen to the “ohhs and ahhhs” and the gentle swish of the tide as the sun goes down over the water. Be sure and drink some of the “juice” in the pot.

LINQUINI WITH WHITE CLAM SAUCE

Bob’s daughter Daphene lived in Elko, Nev. with her husband, Jeff and kid, Trey and Aston when we visited them in 2000. She served this great tasting dish.

Cook Linguine according to directions.

1/4 cup olive oil

1 to 3 finely chopped garlic cloves

2 cups clam juice

1/2 cup white wine-optional – chicken broth works

1 teaspoon thyme

Pepper to taste

2 1/2 cups chopped clams

1/2 cup parsley

Heat oil and sauté garlic 1 min. Add clam juice, wine,(broth) thyme and pepper. Simmer 10 min. Add clams and parsley, simmer until heated. Spoon over cooked Linguini noodles and pass the Parmesan cheese. Tiss sooooo good!

 

Fast track clam chowder

Sauté in 1 teaspoon of butter in a large saucepan

1 chopped onion and add:

2 cans cream of potato soup undiluted

1 1/2 cans canned milk

3 cans minced clams with liquid

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon thyme

1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

Heat slowly to blend. Do not boil! Ladle into deep bowls. Dot with butter. Sprinkle with parsley. Pass the oyster crackers.

Note; Crumbled bacon sprinkled over the top and shredded cheese for the non-calorie counters.

HOTCHA MOMA CLAM DIP

That is what I said when I burnt my fingers getting this out of the oven!

Sauté in 1 tablespoon of olive oil or butter

1/2 cup chopped fine onion

1/4 cup chopped fine green or red bell pepper

1-10 ounce can white clam sauce-Progresso makes this

1 can minced clams, well drained

1/2 cup Italian style bread crumbs

1/2 to 1 cup shredded cheese

Stir this into a small casserole dish and top with cheese. Bake at 350° for 20 min. until everything is browned and bubbly. Serve this fine dip with vegetables, chips and crackers.

 

Grannie Annie’s clam chowder

1 pint canned ground clams or if you have frozen the clams, grind while partially frozen. You should have two cups with juice.

(2 to 3 cans of minced clams will do also)

If you are grinding the frozen clams, when finished, grind one medium peeled potato into the bowl, as not to miss any of the ground clams.

I prefer to make this in a glass soup pot. Do not use anything aluminum making this chowder.

Dice one large onion cut in half inch chunks

1/2 cup sliced celery

1/4 cup diced red or green bell pepper

2 small carrots sliced

4 medium potatoes diced in half inch chunks

2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter

Heat the cooking pot, add the butter and place vegetables in pot, sauté for 5 min. Stir to keep from browning.

Add 1 can chicken broth-bring to boil

Add the ground clams and potatoes. Heat to simmer on a very low heat for one half hour. Do not boil!

Add 1 quart of milk (4 cups)

Add 1 can of canned milk

Add a pinch of basil, parsley and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Add garlic salt to taste

Bring to a slow simmer – never boiling!

Thickened with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in 1/4 cup of milk.

Add slowly in a small stream stirring constantly until medium thick.

Ladle into soup bowls and top with the teaspoon of butter, sprinkle of black pepper and parsley. Goes very well with grilled cheese sandwich or buttered toast.

Rhubarb bread pudding

What’s for dessert?

I collect rhubarb and bread pudding recipes. This is A combination that caught my eye, tasty to!

Eight slices day old bread, toasted. Remove crust if you wish,( I do not) cut in cubes, place in a buttered 1 1/2 quart casserole baking dish. In a small saucepan heat slowly:

1 1/2 cans canned milk until it just bubbles around the sides

Stir in 1/4 cup butter

Pour, hot, over cubed bread, cover and let stand for 20 min.

In a mixing bowl stir:

5 eggs

1 1/2 cups of brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3 cups chopped fresh rhubarb

Stir the egg mixture and pour over the bread. Gently lift milk soaked bread to incorporate the egg rhubarb mixture. Top with 1/2 cup brown sugar blended with 1 teaspoon of flour and a half a cup of crushed-fine walnuts. Bake at 350° for 45 to 60 min. Test with a knife. Makes 6 to 8 servings. This is one of my oldest recipes.

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