There are some excellent clam tides coming up several times this month in Cook Inlet. If you choose to dig clams, be aware of the risk of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). For more information about PSP, visit the Department of Environmental Conservation Web site at www.state.ak.us/dec/deh/seafood/psp.
If you are new to the world of harvesting clams, you need to know that proper storage of the clams is important.
Live clams in the shell should be refrigerated (40 degrees F or below) and covered with a wet cloth. Use within two to three days.
Shucked clams can be stored in water or their liquor. Keep covered, refrigerated and use within two days. For longer storage, freezing or canning are other options.
Razor clams frozen in the shell don't keep as well as little neck or butter clams; they're better if you clean them before freezing. To freeze clams in the shell place the clams in a waterproof, heavy-gauge, food-grade plastic bag. Submerge the bag in water, keeping its mouth above water. This forces the air out of the bag. Tightly seal the bag. Place the sealed bag of clams in a similar, larger bag; remove all air from this larger bag and seal it, also.
Store the package in the freezer.
To freeze clam meat, shuck the clams and wash the meat thoroughly. Pack in freezer containers, leaving half-inch head space, label and freeze. Good quality freezer bags or a vacuum sealer also may be used. Many people prefer to add water to the clam meat when using plastic containers or freezer bags to assure a quality product. When it's time to use frozen clams, always thaw clams in the refrigerator.
To can clam meat (collect and save clam juice when shucking), wash clam meat in water containing 1 teaspoon of salt per quart. Rinse and cover clam meat with boiling water containing 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid per gallon. Boil 2 minutes and drain.
To make minced clams, grind clams with a meat grinder or food processor. Fill jars loosely with pieces and add hot clam juice and boiling water if needed, leaving 1-inch headspace.
Adjust lids and process -- half-pints 60 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure for a dial-gauge, 70 minutes for pints. With a weighted gauge pressure canner it's 60 minutes at 10-pounds of pressure for half-pints, 70 minutes for pints.
Linda Tannehill is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension Office. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Development programs. The Kenai Peninsula District Extension Office is at 43961 Kalifornsky Beach Road, Suite A, Soldotna, AK. The phone number is 262-5824 or toll-free at (800) 478-5824.
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