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AOJ Outdoor Tips

Tip #39 PUTTING YOUR RAZORS IN THE HOT SEAT!

Drum roll....dadadadada...Southcentral Alaska razor clam limits have been raised from the first 45 clams dug to the first 60 clams dug as of April 15th, 2003. This is great news for those of us who love digging and eating razors taken from the beaches of the Kenai Peninsula. But then again, when the limit goes up so does the amount of work one must do to clean and prepare the clams for the table or the freezer.

Many new clam diggers find out that 2 or 3 limits of clams their family members dug that day ends up being many hours of processing back at the house. Most folks end up cleaning their clams much like you would an oyster -- use a stiff, sharp knife to slip into the shell and cut the aductor muscle which holds the two halves of the shell closed and then cut the other muscle and membranes holding the clam. But after several hours of this your hands and fingers get numb from the cold water and its easy to cut yourself on the knife or the sharp edge of the shell. Afterall, that's why they call them razor clams.

The above photo shows our setup for making quick work of getting the clams out of their shells so we can get to the main process of removing the gills and guts in preparation for packaging. The equipment in our operation consists of:

  • Large canning pot with about 4 inches of water
  • Coleman camp stove for providing the hottest burner heat possible
  • A bucket of ice cold water
  • A set of tongs used for deep frying
  • A pan for the clam meat

  • Heat the 4 inches of water to a light boil, keeping the burner at full heat for quicker recovery of the temperature
  • Drop 3 to 4 clams at a time in the water and as soon as you see one of the shells pop open remove it with the tongs and drop it in the ice water. (It only takes 10 to 20 seconds on average.)
  • Keep the water boiling hot. Skim any foam so that you can easily watch the clams for the exact time they pop open.
  • Don't leave the clam in the hot water any longer than necessary to open the shell or you'll cook the clam and make it tough. The cold water stops the cooking process and helps loosen the meat from the shell too.
  • Have your partner remove the clams and shells from the cold water bucket or pan. Quite often the clam meat has completely separated from the shell.

Once you have established a routine and rhythm two people can process two limits of clams in about an hour or so. If you have other family members available, they could start on the cleaning process to remove the gills and digestive tract and clean any remaining sand that is present.

A special note: this hot water process has a very valuable advantage I'll mention. Its almost impossible to dig razor clams without breaking a few shells or nicking or cutting the neck of some clams that weren't where they were suppose to be. :-) When the shell gets broken or the shovel has cut the neck, a secretion from the tissues makes sand stick to the wound or injury like glue. This sand is very difficult to wash off with just cold water if you have not used the hot water process. You end up trimming a significant amount of meat to get rid of the sand. But when you put these clams through the hot water process the sand is easily wiped and washed from the damaged areas making the entire clam salvageable with no trace of sand.

Have Fun digging and here's to good eating!

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