Few varieties of seafood are as versatile and flavorful as fresh-caught clams straight from the shores of the sea or bay. From clams casino and clam chowder to clam fritters and clam dip, a wide array of recipes featuring fresh clams are waiting to be perfected once you add this delicious seafood ingredient. Whether you have harvested far too many clams to use before they spoil or your recipe doesn't call for as many as you initially purchased, freezing fresh clams in the shell is an easy and effective way to ensure your extra clams don't go to waste and can be used in future dishes that will quickly become family favorites.
Cleaning fresh clams
Because clams burrow deep into the sand and mud along the bottom of the waterways that they call home, a considerable amount of sand also can wedge its way inside the shell of a clam if the edges aren't closed tightly underwater. This debris should be removed completely before you cook your clams and add them to your seafood dish.
To clean your fresh clams, place them in a large bowl and fill it with cold tap water until all of the clams are covered. (Note: Do not use any clams whose shells are chipped, cracked or broken, and discard any clams that don't close when the shell is lightly tapped.) Add 1/3 cup of salt to the water to assist the clams in purging the sand from inside their shells, and allow them to sit in the water and salt mixture for 30-45 minutes. As the clams breathe, the sand, silt and salt will be filtered out of their shells during this period of time.
Remove the clams one at a time by hand rather than pouring the water out. This will prevent any of the purged sand and silt from the bottom of the bowl from getting back into the shells. Repeat the soaking process two or three times-changing the water each time-to make sure all of the debris is purged from the shells. Use a stiff brush to scrub the exterior of the clam shells under running water to remove any excess sand or debris before proceeding with your recipe. Always keep the cleaned clams in a bowl of cool water in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.
Freezing fresh clams in the shell
Once your clams are clean, you can continue by following the directions to make your seafood dish, or, if you plan to save your cleaned clams to use at a later date, you can freeze them while they are still inside the shells. Place your cleaned clams inside moisture-vapor resistant bags that won't crack or become brittle when they are subjected to freezing temperatures. Squeeze any excess air out of the bags and place the bags of clams in the back of your freezer. Clams that have been frozen in their shells can be kept in the freezer for approximately two months. When you are ready to eat the fresh clams you have frozen, allow them to defrost for 8-10 hours in the refrigerator before using them to complete your seafood dish. For a wide array of recipes containing clams as the primary ingredient, click here.