Clambakes are as old as the United States itself. Native Americans first taught newcomers to this country how to cook and steam different types of fish and vegetables along the shore lines. And the tradition has continued, particularly in New England, which is famous for their clambakes. Throwing a clambake is a wonderful way to spend time with your friends and family. And, believe it or not, you can even throw one if you don't live near a beach.
Pick the Right Spot
A traditional New England style clambake is a day (and often night) long event so you will want to prepare well ahead of time for the event. A good location is one of the things you want to consider first. If it is going to be on the beach, and most clambakes are, you want a nice spot with plenty of room for the pit to cook the clams in and for guests to spread their blankets. They'll be on the beach a while.
Keep your guests' comfort at the front of your mind. Bring sunscreen and umbrellas, and look into the beach's proximity to a bathroom. If there is no bathroom, you should consider renting a port-a-potty for the day.
When you have the spot narrowed down, call your local law enforcement or look up the laws of the beach. Laws vary from beach to beach, and some beaches don't allow cooking or fires of any sort, nor do they allow glass bottles. Save yourself a lot of trouble by finding out which beaches will permit your clambake.
Create the Invitations
Next send out those invitations. Why not make some fun clam-shaped invitations that give the date, time and location? Be sure to include a map if the clambake is going to be held where some have never visited. One of the neat aspects of outdoor entertaining is that everyone often shares the load when it comes to food, so do not hesitate to ask your friends to bring something. If you need them to bring their own chairs, blankets or place settings, make sure you include that information in the invitation. Ask them to RSVP so you know how much food you need to purchase.
Gather Your Supplies
Make sure you have everything you need for the clambake. Disposable cups, plates, flatware, matches, tablecloths, tongs and a can opener are musts for any outdoor food event. You'll also need condiments, such as butter (a must for the lobster!), salt, pepper, sour cream, baked potato toppings and hot sauce. Set up tables for eating in a designated area, or simply out spread lots of blankets and set up umbrellas. String colorful outdoor party lights if possible, and bring a battery-operated stereo system for plenty of music.
Plan the Menu
Traditional clambake food includes clams and mussels of all types, corn on the cob, potatoes, onions and lobsters. All of these would be steamed in the baking pit. You want to make sure you have plenty for everyone. Estimate one to two ears of corn and one potato per guest. A half a dozen or so clams per person and one lobster per guest should work as well. Ask guests to bring cold drinks, extra salads and desserts.
Preparing the Pit
If you are doing a traditional clambake along the beach, you will need to make a pit for cooking. Dig a large hole in the sand, place the firewood in the sand pit and let it burn down to just coals. Then line the food in the pit with what needs to be cooked longest at the bottom. Cover everything with wet seaweed or rockweed and then cover it with wet burlap bags. The seaweed, rockweed and wet burlap will allow everything in the pit to steam.
Another common clambake method is to dig a pit in the sand and cover the bottom with large stones. You might want to place a ring of stones around the pit as well to rest a metal grill across. Place the gathered firewood upon the stones, and burn it until the firewood is ash and the stones are red hot. Remove the ash, and place seaweed in the bottom of the pit. Place clams, corn on the cob, potatoes and onions in the pit, cover them with more seaweed or rockweed, top with a damp tarp or burlap bags and let steam.
Preparing the Food
Food that is to be placed in the steaming pit is usually wrapped in cheesecloth. Corn on the cob is kept with the husks on and can be placed directly on the seaweed. So can cleaned and scrubbed potatoes. While clams can be placed directly on the seaweed, placing them in cheesecloth and tying the ends makes it easier to remove them from the pit later.
Make sure you have plenty of cold drinks on hand. Keep one cooler full of ice and water. Lemonade and iced tea are a perfect match for clambake food. Be sure and have at least one thermos with coffee for the die-hard coffee drinkers in case it cools down on the beach.
While you're waiting for the food to cook, which may take about two hours depending on what's in the pit, hold games or encourage guests to explore the beach. As the food starts to look (and smell) ready, serve some of the salads and appetizers brought by your guests so their stomachs don't grumble.
Don't Live Near the Beach? No Problem!
Steaming is the key to a delicious clambake. Even if you live nowhere near New England, you can still enjoy a clambake. You can use a backyard barbecue pit or a kettle. You want to remember to add water and seal in the food if you do not have seaweed to add moisture. You can steam and eat shrimp, crab, crayfish and all other sorts of delicacies in your own version of a clambake.
New England-style lobster clam bakes are a popular way to spend a nice summer day with friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers. Who doesn't like baking lobster, clams, potatoes and other foods while the sun is setting? The tradition of the clambake has been around for quite some time. In fact, its origins reach back to the start of the United States.
If you've always wanted to have a clambake but don't live near Martha's Vineyard, all is not lost. You can still engage in the clambake ritual at home.
Don't worry: using a clambake cooker will not affect the taste. Your lobster, clams and other dishes will come out tasting as if they were cooked in a pit by the ocean.
Whether you're heading to the beach or having a backyard clam bake, it is important to consider all of the necessary supplies you'll need. Not only will you need to consider the menu and how you will cook your items, but you will also need to consider the decorations and seating arrangements.