One of the best days of my cooking and eating life just happened around the spring full moon. Full and new moons bring astronomical tides; tides that are both higher and lower than usual. This March, the moon was the closest to the Earth that it has been in 20 years, and as a result, the tides were even more pronounced. In our cove on Deer Isle, low tide one morning was a negative 1.9 feet, almost 2 feet lower than the average low tide.
I carefully monitor the tide tables, and days like this are marked in ink on my calender. With the full moon setting in the west and the first glow of orange sun on the horizon, we were down at shore, complete with rubber boots, blue gloves and wooden hods. The beauty of a astronomical low tide is that you can clearly see the clam holes in the mud and sand. I had never seen the tide so low…and so many clams! In a little over an hour of digging, our hods were full of 3 different varieties: soft-shelled clams, hen clams, and razor clams.
Hen clams, or the Atlantic surf clams, are very large, measuring 8 inches or more, and weighing in at often over a pound. Also referred to a chowder clams, they are best used in a chopped form. We pop the shell open and scrape out the raw clam, using them to make chowders, clam cakes and fritters.
Every down east family has its favorite recipe for Clam Fritters. This rendition is courtesy of our friend Tricia, an excellent Deer Isle cook and caterer. The key to a perfect clam fritter is the temperature of the fat. Fat that is too hot will burn the outside and not completely cook the middle of the fritter. If the fat is too cool, the fritter will absorb too much grease. Although we enjoy our fritters made with hen clams, any shucked, chopped raw clam will work. Be sure to save the juice.
For several days my life was packed with clams, clam chowder, clam fritters, razors on the half-shell, clams in garlic sauce, clams casino, baked stuffed clams. We have clams in the freezer to last the season. Such a luxury, right outside my door!