The term “hard-shell clam” may mean different things to different people. When we speak of hard-shell clams, we are referring to (Mercenaria mercenaria). Littleneck clams, topnecks, cherrystones, countnecks, middlenecks, round clam, quahog, chowder clam – they are all Mercenaria mercenaria, just of different sizes and or regional names.
This particular bivalve mollusk is quite widespread along the Atlantic seaboard of the Americas, ranging from Nova Scotia to the Yucatan Peninsula, with higher concentrations in the northern end of the range. These clams are incredibly versatile, and the size of each individual clam very much determines where (and how) it will wind up on your plate. The smaller clams (littleneck clams, topnecks and the like) will often wind up served raw on the half-shell, whereas the larger clams (quahogs, for example) are more likely to be stuffed and baked or turned into chowder.
Our hard-shell clams are harvested in an environmentally sustainable manner. That is to say, they are either hand-dredged or raked (tonged). These methods of harvest have no by-catch issues, nor are they the cause of any significant habitat damage. Once our clams are dug, they are graded (by size), bagged, and set on top of palettes in shallow bays so they will purge any impurities (sand/mud) from their system. As orders are received, the clams are removed from the shallows, and sent directly to you, via our own fleet of trucks. It bears noting that the region we source our hard-shell clams from has never tested positive for red tide. The hard-shell clam can reach a level of fecundity in as little as a year, but in the colder Canadian waters, two to three years would be more typical.
Hard-shell clams should be stored in your cooler, optimally between 34 and 36 degrees Fahrenheit, and kept in a well-ventilated container. It is not recommended that you store clams directly on ice, the melted fresh water will reduce their life expectancy significantly. If a clam is gaping, and does not stay closed when squeezed shut, it should be immediately removed and discarded. If you follow these guidelines, there is no reason you shouldn’t expect your hard-shell clams to be in great condition for two weeks or longer. Hard-shell clams may be shucked and frozen to be used at a later date. If this is the case, they should be cleaned, rinsed, vacuum-packed, and stored in the freezer for no more than three months.