Preserving our harvest — Canning Clams

Here we are canning those clams we harvested over the Easter weekend. This article shows how to can clam meat, but the same steps can be followed for canning clam chowder.

A beautiful spring day in April found us on the beach at Sammish Island using one of the many clamming tools available for clam digging; water mining for clams. I discussed this method of clam digging in a previous article so I won’t go into detail here, this article is to show one method we use to preserve the clams we harvest.

Chris, Ken and I had such a fun day clamming and a wonderful sail back to the dock. Chris consolidated all the clams into one bucket and one very large bag and then we hung them off the dock to soak overnight.

Sunday afternoon and we are all ready to get these clams into the jars!

Clam digging, little neck clams, butter clams, steamer clams

Sorting the clams

Getting it all together

You will need:
Pressure Canner
Wide mouthed funnel
Jar Lifter
Small bowl
Measuring cup
Clean Bucket

We are using Chris Troutner’s pressure canner for today’s preserving and since it is very large and cannot fit on the stove inside the house we will split our work areas between the kitchen and the patio. It will be kinda of like canning on the boat so will be good practice for us all.

Steamer clams, butter clams, little neck clams

The steamer ready to go

Wash your jars and rings in hot soapy water and rinse well, inspect the jars very carefully making sure there are no cracks paying special attention to the mouth of the jar making sure there is nothing to prevent a good seal. Then put the jars into your oven at 200 degrees to keep them hot prior to filling. Set the lids aside for now in the small bowl.

I sort the clams while washing them in search of those nice little steamers we will have for dinner. Wash the clams in clear water making sure that all of them are alive with no broken shells and that any sand or other foreign matter is removed from the outside of the clam. You can determine if a clam is alive by trying to open the shell, do this by pushing opposite ways on each shell (like snapping your fingers) if the shell opens then the clam is dead, discard.

Steaming and Cleaning the Clams

All the clams have been washed and inspected, so now it is time for Ken and Chris to do some work. Ken has set up the steamer pot on the porch, (we use our crab cooker for large batches of clams like this), and has the water boiling.

If you have never steamed clams before, you only need a couple of inches of water in the bottom of the pot, pour the washed clams into the boiling water and put on the lid. Let the clams cook for about 20 to 25 minutes. Lift the lid, (don’t forget to use your oven mitts, that lid is hot), all the clams should be open and fully cooked. If not, then put the lid back on and wait another 10 minutes or so.

When the clams are fully cooked and removed from their shells they are brought back into the house for the final cleaning prior to chopping and canning. I prefer to remove the stomach contents, if any, prior to chopping. This is done by gently squeezing the clam, working anything that might be in its stomach out, and then a quick rinse and they are ready for chopping.

Cleaning steamed clams for canning from Sherrie Schmidt on Vimeo.

Filling the jars and into the pressure canner

Boil some water and pour over the lids in the small bowl making sure to separate the lids and get hot water all over each of them (this sterilizes the lids, and softens the rubber for a good seal). Using the jar lifter or some oven mitts remove a few of the jars from the oven and place on the counter where you will fill them. Take the measuring cup and scoop out one cup of chopped clams, put the wide mouthed funnel on the jar to be filled and put the clams in. Now use the measuring cup to fill the rest of the jar with the hot nectar leaving approximately one inch of headspace. One cup of chopped clams and one cup of clam nectar in a pint. Remove the funnel and clean the mouth of the jar with a damp cloth, put the lid on the jar and screw on the ring. Make sure you don’t tighten the ring too much, just about 1/2 a turn after the ring is secure.
Part One canning our clams
Part Two canning our clams

Now back out to the burner on the porch for the final canning. Place the filled jars into the canner, (once again you will have to refer to your canner’s specific instructions), secure the lid and start the water boiling.
Loading the pressure canner

Now that the canner is up to pressure there is not much more to do than have a beer and watch the pot! Ninety minutes later off goes the burner then we wait for the pressure to go down on the pot so we can open it up and remove the jars, this takes about 30 minutes to an hour. The pressure is down and out come the jars. Use your jar lifter to remove the jars from the canner, place the jars on a counter out of drafts and let cool. If they have not already sealed in the canner you will hear the jars seal with a distinctive “POP”. Once the jars are completely cool, check the seal by pushing down on the center of the lid, if the lid moves then this jar did not seal and you will want to put it into the refrigerator and use it right away.

Once I have determined that all the jars have sealed I wash them, remove the rings, and onto the shelf in the pantry they go. Time now to relax a bit and dream of the next outing!

little neck clams, steamed clams, canning clams, clam cooking

Chris and Ken working hard

Related posts:

Foraging for Wild Food: Fennel Fronds
Making Blackberry Wine
Canning Seafood While Cruising
4 Responses to “Preserving our harvest — Canning Clams”
  1. Eve says:

    wondering if you have a recipe for canning clams without a pressure cooker

    • Chris says:

      That’s not possible, I’m afraid. A pressure cooker is needed to kill botulism spores. Simply boiling water without pressure won’t get hot enough to do it. It’s especially important with clams and other seafood because they are such a low acid food.

      • Willowdene says:

        What type of pressure cooker do you have or which one would you purchase or recommend ; and what capacity?

        • Chris says:

          ‘Presto’ and ‘All American’ are both great brands of pressure caner. I have a large 16 quart All American caner that I use for large quantities of canning. I have small 4-quart pressure cooker/caner that I use aboard the boat when cruising. I’m happy with both and recommend both.

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