Food

Collecting Clams in Boston

New England
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July 2015
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By
Victoria
Allman

The west sand squished between my toes.Dig deeper. James, my clam-diggin' new friend, instructed. They're down there.We were just outside of Boston searching for lunch on the beach. Actually, we were in the shallows with the Atlantic biting cold on my ankles. Summer had fled and autumn, although named on the calendar, seemed to be skipped over for the harsher temperatures of winter.Yet, there I was, in shorts and a sweater standing in the surf, shivering and wondering just what was I thinking. Like Lucy Ricardo squishing grapes for wine with her feet, James was teaching me to dig for clams with my toes.With no scratch rake or tongs, you can always find clams just by feeling. He paused and wiggled his left leg. He rolled his white collared shirtsleeve up to the elbow, bent down, and stuck his hand into the water. He pulled a gray half-mooned bivalve with brown rings wrapping around its surface from the sand. His rough work-worn hands with dirt under the nails showed stitches from past battles with shells. Here's one.How did you do that? I wiggled my feet around, searching for my own lunch.James laughed and then coughed. Years of cold New England winters and a life on the sea had graveled his voice and weathered his hands but hadn't thawed his love of treading for clams. Every time I'd visited the area, I'd asked around for someone to take me digging and finally had been introduced to James, a first mate on a swordfish boat in Gloucester. He'd agreed to show me how to dig, old-school-style, with just our senses.I'd picked up my shellfish permit that morning and was eager to gather enough mollusks to make chowder that afternoon. I thought it would be easier, and kicked myself for being so eager to do this without the modern-day tools of a rake or shovel.When the tide rolls out, look for small round holes in the sand. That's where they'll be. James chucked his clam into the steel bucket at the water's edge.I groped through the muck, scrunching my toes as directed but came up empty footed.At this rate, I better stop at The Clam Box on the way home if I'm going to have clams for lunch.Not to worry. They'll be clams for chowda. His thick Boston accent held confidence enough for both of us.The clams we searched for were a sweet, saltwater, soft-shelled clam that have been dug on these shores for hundreds of years. They are also called long-necks for the rubbery siphon that protrudes from their shell, which are thinner than other varieties such as the little-neck or cherry stone.Restaurants for miles around specialize in fried clam strips and stuffed clams. They are served raw, steamed, and in clam pastas. The uses are endless. People of the area were known not to even leave the beach after collecting the local delicacy. They'd dig a deep hole in the sand and build a fire of driftwood. Seaweed collected from the shoreline would be strewn on top of the hot rocks with their clams tucked inside. All of this was covered with a tarp and a layer of sand and left to roast for hours, steaming the clams open and creating a New England clam bake.James reached down and plucked another from the sand and pulled a multi-tool from his pocket. He snapped the knife attachment open and dug it between the two halves of the clam's shell, popping the hinge and opening it like a book. Using the tip of the knife, he scraped a lingering fragment of shell from the liquid around the muscle and handed it to me. Here. Try one.I tipped my head back, sucking the nugget from its home. Salty brine slipped down my throat as I bit into the chewy, rich clam. I swallowed and smiled. Delicious.James just nodded.After an hour, my lips were blue, my teeth chattered, and my flesh was covered in goose bumps. I looked into my bucket and its measly half-dozen clams. Just how many of these things do I need for a bowl of soup?With a wink and a gruff laugh he slapped his knee and said, How about you stick to cooking, and I'll do the diggin'?That's all the encouragement I needed to scamper back up the beach, wrap a wool blanket around my frozen toes and observe the digging instead of participating in the oceanfront foraging.

New England Clam Chowder

Ingredients

  • 48 soft-shell clams
  • 1/3 cup sea salt
  • 6 slices bacon, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 bottle clam juice
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 6 cups milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • 3 large potatoes, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped

Directions

  • Place the clams in a large bowl with the sea salt. Cover with one gallon of water and place in the refrigerator for one hour.
  • In a large stockpot, sauté the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp. Add garlic, onions and celery, and sauté for 5 minutes until soft. Remove the clams from the salt water, discarding any broken shells, and add to the stockpot with the clam juice. Cover the pot to steam the clams for 5 minutes until they pop open.
  • With tongs, remove the clams from the pot and set aside. Discard any that don't open.
  • Add the flour to the pot and stir to break up clumps. Add the milk, cream, potatoes and bay leaves and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, shuck the clams from their shells and add to the soup. Season with cayenne, salt and pepper.
  • Taste and serve with oyster crackers.
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Remnants of a “Vote Against Prohibition” sign still linger in faded letters on a brick wall in Baltimore — a true representation of the city’s historical love for a brew. 

From the clipper ships that brought beer from Germany during the Revolutionary War to the birthplace of the beloved Natty Boh, Baltimore is not only rich in maritime and war traditions — it’s also known as a beer city. 

Baltimore boasts a nice selection of well-known bars and swanky restaurants, but you may not realize how many experimental breweries and eclectic taprooms are located just down the street. 

From serving ice-cold pints on a hot summer day to offering taproom tastings and outdoor events, these local breweries present unique, homemade craft beers in an entertaining atmosphere. The following locations explore antique structures, historic warehouses and a barn-turned-brewhouse in Baltimore City and County.

BALTIMORE CITY

Diamondback Brewing Company

1215 E. Fort Avenue

Locust Point

A garage-style window opens above high-top seating in this south Baltimore brewery — a perfect summertime hangout.  The experimental production brewery serves unfiltered lagers, hop forward ales and pizza in a lively urban atmosphere. Try the Maple Thief oatmeal stout, the Green Machine IPA or the American Locust Point Lager alongside a signature seasonal scratch-made house pizza such as the Howard, made with pulled duck confit, smoked provolone, onion, parsley and “Pee-Paw’s Secret BBQ Sauce.”

Ministry of Brewing

1900 E. Lombard Street

Upper Fells Point/Highlandtown

The stunning structure of the former St. Michaels Church in East Baltimore has high ceilings lined by archways with golden trim, colorful murals and a gorgeous organ on the second floor balcony overlooking an open space where pews used to sit. Originally opened in 1857, this church that once provided refuge to German Catholics was abandoned in 2011 and is now one of the city’s hottest brewery hangouts. Long beer hall-style tables and high-tops now fill the spacious renovated church. Biblical scriptures are written above where the taproom’s bar serves a selection of rotating beers such as the Old Maude brown ale, The Point pilsner and 9.9 Problems imperial stout.

The Brewer’s Art

1106 N. Charles Street

Mount Vernon

This hip and artsy brewery matches the vibe of the quirky neighborhood and local community. Built as a private residence in the early 1900s, the vintage townhouse remains in the same classical style as it looked centuries ago with a slight transformation into a cozy taproom. Each room provides a different feel from the upscale dining room to the gritty Downbar and the cozy upstairs lounge. While most breweries only offer beer, this location pours everything from house brews to red, white, rosé and sparkling wines, and craft cocktails.

Full Tilt Brewing

5604 York Road

Govans

This neighborhood brewery is all about live music, tasty drinks and providing a fun social atmosphere. Hosting everything from yoga classes to live acts and comedy shows, the brewery offers a full event calendar throughout the year. They often cater parties and sponsor fundraisers such as partnerships with Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS) and Art with a Heart. The taproom is known for two famous brews: Hops the Cat American IPA and Dan’s Jams, a Swedish Fish sour ale. Complement your brew with spicy wings, honey sriracha-glazed Brussels sprouts or a juicy Full Tilt burger.

BALTIMORE COUNTY 

RavenBeer

8901 Yellow Brick Road, Suite B

Rosedale

As Baltimore icon Edgar Allan Poe was known for frequenting local city bars, this brewery pays homage to the writer with its own spin on classic American and German-style beer. Founder Stephen Demczuk began brewing when he was in Europe. Inspired by Poe’s writings, Demczuk named his concoctions after the famous literature. Variations include Annabel Lee White, a Belgian-style white beer with citrus, The Raven Special Lager, The Tell Tale Heart IPA and The Cask, a Bavarian double style IPA.

Heavy Seas Brewery

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Guinness Open Gate Brewery

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Halethorpe

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Farmacy Brewing

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Deep within Baltimore County’s horse country, this working farm raises horses and cattle, and grows hay, fruits, vegetables and row crops. This family-run brewery resides at the gorgeous Willowdale Farm, where a 3.5-barrel brewhouse is open for tours. Surrounded by horse pastures, barns and acres of farmland, a nine-stall horse stable was converted into a tasting room. Guests can picnic and enjoy the day strolling through a beautiful orchard.

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Battle of the Crustaceans: Lobsters vs. Crabs
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Best Region for the Season

lobster - this or that - marinalife
Courtesy of Justine G

Lobster

New England and Canada are known as major lobster hubs along the Atlantic, and Maine is one of the most famous regions in the world for these mouth-watering delicacies. For the freshest catch, Maine's top lobster-loving towns include Rockland, Bar Harbor, Belfast, Georgetown, Harpswell, Kennebunk and Ogunquit.

Crab

More than 6,000 species of crabs across the world vary in everything from appearance to taste. For example, Maryland crab fans meticulously pick the meat from under the crab's shell, while in Florida, they split open the legs and claws for a tasty treat. To experience the best Maryland blue crabs, visit cities such as Baltimore and Annapolis, as well as Kent Island on the Chesapeake Bay's Eastern Shore and Solomons Island in southern Maryland.

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Blue Crab | Courtesy of Pakhnyushchy

Lobster

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Crab

Typically found in saltwater or brackish water, thousands of different crab species live in all of the world's oceans. Like lobsters, some are land-crawlers. Many solely live in the water and others inhabit the edges along rocks and sandy shores. The best crustacean havens for crabbing include Maryland, Virginia and Delaware. Florida stone crabs are found in southern waters in shallow, rocky locations including knee-deep seagrass beds and reefs.

Traditional Recipes

Lobster

The sweet taste of lobster pairs well with your taste buds in any variation. Cook it in a gamut of dishes from steaming, grilling or boiling, to chopped-up in a warm soup or cold salad. Some of the most famous classics include a New England lobster boil, baked lobster tail, lobster mac and cheese, creamy bisque and much more.

Crab

Pick-and-eat crab feasts are a beloved pastime across the mid-Atlantic region. Catch, steam, season, crack open and scarf down! Use a mallet to break the claws open and get the good thick meat. Two varieties of crab soup creamy or tomato-based are popular along the East Coast, as well as dishes such as crab dip, crab Rangoon, crab pretzels and best of all the world-famous Maryland crab cakes.

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Lobster Dish | Courtesy of BDMcIntosh

Lobster

Lobsters actually have two stomachs and can detach a limb and grow it back during their molting cycle. Today, lobsters are among the pricier seafood selections and are considered a delicacy, but that wasn't always the case. In early 19th century New England, lobsters were so abundant that their shells were used as fertilizer and their meat was fed to pigs as scraps.

Crab

Crabs are typically an aggressive crustacean and often fight with other crabs and aquatic creatures. They can walk in any direction and mostly scurry sideways. Unlike lobsters that can live to age 100, Atlantic crabs only survive for three to four years. Dungeness Crabs from Alaska can live up to 13 years, and the Japanese spider crab has the longest lifespan of all its fellow crustaceans, often reaching 80 to 100 years old.

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Cruising the Great Loop Taught Us How to Cook
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nyc skyline - food - marinalife
Kate and her husband Tim

Before embarking on the Great Loop, my husband Tim and I lived in New York City, which helped prepare us somewhat for life on the water. We took our clothes to a laundromat, hand washed our dishes, and understood the challenges of living in a small space. But given it's one of the culinary capitals of the world, living in Manhattan didn't teach us how to cook. Since living on our boat, a 31-foot 1996 Camano Troll named Sweet Day, we had to change our relationship with the kitchen, which means we actually had to use it. Here's what we learned.

Be Creative with What We Have

While cruising the Great Loop, we imagined tiki bars and restaurants dotting the shorelines everywhere we stopped. This is definitely true in some parts. But more times than expected, we found ourselves nowhere near a place to grab a meal, much less a grocery store.This means we've learned how to build meals with what we have onboard. We also realized that as long as we have flour and a little butter, homemade tortillas can easily transform a couple sides into tasty tacos and easily impress neighbors at the next docktail party.

Rarely Waste Food

In the daily hustle of our lives in the city, we ended up wasting a lot more food than we'd like to admit. The opposite has been true while cruising. We typically buy enough fresh food for three to four meals, because that's all we can fit in our fridge. A home-cooked dinner is easily stretched to lunch the next day. And since we travel with our fridge, leftovers never get left behind.

No Need for Fancy Kitchen Gadgets

We have a small propane oven and a three-burner stove. We can use these with barely any electricity, making cooking underway and at anchor seamless. When we're plugged into a marina or if we run our generator, we can also use our microwave (when it's not being used as a food pantry).Some cruisers have Instapots and other gadgets, but our boat isn't set up to handle that amount of electricity. Plus, we don't have the space. So, we've had to learn (with a lot of practice) how to cook juicy chicken or tender salmon without the benefits of modern cooking technology.

Access Our Kitchen 24/7

One of the biggest (and underrated) benefits of cruising is that your stuff travels with you, including your kitchen. This means we can make a marinade while cruising and cook the chicken at anchor that night. Or knead a loaf of bread underway to make sure it's ready to bake the next day. Plus, you never have to worry about forgetting olive oil or spices when on a trip. Spending time and experimenting in the kitchen helps break up those long cruising days too, all while rewarding us with a tasty meal once we reach our destination.

Know the Steps Ahead of Time to Plan a Meal

One quirk of our galley is we can only run the oven or the stove, as our propane system can't support running both at the same time. As a result, it requires knowing the recipe and its steps in advance to ensure we have the right equipment and ability to cook the meal. If the meal is good enough to be part of the rotation, the steps become easier to remember the next time we cook it.

Learn What Meals We Can Make Quickly

Just like land life, there are days when we may feel excited about prepping and cooking a more time-intensive meal, and others when we're hungry, it's 7:00 p.m. and we just need to get something in our stomach. In New York, that meant heading downstairs for a slice of pizza.

lunch aboard - food - marinalife
Courtesy of Kate Raulin Carney

That doesn't work while cruising. Learning what meals take time (especially in Sweet Day's kitchen) and what meals can be thrown together quickly (hello mac and cheese and tuna fish) is extremely helpful. When we're stocking up on food, we make sure we have enough of those go-to meal items for those inevitable times when we just need something fast.To help you stock your galley, here are some of our favorite items:

  • High-quality all-purpose knife: Our Zwilling Santoku knife cuts pretty much everything we've cooked in the last year.
  • Dutch oven: This is perfect for baking fresh bread, making soups, rice and other meals. We store it in the oven while not in use.
  • Stainless steel French press: We didn't want to have to rely on electricity to make coffee, so our go-to is a sturdy French press. Plus, it's fun to get beans from local coffee shops.
  • New York Times cooking subscription: This app allows us to easily search tons of recipes and discover new dishes with ingredients we have on board.
  • Pre-cut parchment paper: I learned this from my dad. It keeps food from sticking to the pan and makes cleaning easy a big plus on a tiny boat, where you may need to clean the pan quickly to put another item in the oven.

SIMPLE FLOUR TORTILLAS

Here's our go-to recipe for an easy batch of tortillas. Some of our favorite ingredients for stuffing inside are pantry staples black beans and rice or roasted sweet potatoes with a charred scallion crema (Greek yogurt, mayo and scallions charred on a hot skillet).

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup room temperature butter (Can also replace with shortening, lard or vegetable oil)
  • 7/8 to 1 cup of hot water

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. Add the butter (if you're using vegetable oil, add it in step 3). Use your fingers to work the fat into the flour until it disappears.
  3. Pour in the lesser amount of hot water (plus the oil, if you're using it), and stir briskly with a fork or whisk to bring the dough together into a shaggy mass. Stir in additional water as needed to bring the dough together.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead briefly, just until the dough forms a ball. If the dough is very sticky, gradually add abit more flour.
  5. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Round the pieces into balls, flatten slightly and allow them to rest, covered, for about 30 minutes.If you wish, coat each ball lightly in oil before covering to ensure the dough doesn't dry out.
  6. While the dough rests, preheat an ungreased cast iron griddle or skillet over medium high heat, about 400°F.
  7. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll into a round about 8 inches in diameter. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Fry the tortilla in the ungreased pan for about 30 seconds on each side. Wrap the tortilla in a clean cloth when it comes off the griddle to keep it pliable. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
  8. If you have leftovers, allow them to cool completely, then wrap tightly in plastic and store in the refrigerator. Reheat in an ungreased skillet or for a few seconds in the microwave.

Recipe is from King Arthur Baking Company, kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/simple-tortillas-recipe. To follow Kate and Tim Carney's cruising adventures aboard Sweet Day, go to lifeonsweetday.com or @lifeonsweetday on Instagram.

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