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Littleneck clams--how long will they keep?

I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never cooked with clams that didn't come out of a jar or can. But, I'm planning to do one of the dishes from Penelope Casas' "Tapas". Yesterday, I bought a couple dozen littleneck clams in the shells. Before I went to bed, I scrubbed them and put them in the fridge in a bowl of salted water and cornmeal. I didn't cover them with saran wrap or anything (I was afraid to smother them.) Should I cover them?

I was planning on making my dish tonight but I remembered we have plans tonight. Will they keep until tomorrow night? Should I change the water and add more cornmeal? How much salt do you add to the water?

I can make the dish tonight if need be, but it would only be one of us eating, which seems a shame.

~TDQ

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  1. The following is from a site called New England Cooking and is my guideline for all seafood:

    "Preparing & Handling
    • Keep live clams cold in the refrigerator, covered with wet kitchen towels or paper towels until you are ready to cook and serve them..
    • Shucked clams should be kept in tightly covered containers, immersed in their liquor; they, too, should keep for up to a week.
    • You can freeze shucked raw clams in their liquor in airtight containers. Most types of frozen raw or cooked clams will keep for two months if the freezer is set at 0°F or colder. Be sure to thaw frozen clams in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.
    Serving Suggestion:
    Serve ½ dozen clams on the half shell per person.
    • Do not put clams in an airtight container or submerge them in fresh water, or they will die. Never expose clams to sudden temperature changes.

    http://www.newenglandcooking.com/cook...

    3 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      Hmmm...well, what do I do now that they are already in the salt-water?

      I guess maybe I'd better cook them tonight.

      ~TDQ

      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        I don't know how you were going to use them, but if I were you, I'd simply make a tomato sauce with them now.... and serve the sauce over something (pasta, rice) tonight. I usually buy them just before I'm going to cook them.

        1. re: Gio

          I'm going to make the clams with pasta dish on page 163 of Tapas (first edition). She tells you to scrub the clams then put them in salt water for a couple of hours or overnight with some cornmeal. I did that much prep work last night in anticipation of having them for dinner tonight. I was wondering if I could now save them until tomorrow night, but, it sounds like I shouldn't.)

          She has you simmer the clams for about 10 minutes with some cooked spaghetti broth, and an onion and tomato mixture...

          ~TDQ

    2. Another clam question. Are littleneck clams the same as palourdes?

      1 Reply
      1. re: greedygirl

        http://images.google.com/images?hl=en...

        I think littlenecks are bigger, based on looking at those photos. I usually get manila clams for things like vongole, and they look about the same size as the palourdes.

      2. You may have killed them...if left in water, they use up the oxygen and drown. To store clams, you should put them in a bowl without water, cover with a damp towel or paper towels driectly on the top of the clams, and refrigerate. If you keep the towels moist, they should keep for several days, although if you intend to eat them on the half-shell, I'd use them ASAP. For cooking in a clam sauce, I'd say you could probably get 4-5 days this way.

        15 Replies
        1. re: ChefBoyAreMe

          That's what I worry about, too, except that I followed the directions in the cookbook to soak in salt-water overnight! How could her directions be so wrong?

          I didn't realize cooking them tonight, after having soaked them in saltwater overnight last night as per her instructions, would be a problem. I really wanted to know if I could keep them this way until TOMORROW night. But, should I just toss them when I get home tonight? (There's nothing I can do right now from the office I'm afraid, except leave a comforting message for them on the answering machine...)

          I'm crushed. Really.

          ~TDQ

          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            I think they should be alright tonight. I think the soaking in salt water is to clean them and get rid of any grit. According to a website I found, you can then drain and keep for a few days in the fridge, although they should be used as quickly as possible, like all shellfish.

            http://www.prevention.com/cda/vendora...

            1. re: greedygirl

              Yes, she says the clams eat the cornmeal and expel the grit. So, it's to clean them!

              ~TDQ

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                The trouble is they expel the clam juice too. I used to do that until a fisherman told me that you should only do the cornmeal with mussels , or shellfish that are really dirty, otherwise you'll loose the precious juice. I still put them in water for awhile anyway, just to see what shows up on the bottom of the bowl.

                1. re: coll

                  You make an excellent point. In my case, I think only 1-2 clams opened up. As far as I could tell, no sand was expelled and no cornmeal was eaten. Only one bite had a bit of grit in it. Next time, I might skip the brine bath with cornmeal step unless they were dirty.

                  ~TDQ

                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    It's less needed if they're farmed.

                    DT

            2. re: The Dairy Queen

              They may be okay "Overnight" as in, last night til this morning. Not last night until this evening.
              If, as was said above, they use up the oxygen and drown, maybe you have about 12 hours and you would be closer to 24 hours.
              I'm just supposin'

              DT

              1. re: Davwud

                I don't disagree with you, but that doesn't make any sense. Why would anyone be preparing tapas first thing in the morning if you'd soaked them overnight? No one is eating tapas for breakfast, not even the Spaniards. At best, you'd be serving them for lunch... This is a dish in the chapter entitled "Last minute preparation"...

                ~TDQ

              2. re: The Dairy Queen

                I think they should be ok. I've done the cornmeal and saltwater thing (a la Joy of Cooking for me) but lately I don't bother and just leave them in a bowl (dry). I'd take them out when you get home and let them sit in a bowl. From Joy of Cooking the idea of saltwater and cornmeal is to get them to purge themselves of whatever is in their stomach and replace it with nice "clean" cornmeal. If they are dead, you'll know it; they won't close when you touch them lightly.

                1. re: DGresh

                  <"If they are dead, you'll know it; they won't close when you touch them lightly.">

                  Right - and they won't open when cooked.

                  1. re: DGresh

                    Okay, thank you. I'll see what happens when I get home! Now you all know why I've never cooked clams except out of a jar. I was so intimidated, and now I know why.

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: DGresh

                      According to Pepin, if they are open, a gentle poke of the animal will get them to close. Or rap on the shell.

                      DT

                      1. re: Davwud

                        I will most definitely try knocking first to see if anyone's home. :). Thank you, everyone. This has indeed been an education!

                        ~TDQ

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          P.S. I can't believe I'm having my culinary butt kicked by critters without a spine.

                          ~TDQ

                        2. re: Davwud

                          I just give them a sharp tap with the side of a knife.

                          I hope they're OK, TDQ. IT will be such a shame if they're spoiled, especiallyas they probably weren't cheap!

                  2. Update: they were still alive! Whew! I posted about my meal here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/52451...

                    Thank you, everyone. I think next time, I'm going to handle my clams a little more carefully...

                    ~TDQ

                    1. As long as they are kept cold, wet and alive, you can eat them several days after purchase. Gio has it right. I make what I affectionately refer to as "the clam spa", which is an inverted small dish placed in a deeper, larger dish that is filled with ice. The dishes have to fit well enough to keep the clams from getting wet in melting ice water. I then cover the clams with a thin wet towel, and check on them to make sure that as the ice melts, the clams don't get submerged because they will die. I have kept them this way for three or four days because they are in good condition.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: RGC1982

                        Yikes, I didn't know they needed to stay wet. I bought littlenecks 2 days ago and have been keeping them on and under ice in a colandar over a bowl in the refridgerator. If they don't open while cooking could I be potentially ruining the rest of my dish (cioppino)??

                        1. re: jules127

                          Ice is wet from what I remember. ;-) The ice melts and keeps the moist enough assuming they are actually under enough ice. Clams are pretty hardy compared to mussels or oysters.

                          As with all seafood, don't buy things too far in advance. Assuming you have access to the same stores, why not just wait to buy them until the day you cook? Fresh is best and while your clams are probably fine, why risk it?