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Cape Cod Great New England Clambake

The following is a “how to have a clambake” guide from long ago. It gives us an idea of how it was to have a clambake back in the day.

You’ll notice that it says to pick dune grass or beachgrass, burn all the trash at the end and a few other things that “date” this passage. In this day and age most of that is not acceptable and may be illegal. Before having your own clambake it is a good idea to check with local officials. Most areas require an open fire permit for clambakes unless you are on a private beach.

Mix one sandy shore, ten to twenty assorted adults and children, and a prodigious amount of work, top off with enormous appetites, and you have what it takes for a real New England Clambake.

If you live near enough to the clam flats, you may be able to dig your clams. If you buy them, allow a bushel to every twenty picnickers. Lobsters, green corn, potatoes, onions—all these are musts, to go with the clams. With these as a start, and plenty of strong backs to do the work, we’re off to the shore, for a day of fun and good eating.

Gather your crowd early. Be sure the day before to assign tasks, as nothing must be forgotten. A large barrel, plenty of firewood, and the food and seasonings. Allow at least one lobster per person, two ears of corn, one potato and one onion. You’ll want ice cold watermelons for dessert, and pop or beer by the case (kept cold in shallow ocean water). So have each family kick in its share and divide the burden of work. Then everyone will have fun.

Gather a large pile of driftwood, a heap of stones, and a couple of bushels of salt hay that grows near every New England beach. Have a heavy canvas ready to cover the barrel with. Now you are ready to start.

Get a roaring fire ready, built on a bed of stones. When it is blazing, dump a couple of buckets of stones on it. Add more wood, then more stones. Keep the fire and stones in a cone shape. This must be done for an hour, until the stones are almost red hot.

Have a deep hole dug in the sand, big enough to take the barrel. Leave three or four inches of the top sticking out of the sand. Pour a couple of gallons of sea water into the bottom of the bar-rel. Then shovel several buckets of the hot stones into the barrel. Be careful of the steam, and pack a four-inch layer of salt hay on top of the rocks. Now add your clams. Another layer of hay, and then in go your lobsters. With a layer between each, add green corn, potatoes and onions. Now pack the rest of the barrel tightly with the hay, spread the canvas on the top, and tie it securely, to prevent any sand getting into it. Heap sand over the top, hiding the barrel completely. This must now steam for at least an hour and a half, giving you time to spread out the rest of the clambake.

Paper plates and cups are all you need. A pan to melt the butter for the lobster and clam dip, and your coffee pot, should be set out. We find it better to drive a few stakes, and nail driftwood planks to them, for a low table, than to try to put things on a tablecloth on the sand. A gust of wind can fill everything full of sand in a second, blowing along the dry beach. Keep things covered until ready to serve.

Now, to open the barrel. Let the men folks handle this. Caution is needed, as to steam and sand, again. The canvas is taken off, and there should be a few seconds pause. That heavenly aroma is as much a part of this clambake, as the actual eating!

Long handled serving forks and a skimmer for the clams will serve things neatly, without breaking them up. Line the hungry mob up, and let them file by, until each has his share of each layer. Pour the coffee, open the pop, and fill up. With your appetites sharpened by the good salt air, you’ll eat until you can’t move. This is seafood at its best.

While the grown ups clear up the mess, let the children build a small fire and roast their marshmallows. Then, when all traces of shells and trash have been burned, heap up the driftwood, and gather around an enormous campfire, for a good, old-fashioned sing. You will find, from start to finish, that a real New England clambake is a picnic you’ll never forget.

see also: how to have a clambake video

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Cape Cod
Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 03/09/06
Categories: FoodRetro
Keywords: food, retro, clambake


I would Like to come & stay in New England & would love to stay at a hotel etc that may include a clambake on the beach.  Do you know of any such place?  Thx.

Posted by Kathy from NJ on 08/18/11 at 08:49 PM | #

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