It wasn't until my first visit to Greece that I tasted a dish prepared with coquina clams. These little bivalves, called "midia" in Greek, are found in the sand along the shore line. Every year my in-laws pick them from the beach for us to enjoy in saganaki or pilaf (recipe coming soon). With my limited exposure to the southeastern coast of the United States, I thought that these little clams only lived in the Mediterranean. One day a fellow food blogger, Stacey from cookeatlife.com, posted a picture on Instagram of coquina clams from the North Carolina shore. Ecstatic to learn that these little shells were abundant back home, I proceeded to exchange messages with Stacey. She shared that her father had prepared a stew with these clams but found them to be gritty. Having eaten grit-free coquina clams on numerous occasions, I asked my mother-in-law how she rids them of their grittiness. She explained that she soaks the clams long enough to allow them to release the sand in their valves. Here is a step-by-step of how this is done.
After picking the clams, it is important to soak them in sea water at room temperature for 24 hours and to change the water 2-3 times during this 24 hour period. Unless you are staying right on the beach, when picking the clams, you will want to fill empty bottles or buckets with sea water to bring home with you for soaking. If picking the clams in the morning, you should change the water mid-day, that evening, and the next morning. If picking the clams in the evening, you should change the water the next morning and again the following afternoon.
It is important that the clams remain alive during the soaking process. This is easy to determine, as they will come out of their shells while soaking, as shown below.
After the clams have soaked for 24 hours, they are ready to be cooked. You can either add them to the desired dish for cooking at that time, or boil and freeze them for use at a later date. If opting to freeze them, place the clams in shallow boiling water for 5 minutes. As they cook, the clams will pop open.
Once all of the clams have popped open, leave in the pan to cool. Once cooled, pour the clams and their broth into a zip lock or other freezer container and store in the freezer.