Fried clams are one of my all-time favorite foods. So how lucky am I that I live and work within shucking distance to the nexus of the fried clam universe? Fried clams, at least as we know them today started in Essex, Massachusetts, but can be found nearly anywhere mollusks and hot oil meet. The clams I’m talking about are soft shell clams or “steamer” clams. Although I do love the local hardshell clams too, like littlenecks steamed in wine, spaghetti alla vongole, stuffed, or in a rich chowder. But when I think of fried hard shell clams, I think of clam strips, that is until now.
Recently I spotted a new product on Instagram. Adam Robinson from A.C. Inc. in Maine had posted about a new product he has been developing: Island Made brand ready to fry, pre-battered ocean clams. I don’t recall every having an ocean clam (also known as mahogany clams) before, let alone a fried one. It sounded a lot better than clam strips to me, so I was intrigued to say the least.
Although their company deals in wholesale and food service, Adam sent me some samples to try to help spread the word. They are both a new product and new species to me, so I’ll try to get the word out. If successful, you may be seeing Island Made brand fryer clams in restaurants near you.
About Ocean Clams
Mahogany clams (Arctica islandica), also known as ocean clams or ocean quahogs, are a deep water hardshell clam found along the North Atlantic coast. They get their name from the mahogany like color of their shells. Locally, they are harvested in Maine and on Georges Bank. Unlike other clams, they cannot be dug, because they can live hundreds of feet deep. Like sea scallops, a dredge is used. These mahogany ocean clams, living in deep, clean and cold water off of Maine are sustainably harvested and steadily gaining in popularity.
Ocean clams are a different species than the similarly named sea clams (Spisula solidissima), which were used in that clam pie I reviewed recently. They are also different, but closely related to the more common hard shell clams (Mercenaria mercenaria). Like the hard shell clams, they are graded based upon size (littlenecks, middlenecks, cherrystones, quahogs). Although they can be used interchangeably with common hard clams, mahogany clams have a richer, deeper “clam” flavor.
About A.C. Inc.
Island Made is a brand of seafood wholesaler, A.C. Inc. The Company is located in the traditional fishing community of Beals Island, Maine, with roots going back over 50 years. A.C. Inc. is co-owned by CEO Albert C. Carver and VP Patrick Robinson. The Company specializes in Maine shellfish and shellfish products like lobster, scallop, crab, whelk, and of course mahogany clams.
The mahogany clams used by A.C. Inc. for their Island Made brand are harvested using the Company’s own vessels. The entire catch is traceable from the ocean bottom to fishing vessel, to climate controlled truck and to their facility in Maine. Giving wholesale buyers peace of mind knowing exactly when and where their clams were harvested.
After arriving at the facility, the mahogany clams are put into holding tanks with chilled UV-purified seawater. This allows the clams to purge grit and sand, while still feeding in the proper temperature. This process lets A.C. Inc. keep healthy clams in stock ready to fulfill orders at a moments notice. A.C. Inc.’s process is used for all their products, from live middleneck size clams, to shucked clam meat, and now their new frozen ocean fryer clam product.
Island Made Ocean Fryer Clams
The Company’s ready to fry ocean clam product is the brainchild of marketing rep Adam K. Robinson. He has been developing the product since 2017 as a convenient, unique and tasty option for restaurants, that utilizes this local resource. The company uses their signature Island Made purified clams to create breaded, portioned-controlled, ready to cook fried clams with a 2-year freezer life. They are designed to be a hassle-free, high-quality, and sustainable way to offer customers great Maine seafood for a good price. No shucking, no dipping and dredging in flour, the only waste is a small plastic bag.
How To Prepare Island Made Ocean Fryer Clams
The product is made for the restaurant industry, so a deep fryer of some sort is needed. My small home fryer is just big enough to make one 4oz serving at a time. The ocean fryer clams are kept frozen until ready to cook. Heat the oil to 375F and drop the clams in your basket and fry for 60-75 seconds. Let cool and drain on paper towels for a minute before serving. Mine took about 65 seconds to get a golden brown.
Island Made Middleneck Ocean Clams are tasty and rich, more tender than I expected and with a lot of clam flavor. The breading, while light, has plenty of seasoning, I didn’t even need to add salt. But really it is the clam that stands out most, a deeper flavor than any of the other varieties we get in New England waters. The portion looked small when I started frying and I almost prepared a second serving. However they are rich and one portion, served with a modest amount of fries, filled me up. Accompany that with some good coleslaw and tartar sauce and you got yourself a new spin on a local favorite.
These fried ocean clams are a unique product in my opinion, and certainly worth a try if you see it on a menu. They might be more clam than you are used to if you only eat clam strips. But If you’re like me and you like fried oysters and whole belly fried clams then I think you will like Island Made Ocean Fryer Clams. If you own a restaurant or food service business and are interested in sampling this new product, visit their Maine Ocean Clam website.
A big thanks to Adam K. Robinson and A.C. Inc. for sending me these samples!