Quahogs are abundant in the salt marshes of the Lowcountry. No clamming license is required for residents, and we are allowed ½ bushel per head of household for no more than two days each week of the nine-month season (September through May). Littlenecks, the smallest grade, are seldom seen locally; they are shipped up north, where they are better appreciated. We are left with the cherrystones, or mediums, and the big “chowders,” fit only for what their name implies.
I put the clams in a large bucket of salty water to which I add some cornmeal and black pepper. The clams will purge themselves of sand within an hour. I then steam the clams until they just open in a Charleston rice steamer. Do not overcook them or they will toughen. A dozen medium-large clams, about
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add a pinch of salt, and return to a boil. Cook the pasta in the water, uncovered, while you prepare the sauce.
Heat the oil with the garlic over medium heat until the oil is permeated with the garlic flavor; do not let the garlic brown. Add the clam juice and herbs and allow about half of the liquid to evaporate. Increase the heat a bit and whisk in the butter. Add the clams, stirring to coat them well, then serve at once over hot cooked pasta. Pass the pepper mill.
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