Clam juice is a liquid strained from freshly shucked clams. In some regions, this juice is made from cooked clams, while others use the liquid from fresh, raw clams. In either case, it has a briny flavor that complements a wide range of dishes. It is often available in bottled form at supermarkets, and in clam producing regions, it can be purchased at a harbor or processing center as well.
A clam is a type of bivalve mollusk, found in both fresh and salt water. These mollusks have been used as a food source for centuries by people all over the world, and the liquid which strains from freshly gathered clams has also traditionally been collected and used in an assortment of foods. Since clams taste best when they are fresh, they are particularly popular in coastal regions of the world, such as the Eastern seaboard of the United States and many Mediterranean countries.
One of the most common uses for clam juice is as a cooking liquid for seafood dishes. Some cooks also use it as a substitute for fish stock, which can get expensive and quite stinky when made at home. A dash of juice from a clam may also be added to foods for a hint of a briny flavor without an overwhelming sense of seafood. Some savory cocktails also call for it. One popular clam juice product combines it with tomato juice for use as a mixer in drinks.
The meat of clams is sold separately from the juice. Fresh clams may be steamed in the juice to enhance the flavor of the meat, and canned or preserved clams may also be simmered in it. Cooks who struggle with rubbery preserved clams may want to try only briefly cooking them, as they tend to get very chewy with prolonged cooking. Preserved clams should be thrown into a dish at the last minute and barely warmed, rather than stewed.
One of the most famous dishes along the Eastern seaboard is clam chowder, which purists claim must contain clam juice. For a classic Maine style clam chowder, cooks can pan fry 0.25 cup (40 g) of onion in butter in a small saucepan, and add 1.25 cups (0.29 l) of juice to deglaze the pan. For a more rich flavor, several strips of bacon can be sauteed with the onion. One potato chopped into loose chunks, along with 0.25 cup (59 ml) half and half can then be added. The cook should simmer the soup until the potatoes soften, around 15-20 minutes, adding 2 ounces (57 grams) of cooked chopped clams at the end to heat briefly, along with salt and pepper. The should is garnished with parsley and served with a hearty bread.