Dear Jewels – As there was no ‘R’ in the month our fishmonger had no clams but he suggested cockles instead. The cockles were in brine so he suggested soaking them. I then followed my own recipe. The sauce and pasta were delicious but the cockles had grit still inside them which we found off putting. Jewels, do you know a good way of getting all the grit out of cockles?

I had never even heard of cockles until I lived in England, so for those of you who have never heard of them, cockles are bivalve mussels that may be naturally harvested, and must be dredged from the bottom of the sea,  or cultivated. Their quality may vary with the seasons, with the late fall or winter being peak season for fresh cockles, so they are commonly cooked and brined for safe keeping. They are also often smoked, and you can find jellied or canned in tomato sauce in addition to the bottled ones.

My friends used to eat them straight from the jar, but I fear it is an acquired taste, and I have to admit to not being a huge fan. Here is a video on how to clean cockles, since no one likes a mouthful of grit! Although, I never tried them prepared with pasta in a lovely sauce, so I may have to try them again now that you have brought this up. I do love a good Vongole, so perhaps I will enjoy them more as you describe. I’ve also seen recipes for using them in a samba, with hominy, and even in stir-fries.

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  • June 15, 2012
    11:40 am

    I think I’ll wait until clams are back in season. It took a pro
    8 minutes to open and clean ONE cockle !

    • June 17, 2012
      8:43 am

      Yeah, I make sure I’m super sweet to the fishmonger, because I don’t see myself being very good at this chore.

  • June 16, 2012
    9:41 am

    I’ve always wanted to learn this art. Hopefully be able to give it a whirl soon. A LOT of British food (jellied, canned etc) is a REALLY acquired taste!

    • June 17, 2012
      8:45 am

      Can’t wait to hear what Holly has to say about this!

      • June 18, 2012
        10:57 am

        uhm… well not wanting to do a quote here but it involved keels of laughter and “what in the sam hill” and a word that starts with S and ends with not. She would eat them if she didn’t see them cleaned I will bet!

  • June 17, 2012
    5:12 am

    During the summer, we will dig for clams at my inlaws place at the beach. We’ll tie them in a mesh bag to the dock overnight and they spit out most of the sand and grit. Looks like cockles have way more grit than clams though!

    We usually make a spaghetti and clam sauce (lots of butter, garlic, white wine) and the shells open right in the sauce, and no shucking required! We’ve also made stuffed clams–a little more labor intensive but so good! And there are a couple of family members who will eat them as part of a raw bar, but that’s where I draw the line, I like my seafood cooked, thank you very much! Now I have a hankering for fresh clams, I think I am going to have to go dig for some next time I am there!

  • June 17, 2012
    8:46 am

    Oh, you ARE making me hungry Susan! I love vongole!

  • June 18, 2012
    10:04 am

    Love cockles, but love the guy more, on this video, when he says you have to soak them for at least 24 hours to get the grit out. They really are gritty little fellas, but have such a wonderful texture and in a gorgeous little sauce with a bit of pasta, they are the bee’s knees 🙂 thank you for the video post Jewels.