Saturday, September 14, 2013

2013-2014 Maryland Sika Deer Archery Season

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently announced that the State's sika deer archery season runs from September 6 through January 31 in Caroline, Dorchester, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico and Worcester counties. Maryland sika deer bow hunters are allowed to harvest two deer, one of which may be antlered.

Maryland Geological Survey Groundwater Report

The Maryland Geological Survey has produced a report describing the major aquifers of Maryland’s entire Coastal Plain region, which will help to protect groundwater resources for nearly all of the State’s coastal residents. The report provides information critical to making wise water-management decisions.

Maryland Geological Survey members David C. Andreasen, Andrew W. Staley, and Grufron Achmad developed the Maryland Coastal Plain Aquifer Information System: Hydrogeologic Framework, which presents descriptions of 16 major aquifers and 14 confining units.

The report also contains maps and cross sections, data on aquifer depths and hydraulic properties, and supporting documentation. This information forms the foundation for the geographic information system-based Maryland Coastal Plain Aquifer Information System.

Aquifers are bodies of permeable rock that contain or transmit groundwater. Within an aquifer, water moves through the spaces between individual sand or gravel particles, rather than in underground rivers or veins. Groundwater is the sole source of fresh drinking water for approximately two million coastal residents - located east of I-95, including the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland. A sustainable supply of clean drinking water is crucial to the health and wellbeing of citizens, and the economic livelihood of the State as a whole.

Issued by the Maryland Geological Survey, part of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, this report was prepared as part of a long-term water resource assessment of the Maryland Coastal Plain, which is being done in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey and the Maryland Department of the Environment. The assessment was initiated in response to recommendations of the 2004 Maryland Advisory Committee on the Management and Protection of the State’s Water Resources.

Aside from being a critical drinking water source, groundwater is important for agricultural, commercial and industrial uses. Because groundwater supplies water to streams and rivers, it is also vitally important for sustaining healthy populations of fish and other aquatic organisms.

source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Maryland Hard Clams

The hard clam, also known as quahog, is one of Maryland's hidden treasures. This delicious clam is served raw on the half shell, steamed, or as the main ingredient in clam chowder, clam fritters, and other dishes.

Where to Buy Clams in Maryland

Small farm raised hard clams known as "littlenecks" are the most common type of clam found in Maryland. Littlenecks are available in supermarkets, seafood markets, and farmer's markets. Most farm raised clams sold in Maryland originate from the waters of nearby Virginia. 

Although harder to find, some Maryland vendors offer wild caught hard clams. Wild caught clams are usually available in larger sizes which are suitable for making chowder, fritters, or other clam dishes.

The best places to find wild caught hard clams are small coastal fish and seafood markets. These establishments usually buy fish and shellfish direct from independent fishermen. Because of the nature of clamming, wild caught clams may be available only during certain periods. In Maryland, fresh local hard clams are usually sold by the dozen or in large bags that contain approximately 100 chowder clams.

How to Catch Clams

Another option for lovers of Maryland seafood is to catch their own clams. Public access for clamming can be found in several areas along the coast. Clams are most abundant in the shallow coastal bays that lie behind Ocean City and Assateague Island.

Although catching clams can be easy once located, considerable experience is often needed to predict tides, weather, and locate an areas that is suitable for clamming.

In recent years, a number of local fishing guides have begun offering clamming trips. Clamming can be great fun and offers a wholesome family activity at a reasonable cost. 

How to Open Hard Clams

Unlike the smaller sizes, which are usually steamed in the shell, the larger "chowder" clams are usually removed from the shell before cooking. Learning to open clams can be intimidating for the beginner but, after a little practice, the process becomes very easy.

Prior to opening clams (called "shucking"), they should be washed thoroughly in cold water to remove any sand, mud, or other debris. Any clams that do not close tightly or have broken shells should be culled.

Once hard clams are cleaned and inspected, it is advisable to chill them in a freezer for 20-40 minutes. This will cause the clams to relax just enough to shuck. A little experimentation will guide the preparer in terms of exactly how long to chill a given amount of clams. When chilled for the correct time, clams should contain little or no ice.

To open hard clams, lay them on a firm surface with the hinge down and the shell gap facing up. Using a clam knife, align the blade with the shells and push down. If the clam resists, a hammer can be used to gently tap on the backside of the knife.

Once the clam knife penetrates between the shells, it should be worked back and forth in such a way as to cut the two adductor muscles that hold the shell together.

After the adductor muscles are cut, the shells can be opened up. Finally, the clam knife is used to cut the clam away from the shell. It is a good idea to open hard clams over a suitable bowl so as to recover as much clam juice as possible.

After the clams have been removed from the shells, they can be washed in their own juice and transferred to a second container. After a few moments, the clam juice can be poured off, being careful to discard the last few ounces which are likely to contain grit.

How To Prepare and Cook Clams

Shucked clams are used in a variety of recipes. One of the most popular dishes is clam chowder. Chowder recipes are usually classified as red or white (tomato or cream based). Most clam chowder recipes contain one or more of the following vegetables; potatoes, onion, corn, lima beans, tomatoes.

Another popular method for preparing hard clams is to make clam fritters. Fritters are easy to prepare, require few ingredients, and are delicious. Most clam fritter recipes include chopped clams, egg, mustard, flour, and a touch of baking powder. In general, the amounts of each component are not set in stone.

Once the batter is mixed, a skillet is heated and stocked with vegetable oil. Cast iron pans work best and most cooks allow the oil to become very hot before adding the clam fritter mixture. Traditional Maryland clam fritters are cooked until brown and flipped once. They are usually served hot on bread or rolls with a dab of mustard.

How to Steam Hard Clams

Small hard clams, called "littlenecks" and "topnecks" are typically steamed in the shell. Before steaming, they should be washed thoroughly in cold water to remove any sand, mud, or other debris. Any clams that do not close tightly or have broken shells should be culled.

Hard clams cook quickly in a steamer and open when done. Steaming times vary among cooks. Overcooking can result in lower palatability as clams tend to become tougher as steaming times increase.