When most people walk into our shop and see our huge wet storage tanks, they assume we are holding shellfish like lobsters in a lobster tank. The fundamental concepts of both tanks may be similar, but our wet storage system does a lot more. If you haven't seen it in-person yet, watch Ben's quick overview below.
Wet storage systems can be tedious and costly to maintain. The water that filters through our wet storage system is pumped straight from the ocean in Duxbury Bay, MA and trucked to our shop. Our water gets sent to a testing lab weekly, and if anything in the system breaks, repairs can be a substantial bill. But at the end of the day, it makes sense for us because the following benefits make it worth it:
As Ben mentioned in the video, our wet storage system is primarily used to purge our steamers, also known as our Perfectly Purged Steamers®. Our Maine steamers go in to our wet storage system for at least 48 hours, which gives the steamers plenty of time to purge out any sand or grit. We did a side-by-side comparison, and the grit in the rinsed Maine steamer was actually visible to the eye! Imagine all the sand that is still sitting in the clam belly, too.
We hope anyone cooking the rinsed Maine steamers will purge them properly because eating fine sand is not a pleasant dining experience. It's clear, though, that our customers prefer their steamers already purged clean since Perfectly Purged Steamers® account for 90% of our steamer sales. Customers who pay a little more for the Perfectly Purged are paying for the reassurance of completely clean steamers and time saved from purging them.
A study published in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research titled "Does Food Quality Really Matter In Restaurants?" found that yes, of course, food quality matters, but also that "taste and presentation were the two greatest contributors to customer satisfaction and behavioral intentions." Gritty clams are a common complaint at seafood restaurants, so it might be worth your while to consider a purged option. Thank goodness we have a wet storage for that!
We don't believe in wet storing most of our shellfish because we want to maintain each bivalve's merroir as much as possible, but sometimes, after it has been out of the water, in a cooler, and on a plane from Washington State for several hours, it needs a drink (preferably shaken, not stirred). Manila clams, in particular, are weaker bivalves that need that extra drink. Its typical shelf life is approximately 5 days from harvest, but with a dipping in our wet storage, its shelf life can extend to another 5 days after it leaves our shop.
The same applies with our Belons. Besides wet storing them, we even band them to assist their weak abductor muscle from opening, so they arrive at their destination live. Giving them that extra drink in the wet storage system also makes them slightly more tolerable to the palate, but don't worry, you're still going to get that strong coppery finish.
Wet storage systems are few and far between in Massachusetts. There are only five in the whole state, and we're proud to have one. Aside from all the work and maintenance our wet storage requires (like pumping ocean water on windy and cold winter days, see below), it allows us to provide fresher shellfish products to our customers. So, the next time you see a wet storage date on your shellfish tag, know that your shellfish has been taken care of with a few drinks on the house and that a lot of hard work has been put in to get them fresh to you.