The cockle is found around seashores in great numbers. The best harvesting is done in the months of September or October, so around that time, invite a son, daughter, grandson granddaughter, nephew or niece, (anyone really) to come cockling with you. Make sure the tide conditions are right, and if you really want to enter into the spirit of things, ensure that you are all wearing shorts and carrying buckets.
The Old Way
Hunting cockles with bare feet is an ancient way of harvesting the bivalve, handed down from father to son. Squidge the mud between your toes with a delicate treading motion to an approximate depth of six inches or 150mm. As your toes feel lumps (they're actually cockles) bare hands come into play. With a bit of luck a nest of five or six cockles may be caught. Anyone accompanying you on this mission should be advised to collect only tightly closed cockles, as a cockle with a limp shell is dead.
At the end of your cockling expedition everyone will be absolutely covered in mud. The easiest way to clean off is to find holes dug by people who have been digging for worms. These holes will be filled with clean seawater, and are a good place to wash off. The cockles can be emptied and rinsed with the same water, then put back in the bucket.
The secret of cooking cockles begins when you arrive home. Empty the bucket and fill it with fresh water. Place the bucket under the tap, put the cockles back in and give them a good rinse. When all the sand has been removed from the bucket add a couple of large spoonfuls of salt, then a good handful of Quaker Oats. Leave the cockles to stand overnight. The Quaker Oats will be eaten by the cockles and through natural events clean all the sand and rubbish from their little bodies.
Always cook the cockles on the BBQ as cooking in the house can cause marital stress! The stink from cooking cockles is horrendous, as the smell hangs around the kitchen for weeks. Light your barbie, then fill your largest pan with boiling water from the kettle. The cockles should be carefully placed into the boiling water and cooked for approximately five minutes. A good indicator the cockles are cooked is when their shells open.
Sort the meat from the shells, then add a little pepper, salt and vinegar. Delicious!