"Crabs in Crisfield - from Bay to Plate" Crisfield Travelogue by grandmaR
Crisfield Travel Guide: 48 reviews and 179 photos
The primary way of eating hard crabs is steamed using Old Bay Seasoning. It is absolutely necessary to steam them (and not boil them) and to use Old Bay. We found blue crabs were very cheap in Louisianna when we were first married but we couldn't find Old Bay. We had to get Bob's mom to send us some. We then steamed the crabs in our turkey roasting pan.
Crabs are not 'fished for' or dredged. They are caught primarily in one of three ways
a) by chicken neckers
b) on a trot line
c) in crab traps.
Chicken neckers put some kind of bait (often using chicken parts which are good because they don't fall apart or disintegrate in the water) on a line and then when you feel something nibbling on your bait, you carefully pull up the line and scoop the crab off with a net. There's no hook involved, so the crab is only caught because he is too greedy to let go of his prize. Chicken Neckers are usually just catching crabs for themselves and not to sell.
Trot lines are a variation on this. A line is strung between two buoys with bait at intervals, and the crabber hauls in the line and takes the crabs off (and replaces the bait if necessary).
But most watermen use crab pots.
Whenever the depth gets to be less than about 30 feet you have to worry about running over crab pots and getting the floats caught in your prop. Since we have an inboard engine, we would have to dive to get the prop free of the lines. The floats are very small and hard to spot especially when looking against the sun. The one in the picture is a bright green. Black ones are even harder to see.
Crab pots require a bit more expenditure of money. The boats (like the one in the picture) go out with baited traps, each one attached to a line with a float. Each float is painted with the owners colors. They run the boat along putting them over the side. Then they come back and haul them up and take the crabs that are trapped in there out.
Crab pot boats are ubiquitous in the Chesapeake. Usually the pots are stacked on the stern of a long low boat which is relatively open except for a partial enclosure around the wheel. Sometimes the stack of pots completely dwarfs the boat. This boat is slightly a-typical in that it has no pilot house, has a slightly raised stern, and has two men running it.
This is a Crisfield style crab boat.
Crabs are brought into seafood houses and sold. Peelers (or crabs that are getting ready to shed their outer hard shell) are taken out and put in shedding pens where they are encouraged to shed their shells so that they can be sold as soft crabs. My husband doesn't care much for soft crabs. They are usually cleaned and fried and eaten in a sandwich.
This is the deep fried hard crab. The whole crab is in there under the batter. He is sitting on french fries, plus there is a tomato slice under one side of the crab, and three thumb sized corn meal bread things on the front of the plate. The crab part was delicious, but the batter had been scorched.
The deep fried hard crab is something I've never seen anywhere else other than Crisfield
One of my mother's favorite things is cream of crab soup. Traditionally this has sherry in it. At the Annapolis Yacht Club, they serve the soup with sherry on the side so you can add as much as you want.
Cream of crab soup is a thick white sauce soup ideally with a lot of crab meat in it.
Also in this picture is a seafood salad.
If crab picking isn't your thing, then you will want to get your crab in crab cakes. Different places do these cakes differently. The best ones (IMHO) are mostly lump crab meat without a lot of filler or breading like this one. This is in a sandwich, but they can also been eaten plain. I've had really good crabcakes in Oxford at the Robert Morris Inn.
Sometimes the crab cakes have more stuff to stick the crab together and are battered and deep fried or pan fried. This one is broiled.
These are rest room signs in a restaurant. A Jimmy is a male crab. A Sook is a female crab. The sooks have a wide 'apron' on the bottom of their body (a darker grey in the picture) while the jimmys have a slender rocket shaped apron.
(Note - the two pictures have been superimposed. They were on different doors)
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