I’ve only eaten crab at restaurants, but I sure love them. I have bought imitation crab meat to use in salads and it’s often in restaurant buffets, but of course, I’d rather eat the real meat.
INFORMATION BELOW FROM 1800s COOKBOOKS:
Crabs are in season during the months of May, June, July, and August. They may be had at other times, but are then light and stringy. Soft-shell crabs are best in July and August. Like lobsters, crabs must be bought while alive and boiled in the same way.
These are crabs that, having cast their old shells, have not yet assumed the new ones. As the crab grows, a new, soft shell forms, and the old, hard one is shed. Thus comes the soft-shelled crab. In this, the transition state, they are considered delicacies. In about three days the shell begins to harden again. In Maryland there are ponds for raising these crabs, so that now the supply is surer than in former years. Crabs are a great luxury, and very expensive. In the Eastern States they are found only in warm weather. They must always be cooked while alive. Frying and broiling are the modes of preparing.
TO SELECT CRABS
Select the thickest and heaviest crabs, which are generally considered the best, though the medium-sized are the most delicate. If light, they are watery. When perfectly fresh, the shell should be a bright red, and the joints of the legs stiff. The eyes look dead and loose when stale. The female crab is generally preferred as the color is much brighter, the claws are shorter, and the apron in front is much broader.
TO CLEAN CRABS
To clean, insert the finger under the apron-shaped piece and the back part of the shell and remove the spongy fingers, the entrails, etc. Break off the claws and save the two large ones. Then remove the apron pieces of the shell, like a plate under the eyes. Break the shell apart and remove the spongy fingers, sandbag and eggs, if any. Wash well. You now have white oval-shaped pieces of crab meat, that must be picked from its cells. Split with a silver knife and use an oyster fork to pick out the meat.
CRABS BAKED IN SHELLS
Chop fine two cups of crab meat. Season with salt, red pepper, grated onion, mushroom catsup, lemon-juice, and a pinch of ginger. Heat with a tablespoon of butter and half a cup of stock until the liquid is nearly absorbed. Butter the empty shells, fill with the mixture, cover with crumbs, dot with butter, and brown in the oven.
Put the crabs into a kettle of boiling water, and throw in a handful of salt. Boil from twenty minutes to half an hour. Take them from the water when done and pick out all the meat, being careful not to break the shell. To a pint of meat, put a little salt and pepper, taste, and if not enough, add more a little at a time, till suited. Grate in a very little nutmeg and add one spoon of cracker or bread crumbs, two eggs well-beaten, and two tablespoons of butter. Stir all well together, wash the shells clean, and fill each shell full of the mixture. Sprinkle crumbs over the top and moisten with the liquor. Set in the oven till of a nice brown; a few minutes will do it. Send to the table hot, arranged on large dishes. They are eaten at breakfast or supper.
Boil three dozen hard-shell crabs for twenty-five minutes. Let them cool, then remove the top shell and tail, quarter the remainder, and pick out the meat carefully with a nut-picker or kitchen fork. The large claws should not be forgotten, for they contain a dainty morsel, and the fat that adheres to the top shell should not be overlooked. Cut up an amount of celery equal in bulk to the crab meat. Mix both together with a few spoons of plain salad dressing, then put it in a salad-bowl. Mask it with a mayonnaise, garnish with crab-claws, shrimps, and hard-boiled eggs, alternated with tufts of green, such as parsley, etc.
Put into a saucepan one-fourth pound butter with a little flour. Cook together and stir till cool, then add a gill of cream, a little cayenne pepper, salt, and a dessert-spoon of East India Curry Powder. Mix well together, and add one pound boiled crab meat, chopped fine. Stir well together—make very hot and serve. The addition of a glass of white wine adds to the flavor of this curry.
FRIED CRAB MEAT
Pick the meat from the cooked crabs and mince fine two ounces of bacon. Place the bacon, one and one-half cups of crab meat, and two tablespoons of grated onion in a hot skillet and cook until nicely browned. Serve on toast and pour melted butter over the prepared crab meat.
Pick the meat of boiled crabs and chop it fine. Season to taste with pepper, salt and melted butter. Moisten it well with rich milk or cream, then stiffen it slightly with bread or cracker crumbs. Add two or three well- beaten eggs to bind the mixture. Form the croquettes, egg and bread crumb them, and fry them delicately in boiling lard. It is better to use a wire frying basket for croquettes of all kinds.
Melt one tablespoon butter, add one tablespoon flour, and when blended, one cup of milk. Add the yolks of two hard-boiled eggs rubbed through a sieve, and season to taste with salt, paprika, and a teaspoon each of lemon juice and wine. Cayenne, mustard and tobasco sauce are approved by some. Add one cup of crab meat and one-fourth cup canned mushrooms cut in quarters. Serve on toast.
CRAB A LA CREOLE
Fry in four ounces of butter, four young onions, one clove of garlic and two green peppers, all chopped fine. Cook until soft and add one tomato cut up, salt, pepper and cayenne. Stew until smooth, and add one teaspoon of flour, a little cream or rich milk, and the meat picked from two crabs. Boil a few moments and serve with buttered toast.
You can buy canned crabmeat on Amazon, but it’s expensive.
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