Fontainebleau State Park
Blue Crabs Are Abundant In Lake Pontchartrain
 
Blue Crabs

 

 

 

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Louisiana Blue Crabs

 Catching the Crab

  For the recreational crabber, there exist a variety of crab traps. The design of a trap can vary widely, but the common varieties are made out of wire mesh. The crab trap is usually cubical in shape. The crab trap contains some form of "entrance" for the crabs, such as hinged panels, that are typically closed as the trap is raised from the water. Like the commercial pots, the crab trap is baited with any of several types of meat, chicken usually being the easiest to obtain. The bait is placed in a holding spot in the middle of the trap usually in some form of clip allowing the crab direct access. This design has the potential to more easily allow the crab to escape with the bait but the trap is usually checked frequently enough (every 15 to 30 minutes) to prevent this from happening. Some recreational crabbers add the catch from the traps to a "keeper pot" that holds the live crabs until a substantial harvest is accumulated. When the keeper pot is appreciably full, the contents are prepared for a crab boil.

Crabs can also be caught with a trotline. While this method generally allows one to catch more crabs than other recreational methods, it requires more effort and equipment. This method is used by advanced recreational crabbers and some smaller commercial operations. Other recreational methods involve line crabbing using a single baited line similar to fishing or simply wading through the water with a dip net. Some people use a regular fishing pole and bait it with shrimp or chicken. The crab takes the bait different than a fish, a gradual pull instead of the quick jerk of a fish. Real your line in slow and easy and have the scoop net ready in the water waiting.

Boiling the Crab

   Here in Louisiana, especially the New Orleans area  tend to boil them in water and heavy Cajun seasoning which is similar to boiling crawfish. Stores carry this as Crab Boil or Shrimp Boil spice and seasoning which is added to the boiling water. The crabs are then immersed in the boiling water for about 10 minutes. The 10 minutes starts when the water starts to boil again. After the 10 minutes has gone by you turn off the fire and let the crabs soak in the red seasoned water. Soaking time is anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. The longer they soak the hotter they get. I mean spicy hot. Don't over soak as the white crab meat may get a little mushy. The crabs will be red after this boiling process.

Eating the Crab

The cooked crabs are cracked by hand, and the meat pulled out and eaten directly. Crab shells are very sharp, so the eater of crabs is going to work for the eating pleasure. Because the interior of the crab is also a series of compartments separated by a somewhat pliable but still sharp shell, getting the meat out is also a lot of work for small amount of edible crab. Crabs are often referred as having a tab, like beer cans have for opening. This tab is pried up and pulled off, which gives you a place to pry the upper and lower shells apart. On the bottom of the crab, you then remove the gills or that spongy material. There is also the crab's equivalent of a liver and pancreas, which is considered a high delicacy by some crab eaters, but usually removed. This is yellow in collar and is a sign of a fat crab. Usually the more yellow fat the heavier and fuller the crab is.

The picked meat, especially the large chunks from the back fin area, can also be used to make crab cakes, crab soup, or other dishes. Picked crab meat is also sold commercially, and the canning operations have huge crab picking 'houses' usually manned by local women armed with sharp knives and who manage to completely remove the meat, sorted into lump, claw, back fin, and the other smaller bits, in less time than the usual crab eater takes just to get into one crab, remove the gills, and pry out the lumps. Larger pieces of meat are preferred by customers, but since they fall apart easily, a cook has to carefully fold in crab meat, rather than stir it. Traditionally crab cakes were fried.

Soft Shell Crab

Crabs caught just after molting (before the new shell has had time to harden) are called soft shell crabs. Soft shell crabs are prepared by first cutting out the gills, face, and guts. The crab is then battered in flour, egg, and seasoning, then fried in oil until crispy. The result can be served as an entrée, or in a sandwich. When served between bread slices, the legs stick out on either side, and the entire crab is consumed, legs and all. Some people prefer the po-boy bread. That's a type of bread made famous here in New Orleans.

Buying Crabs

If you do not catch any crabs then you will just have to buy some. Usually crabs are sold by the dozen. You usually buy them by size medium, large, jumbo or #1, #2's, #3's. The most important thing when buying crabs is "ARE THEY FULL". One full jumbo crab may be equal in meat to 6 medium empty crabs. Then again, 6 medium full crabs is better than 6 jumbo empty crabs. When I say empty I'm referring to the weight of the crab and the amount of fat which is the yellow in the crab. Below are pictures of a full crab and a empty crab.

 

The darker area on the bottom of the above crab is a sure sign of a full or heavy crab. This is what you really want, although you may not be able to get them depending on the catch of the day.

I hope you get a chance to eat some of the Louisiana Blue Crabs while staying here. They are unlike any other blue crabs that you will eat. I can contribute the hot spices we boil them in to make the difference. I have listed several Seafood Restaurants in the local area that serve blue crabs.