Who doesn't love lobster in some way, shape or form?
The Homarus americanus is the real deal--the Atlantic lobster, pulled off the rocky coast of maritime Canada, Maine and Massachusetts, and ready to be prepared to perfection by novices and professional chefs alike. Fresh lobsters, plucked right from the ocean floor (or in the grocer's tank) are blue-hued boney creatures that turn bright red when cooked, and the best way to cook them is in boiling, salted water.
In the Beginning...
Lobsters were first harvested in the late 1800s and thought to be best used in the compost pile. It's not known who was the first brave soul who said, "Hey, let's boil this guy up and see what he tastes like," but it is thought that the Native Americans first discovered lobster as an edible food, and that they may have introduced it to the early American settlers. Somewhere along the line, it became the delicacy that it is today. In times of economic strife, Maine lobstermen ate a steady diet of lobster because it was available and inexpensive for them.
Lobster's Impact on Local Economies
The cold, clear waters off of Maine offer the perfect habitat for the Maine lobster. The rocky coast provides Maine lobsters with opportunities for hiding and finding food--unfortunately for them, the lobstermen know right where to set their traps, baited with rotting fish to attract them.
As of 2006, there were approximately 5,700 lobster fishermen trapping lobster off the Maine coast, and the Maine lobster catch has a major impact on the state's economy. The financial impact is far-reaching--lobster boats must be maintained; traps must be monitored; and sales of lobster to restaurants worldwide must be shipped.
Lobster as a Health Food
Lobster is full of potassium, zinc, vitamin B12, selenium and copper, yet lower in calories and fat than boneless, skinless chicken breast. Lobster provides lots of healthy protein, not to mention undeniable taste.
Lobster is relatively high is sodium, however (after all, it lives in salt water). It contains 380 mg of sodium per 3 oz. serving.
How to Eat Lobster
Many people think that eating lobster is a messy proposition, and it is to the untrained. If you're a beginner, wear the plastic bib you'll receive in the restaurant to save your clothes.
As soon as the lobster is cool enough to handle, twist off the large front claws. New shell (or soft shell) lobster has a thinner shell and can easily be twisted and broken apart; hard shell lobsters demand the use of a lobster cracker and sometimes a pick to get at the meat. Open the claws and knuckles (the part between the body and the claw) and pull out the meat. Some people eat it plain and some dredge it in melted butter or cocktail sauce.
Next, grasp the tail in one hand and the lobster body in the other, and separate the tail from the body. There is a greenish substance there that you will want to rinse off. Curl the tail inward and set it sideways on the table or plate; gently push straight down onto the tail and it will break the inner cartilage of the tail. Open the tail up and pull the tail meat out.
You may want to suck the meat out of the tail flippers at the end of the tail and the meat in the smaller legs.
Out on the Open Sea
Each lobster fisherman can fish up to 800 traps. Each fisherman has his own color or trademark on all of his buoys that mark the traps for retrieval purposes as well as legal purposes. Each fisherman must be registered with the state of Maine. Although fished year around, most lobster are caught between June and December.
There are minimum and maximum lobster size requirements that a lobsterman must obey before harvesting, and female lobsters with visible eggs has her tail notched and must be immediately released.
Lobster traps are set on the bottom of the ocean with bait set inside. The lobster can get in, but can't get back out. The fisherman retrieves his trap, measures the lobsters keeping the legal ones and brings them ashore for marketing. Most lobstermen in Maine come from generations of lobster fishermen.