Steamed Blue Crabs

Steamed Blue Crabs

Chesapeake Bay CookingEvery Chesapeake family has its own recipe for steamed crabs--actually "recipe" is a misnomer, as it is more a process rather than an exact recipe. Some insist on washing the crabs before steaming, but others claim that washing takes away the brininess of the crab. Another method is to place the live crabs in an ice water bath before cooking. This icing process numbs the crabs, making them easier to handle, keeps the crabs from losing their claws during the steaming process, and helps the seasonings stick to the shells.

2 cans (12 ounces each) flat beer (see below)
2 cups distilled white vinegar
Ice water (optional)
24 live large male blue crabs(jimmies)
3/4 cup Chesapeake seasoning
6 tablespoons kosher salt

Pour the beer and vinegar into a steamer pot or a large heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. Put a round raised rack that is tall enough to clear the liquid into the pot. Bring the liquid to a boil.

While the pot is coming to a boil, fill a tub with ice water, if desired, and put the crabs in it for 3 minutes or so.

Mix the Chesapeake seasoning and salt together in a small bowl. Place a layer of crabs on the rack in the pot. Sprinkle with a generous coating of the seasoning. Working quickly, continue layering and seasoning the crabs until all the blues are in the pot and you have used up all the seasoning. Put on the lid and steam over medium-high heat until the crabs are bright red, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the crabs with tongs.

Serve hot. Leftover crabs may be refrigerated and either eaten cold the next day or picked for crabmeat to use in your favorite recipe.

Flat Beer

Locals insist on flat beer whenever steaming crabs or shrimp. They feel flat beer does not impart the harsh, almost metallic taste that fresh beer does. To flatten beer, simply pour it into a bowl and leave it at room temperature for an hour or two. A trick the natives use to hasten the flattening process is to sprinkle a little salt into the beer--they swear it flattens the beer quicker than who-struck-John.

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Excerpted from CHESAPEAKE BAY COOKING by John Shields Copyright© 1998 by John Shields. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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