Beautiful swimmer – that’s the translation of the scientific name for the Delaware Blue Crab – callinectes sapidus. In high summer, catching, cooking and picking these feisty creatures is a fine art practiced along bays and inlets up and down the Delmarva Peninsula.
Thirty minutes after sunrise. With the water still like glass it’s time to head out. Approaching the shallow crabbing boat, something splashes at the edge of low tide and scrambling sand crabs brandish their claws.
Having divined where the crabs are hiding in the murky water we drop our lines laden with chicken necks. Waves hypnotically lap against the boat. Time and distractions do not exist. The sun beats down mercilessly. We wait, a wooden basket and long handled net at the ready. A book in hand, we catnap. Crabing is easy. Our arms are our fishing poles. The bait is the chicken neck, cast out gently. We relax while anticipating that exhilarating tug on the line and the excitement that ensues. Some days the tug doesn’t come but it can be a successful day anyway. The freedom of being out on the water with the quiet camaraderie of a fishing buddy can be enough.
On days when the crabs are biting, snaring them can be an adventure. It takes practice. They are smart, so we have to be fast. Sometimes we miss, accidentally dropping a crab into the boat, next to barefoot toes. Then someone must be brave enough to pick up the crab by its back feelers while it is pinching away. Finally we fill the basket and head to shore, crabs stowed away under layers of damp seaweed.
The art of preparing crabs is a diverse as the people who catch them. Most drop them into a pot of boiling water. Some spear them and remove the hard back shell before cooking. Everyone uses some variation of Old Bay Seasoning, which smells like the sea. The spice blend originated in nearby Baltimore in the 1930’s, developed by a German immigrant named Gustov Brunn. In those days crabs were so plentiful that taverns served them for free, liberally sprinkled with Old Bay to encourage beer consumption. The mix features hot pepper flakes, paprika, dry mustard, salt, black pepper, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardoman and ginger. The distinctive bright yellow cans grace many a kitchen shelf in summer.
Once cooked, the crabs’ brilliant blue claws turn bright orange and we eagerly take our seats at tables spread with old newspapers. There is no definitive method for eating crabs, but the universal rule is that every last morsel must be consumed, from the premium back claws, extracted like lollypops, to the tiny bits sucked out from swimmer claws.
Wooden hammers at the ready and a roll of paper towels nearby, we begin. Some eat through their pile of crabs one at a time, devouring the delicate white flesh. Others, more patient, clean five or six at time before feasting, assembling a towering mound of crab meat to savor.
Crabbing is the foundation of many a family tradition in Delaware. Of course, we could get them already cooked from roadside stands, but these never taste as good or fresh as the ones we catch ourselves.
My friends at #Sunday Supper have collected their favorite regional specialties, which follow after this recipe for crab dipping sauce.
Crab Dipping Sauce
1/3 cup vinegar
¾ cup beer
½ tbs Old Bay Seasoning
1 tbs sugar
Bring ingredients to a boil for 5 minutes. Turn down and simmer for 10 minutes. Cool and refrigerate in a glass container. Dip crab meat into the sauce while eating.
Sunday Supper Regional Specialties:
- Crispy Salmon Bites with Homemade Tartar Sauce by Pine Needles In My Salad
- Loaded Tex-Mex Chile con Queso by The Weekend Gourmet
- New England Style Stuffed Clams by Caroline’s Cooking
- Brandy Old Fashioned by Curious Cuisiniere
- Wine Pairing Recommendations For #SundaySupper Regional Specialties by ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
- Breakfast Empanada Casserole by Simply Healthy Family
- Pittsburgh Steak Salad by Seduction in the Kitchen
- Homemade Ranch Dressing by My Imperfect Kitchen
- Tupelo Honey Key Lime Vinaigrette by Family Around the Table
- Alabama White Barbecue Sauce by Cookin’ Mimi
- Delaware Crabs by Delaware Girl Eats
- JoJo Potatoes by A Mind Full Mom
- Long Beans with Coconut by Food Lust People Love
- Old Bay Cauli-Tots by Cupcakes & Kale Chips
- Southern Collard Greens by Magnolia Days
- Amish Chicken and Noodles by Palatable Pastime
- Boiled Lobster with Drawn Butter by Taste And See
- Bison Steaks with Cranberry Chimichurri by Tramplingrose
- California Beer Steamed Shrimp by Nosh My Way
- Avocado BLT Sandwich by Brunch-n-Bites
- Cali Inspired Fish Tacos by Sew You Think You Can Cook
- Cheesy Tex Mex Enchiladas by The TipToe Fairy
- Cola Marinated Steak Tips by Hardly a Goddess
- Corn and Bacon Chowder by Moore or Less Cooking
- Crab-Stuffed Artichokes with Spicy Aioli by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Deep Fried Pizza Roll by Grumpy’s Honeybunch
- Halal Cart-Style Chicken and Rice with White Sauce by The Texan New Yorker
- Copycat Hattie B’s Hot Chicken by Fantastical Sharing of Recipes
- Homemade Quebec Maple Baked Beans by She Loves Biscotti
- How to Make Vegetable Lumpia by Asian In America
- Italian Hot Dog by Simple and Savory
- Mom’s City Chicken by My Life Cookbook
- North Carolina BBQ with Cole Slaw and Hush Puppies by The Freshman Cook
- Philly Cheesesteak Calzones by Baking Sense
- Polish Boy Sandwich by Renee’s Kitchen Adventures
- Spicy Salmon for Tacos by Hey What’s for Dinner Mom?
- Tex-Mex Slowcooker Chicken and Beef Fajitas by Meal Planning Magic
- West Michigan Wet Burritos by Wholistic Woman
- Upside Down Angel Food Cupcakes by Cooking With Carlee
- Austrian Mohnnudeln (Poppy Seed Noodles) by The Bread She Bakes
- Butter Tarts – A Canadian Tradition by Red Cottage Chronicles
- Carob Cherry Crumb Bars by Pies and Plots
- Florida Key Lime Cream Pie by The Crumby Cupcake
- Fried Biscuits by Angels Home Sweet Homestead
- Gooey Butter Cake from Saint Louie! by Our Good Life
- Homemade Butterscotch Krimpets by The Redhead Baker
- San Jose Burnt Almond Cake by Eat, Drink and be Tracy
- Shoofly Pie by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
- Spanish Bar Cake by Get the Good Stuff!
- Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Plus Rhubarb Steamed Pudding and Favorite Regional Recipes from Sunday Supper Movement Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement