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Wild Game Cooking

Can You Eat Spider Crabs? Yes.

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A question I get asked from time to time is can you eat spider crabs? Absolutely. Spider crabs of all varieties are totally edible, and taste like other crabs. Here’s how to prepare and cook them.

Spider crabs are the generic term for a variety of families of spindly, generally slow-moving crabs that typically have long legs and teardrop-shaped bodies. Virtually everyone I know thinks that they are inedible. They’re wrong.

I suspect the haters are employing a well-worn bit of faulty reasoning: Spider crabs are ugly, so they must taste terrible. I am here to tell you that spider crabs — and I have eaten several species on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as in the Pacific, taste sweet and firm and every bit as nice as a Dungeness or blue crab.

Several species of spider crab are commonly eaten in the Atlantic and Pacific. I grew up eating large Libinia emarginata, the common spider crab on the Eastern Seaboard. Most references say the body doesn’t get wider than 4 inches, but I can assure you I’ve caught spider crabs with shells twice that wide. Maybe it was another species?

If it was another species, I am betting it was Maja squinado, which is normally a European crab. This is the crab in the picture above; I ate it at a fancy restaurant in San Sebastian, Spain. This crab has a commercial fishery for it, and the reason I know you can eat spider crabs is because when I was a kid, the old Italian guys would keep them to put in their spaghetti and crab sauce.

In the Pacific, there is the semi-glamorous Japanese spider crab, which is gigantic, uncommon and frightfully expensive. You don’t need me to tell you they’re great — they’re basically another type of king or snow crab.

More common to California and the West is the Loxorhynchus grandis, or sheep crab. I’ve eaten these in Baja, California, where they go by the awesome name marcianos, or Martians. They get big, and they are delicious.

Live Pacific spider crabs, sheep crabs, in a market in Ensenada, Mexico.

Cracking Spider Crabs

There is a catch, however. The shells of spider crabs are very tough. Like, so tough you need a iron hands to crack them with a regular crab cracker, or a splash guard if you decide to use a hammer, or, as I did once in Baja, California, a rock.

Unlike, say, a Dungeness crab, where you can use kitchen shears to open up the shell of the legs, you really do need either a good cracker or a hammer to crack the shells of a spider crab. Or… you can do what I do, and skip all that.

The trick to eating spider crabs? Don’t try to crack the leg shells. Simply break the various joints backwards and wiggle them a little as you pull, and the meat will come out, attached to a cartilaginous tendon-y thing. Do this and you’ll wonder why anyone ever asked if you can eat spider crabs.

One key point here is to chill your cooked spider crabs before serving. This helps prevent the meat from sticking to the shells. Follow this procedure:

  • Steam or boil your spider crabs. More on this in a moment.
  • Plunge them into a bucket of ice water, or spray them well with cold water, until the shells are fairly cool.
  • Crack and eat.

Oh, and one more tip: The majority of the meat in spider crabs is in the legs, and at the base of the legs where they attach to the body.

A plate of spider crab legs, marcianos, in Popotla, Mexico.

Cooking Spider Crabs

Normally you will be boiling or steaming your spider crabs. I boil my crabs for 10 minutes minimum, and 10 minutes per pound is a generally good rule to follow.

Steaming is a nicer way to go about it because the crabs don’t get waterlogged. I will generally steam spider crabs about 20 minutes minimum, and up to 30 minutes if you have a mess of them.

I do not recommend grilling spider crabs, and since their shells are so hard, I find that simple is best. If you cook them with a sauce or whatever and they are still in the shell, it’s going to make an unholy mess at your table if everyone’s cracking and banging away.

Storing Your Crabs

Mostly you’ll eat spider crabs fresh. They are super bulky and aren’t ideal for freezing in the shell. But if you do, be sure to do that ice water bath after cooking them. If you skip this, the meat will stick to the inside of the shell.

A much better option for freezing spider crab meat is to take it out of the shell, then pat it dry, then vacuum seal it. If you do this, the meat will thaw out nicely and work well in any crabmeat recipe you can possibly imagine.

An Atlantic spider crab, wandering around on the dock.

Spider Crab Recipes

If you get your hands on some spider crabs, start by steaming them simply and serving with lemon and melted butter; directions for that are below. After that, try any of these great crab recipes with the picked meat from your catch.

  • Spaghetti with crab sauce. This is an old Italian favorite that I learned when I was growing up in New Jersey and New York. Any sort of crab meat will work, but it is one of those dishes you see with spider crab meat a lot.
  • Crab fried rice. This is a Vietnamese-style fried rice that is excellent with picked spider crab meat.
  • Crab curry. An Indian-style curry, this is best with really big spider crabs.
  • Crab ceviche. This is a dish I ate in Baja, California, with the meat from those marcianos, the big sheep crabs.
  • Crab rolls. Normally done with the meat from a Chesapeake blue crab, this works well with spider crab meat.
  • Crab risotto. Italian-style rice with tomato and spider crab meat, this one’s an easy date night stunner.
  • And when in doubt, make crab deviled eggs. Everyone loves deviled eggs, and mixing a little crabmeat in there makes it a meal.

If you liked this recipe, please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below; I’d love to hear how everything went. If you’re on Instagram, share a picture and tag me at huntgathercook.

  • If using, scatter the bay leaves in the bottom of a very large pot.

  • Set a steamer insert into the pot. If you don’t have one, you can crumple up foil into large blocks or balls that you can rest the crabs on, so they are not submerged. Fill the pot with enough water to just about come over the level of the steamer insert, about 3 to 5 inches.

  • If using, dust the live spider crabs with the Old Bay Seasoning. They won’t mind.

  • Get the water boiling in the pot, then lower the crabs into the steamer and cover it tightly. Steam over medium-high heat for 30 minutes.

  • While this is happening, melt the butter and put it in little ramekins for everyone. Also get a large basin of ice water ready. Your sink is usually your best bet.

  • When the crabs are done (they’ll be red), plunge them into the ice water for a couple minutes to cool off. This helps the meat come away from the shell.

  • To eat, pull the top of the carapace off the crab. Clean out the insides, which are icky and gooey. Remove all the feathery gills – they are toxic! Pull away all the legs from the body, trying to get the meat that is attached to the base, which is delicious. My advice is to pre-crack the claws before you serve, because you’ll likely need a hammer.

Calories: 569kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 48g | Saturated Fat: 30g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 182mg | Sodium: 1553mg | Potassium: 438mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 1702IU | Vitamin C: 40mg | Calcium: 181mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Source link: https://honest-food.net/can-you-eat-spider-crabs/ by Hank Shaw at honest-food.net

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Wild Game Cooking

Rhubarb Syrup Recipe – How to Make Rhubarb Syrup

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Here’s how to make rhubarb syrup, which is fantastic on pancakes, in soft drinks or cocktails, or as a glaze for chicken or other poultry.

Making rhubarb syrup couldn’t be easier: Bury chopped rhubarb in sugar and let time do the rest.

It really is that simple. Chop stalks of rhubarb, put them in a glass jar, like a Mason jar, and bury them in white sugar. Put the lid on the jar and shake to remove any air pockets. Add enough sugar to cover the rhubarb by about 1/2 inch.

Overnight, the sugar will extract the moisture from the rhubarb, and you’ll have a syrup.

A few pointers:

  • As the sugar absorbs the liquid from the rhubarb, keep adding a little more each day, about 2 tablespoons at a time. Shake after each time. Stop when no more sugar can be absorbed. You’ll know this by seeing a layer of sugar at the bottom of the jar the morning after you’ve shaken everything all up.
  • If you don’t do this, you run the risk of the syrup not being concentrated enough, and if that happens, it can ferment.
  • Once the syrup is concentrated, let it sit on the counter a few days at room temperature. This will help darken the syrup from a light pink to a rosy red. The longer you let it sit, even in the fridge, the pinker it will get, up to about 2 weeks.
  • If you want a redder rhubarb syrup, add a handful of strawberries when you start. Some very red varieties of rhubarb will make a crimson syrup by themselves.
  • Strain out the rhubarb and discard, or use in rhubarb bread or muffins.
  • Once finished, the rhubarb syrup will keep indefinitely in the fridge.

How to Use Rhubarb Syrup

I initially made it to add to summertime gin and tonics. Make a G&T the way you like it, then add a spoonful or two of rhubarb syrup and you have a quintessential Upper Midwestern cocktail.

Or, skip the gin and tonic and go with a mocktail of rhubarb syrup, lime juice and seltzer. This is a baller afternoon refresher.

You can also use it as a pancake syrup, or wherever else you want a drizzle of springtime.

In a savory application, mix some rhubarb syrup with red wine or balsamic vinegar to make an easy gastrique sauce, which you can then use with chicken or any other white meat; it would even be good with a firm, white fish like grilled swordfish.

If you liked this recipe, please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below; I’d love to hear how everything went. If you’re on Instagram, share a picture and tag me at huntgathercook.

Source link: https://honest-food.net/rhubarb-syrup-recipe/ by Hank Shaw at honest-food.net

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Wild Game Cooking

Elderflower Syrup Recipe – How to Make Elderflower Cordial

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Elderflower syrup is sunlight and rainbows in a bottle. Golden, floral and sweet, this makes everything it touches better. Here’s how to make it at home. 

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Late springtime and early summer are the best time to gather elderflowers to make elderflower syrup.

Finding the buttercream flowers isn’t too tough: Elderberries grow everywhere near rivers, and other well-watered places. You can see them as early as April in the South and California, and as late as September in the high mountains or far north, like in Canada.

I’ve seen elderflowers all over the place in Georgia and Florida in early spring. The farther north you live — or the higher in elevation — the later you must wait. And keep in mind you are looking for blue or black elderberries, not red elderberries. You want Sambucus nigra or S. mexicana.

Elderflowers on the plant. Elderflowers on the plant.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Collecting Elderflowers 

Keep in mind that an elderberry bush is a large plant, and can even grow into a small tree. Study the leaves in the photo above: They are a lush dark green, slightly serrated on their edges, and form on stalks; each leaf should be opposite to another. The flowers are cream-colored, not white.

Sometimes over-eager foragers fail to look at the plant they are picking from and grab hemlock by mistake. This can be fatal. But hemlock looks nothing like elderberry, so I have a tough time figuring out how this mistake happens…

A good rule to live by is to not take more than a few flower heads from each elderberry bush: This ensures that the bush will have enough to spread itself, it makes you find more bushes — it’s never a good thing to have only one spot for anything you forage for — and, most importantly, selective picking means you can come back in a few months for the berries.

Only choose the most beautiful flower heads; you don’t want flowers that have yet to open or are past their prime. Collect them in a paper bag so they can breathe. Plastic will make them wilt and sweat.

You will need a lot of flowers to make cordial, so grab a big grocery sack full.

Making Elderflower Syrup

Keep in mind that elderflower syrup is not alcoholic. It can be anything from a light, ready-to-drink concoction, to a full-on syrup that can keep a year or more and is used as a base for other things, like elderflower champagne

If you want to make elderflower liqueur, this is my recipe for that

Elderflower cordial has a subtle flavor. What does it taste like? It is more of an aroma thing, although the elderflower “lemonade” I am drinking right now has a certain tannic backbone to it that says it is not just lemonade.

You make the base for elderflower syrup by preparing a simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water), bringing it to a boil and pouring it over lemon zest, a little lemon juice, lots of elderflowers, and a little citric acid, which adds flavor and keeps everything stable. You let this sit at room temperature for as little as a few hours, or as much 2 or 3 days to macerate, and the result after you strain it through cheesecloth is this lovely-looking syrup.

NOTE: If you just want to make a simple elderflower syrup, which will ferment quickly if you don’t keep it cold, skip all the lemon and citric acid. For a quart, boil 3 cups sugar and 3 cups water. Let it cool enough so you can stick your finger in it, then pour it over a quart Mason jar full of elderflowers. Steep 2 days in the fridge, then strain. Use within 3 weeks. 

Using Elderflower Syrup

I add about a tablespoon of the syrup to a pint of water to make an elderflower cordial with the level of flavor Gatorade has; add more syrup for a stronger drink. It tastes a lot like an Arnold Palmer (50-50 iced sweet tea and lemonade), but as elderflowers are known to be seriously good for you, I like this better.

elderflower liqueur recipeelderflower liqueur recipe
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Years ago, Holly added some syrup to vodka to make an “Elder-tini,” which, when added to some cherries, make a damn good cocktail. Elderflower syrup is also excellent mixed with Champagne (a classic), and its Italian cousin Prosecco. My friend Heather makes a drink called a Caddisfly Nymph, which is elderflower syrup, Prosecco and a touch of Peychaud bitters.

Elderflower syrup makes a great glaze for chicken or pheasant breasts, or, when mixed with a champagne vinegar, a helluva gastrique (sweet and sour sauce) for poultry, rabbit or fish.

  • Snip off the flowers from the stalks into a large bowl or jar that will hold everything. Try to remove as much of the stems as you can; they are toxic. A few stray bits of stems will not hurt you, but you want to minimize it.

  • Zest the lemons and add it to the bowl, then the citric acid and lemon juice.

  • Bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve. Let the syrup cool enough so that you can stick your finger in it without getting burned; you can leave it to cool to room temperature, too. Pour the syrup over the flowers, lemons et al and stir to combine. Cover the bowl or jar and leave it for 2 or 3 days.

  • When you are ready, strain it through a fine-meshed sieve lined with cheesecloth or a paper towel into a clean Mason jar. Seal the jar and store in the fridge.

  • To serve, pour 1 to 3 tablespoons of the syrup into a pint glass and add water or seltzer. Or you can add a tablespoon to a glass of sparkling wine, or to a couple shots of vodka or gin.

This recipe makes about 1 quart. 

Calories: 193kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Fat: 0.2g | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 1mg | Sugar: 50g | Calcium: 2mg | Iron: 0.03mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Source link: https://honest-food.net/elderflower-cordial/ by Hank Shaw at honest-food.net

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Wild Game Cooking

Chile Verde Recipe – How to Make Pork Chile Verde

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

This chile verde recipe is my go-to Mexican comfort food, easy to make and it keeps well all week. If you’re not familiar with it, Chile verde is braised meat with lots of green elements, like green chiles, cilantro and other herbs, as well as tomatillos.

Chile verde in a bowl, ready to eat.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

I should be clear at the start that chile verde is not green chili, nor is it the New Mexican dish green chile stew. Those are great dishes, but they are American. Chile verde is Mexican.

It is a staple in Mexican restaurants around here. This chile verde recipe is based on several I’ve read, or eaten in the Sonoran Desert area around Arizona, although there are variations on this dish all over both Mexico and our own Desert Southwest.

Wherever it comes from, this is a damn good dish, up there with my chile colorado and venison chili.

Chile Verde Ingredients

Unlike green chili or green chile stew, Mexican chile verde requires tomatillos, those cousins of the tomato you see encased in a papery husk. They come in many varieties, from great big domesticated ones to these funny little tomatillos that grow in my garden.

Wild tomatillos on a plateWild tomatillos on a plate
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

I never planted them. They just appeared. Lots of gardeners in my neighborhood get them, so I think they are wild, or at least feral. There do happen to be a number of various “ground cherry” species growing all over the country, so I am not certain which one this is. All I can tell you is that this is a welcome weed.

So whenever they’re ripe, I pick masses of the little buggers. You can find them in Mexican markets sold as tomatillos de milpa.

You strip off the husk, and inside is a kinda sticky green tomato-like thing. When they get perfect, the fruit fills the husk and sticks to it, so sometimes you may need to husk them under cold water. You want tomatillos when they are green and unripe; these turn purple when they are dead ripe, and the big ones turn sort of creamy-yellow.

When I am inundated with tomatillos, I make loads of my tomatillo salsa verde, which is great on tortilla chips, and can it. This is key, because, once canned, you have almost instant chile verde.

Other than tomatillos, you need other green ingredients: cilantro and a couple kinds of green chiles. I use a mix of Anaheim and/or poblano chiles, plus serranos or jalapenos for heat. In late summer, I get access to green Hatch chiles, which, when hot, take care of all your green chile needs.

The Sauce

Making chile verde sauce is kind of a production, like most good Mexican sauces. (Ever make mole? Not easy.) You put the peppers, onion, tomatillos and garlic on a grill or under a broiler to char, then peel the garlic and chiles — both hot and mild — cilantro, etc. and chop up everything in a food processor.

As I mentioned above, you can do all this way ahead of time by making salsa verde and canning it.

Once you have your salsa verde, making chile verde is easy. Keep in mind that tomatillos are acidic. For geeks, their average pH is 3.8, which is only a little milder than an orange. This means your chile verde will be acidic, too. So go easy on the lime until you’ve tasted it.

If you end up with sour chile verde, serve it with sour cream or Mexican crema. Yes, those are sour, too, but the dairy helps a lot.

A bowl of chile verdeA bowl of chile verde
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Meat in Chile Verde

Meat is up to you. Think pork first, wild or domesticated. Chicken, pheasant, turkey (wild or domestic) are other good choices. Think light meat first, although I will admit, it’s damn good with beef, venison and yes, even things like squirrels or jackrabbits. Play with it!

I serve my chile verde with rice, Mexican cotija cheese, avocado, cilantro and a dollop of crema. You can also serve chile verde on tortillas, and a chile verde burrito is damn good.

OTHER GREEN CHILE DISHES

In addition to green chile stew, here are some other recipes that make good use of roasted green Hatch chiles, which I love.

  • Keep the pork or wild boar in large pieces — cut them only small enough to fit into your Dutch oven or other heavy, lidded pot. Salt the meat well and brown it in the pot in the lard over medium-high heat. When the pork has browned, remove it and add the onions. Cook the onions until they get a little brown on the edges. Return the pork to the pot, add the bay leaves, stock and as much water as you need to submerge the meat. Cover pot and cook over low heat until the meat wants to fall apart — about 3 hours for a wild hog shoulder, less for store-bought.

  • To prep the sauce, slice the tomatillos in half and arrange, cut side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Quarter the onion and put that on the sheet. Put the garlic cloves on the sheet, too and set under the broiler. Remove when they are a little charred, but not burned to a crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Or, you can char everything on a comal, which is what I do.

  • While the tomatillos are broiling, set the jalapenos and the poblano or Anaheim chiles directly on your gas burner or over your grill. (If you have an electric stove, add them to the broiler as well.) Blacken the skins of the peppers, turning them as needed. Once the skins are black, put the chiles in a paper bag. Close the bag to let the peppers steam themselves for 20 minutes. When they’ve steamed, take them out of the bag and remove the skins. Do this in the sink to minimize the mess. Remove all the seeds and the stems of the peppers, too. (Note: If you’ve ever been burned working with chiles, you might want to wear gloves for this. Working with the roasted jalapenos might irritate your skin.)

  • Put the tomatillos, onion and the roasted chiles into a food processor. Peel the garlic and put the garlic in, too. Add the 1/2 cup of cilantro, oregano, epazote if using, and a healthy pinch of salt. Buzz until everything is combined but there are still some little chunks; you want texture to the sauce. Mix in the cumin and set the sauce aside. Fry this sauce in the lard, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. 

  • When the meat’s ready, lift it out of the pot and onto a baking sheet to cool a little. Keep the pot uncovered and turn the heat to high to boil down the braising liquid. Chop, or shred the meat with your fingers or with two forks.

  • Once the braising liquid has boiled down by about 2/3, remove the bay leaves and return the pork to the pot. Add the chile verde sauce and mix well. Serve over white rice with cilantro, some Mexican hard cheese and sour cream.

A note on the chile verde sauce. I make big batches and can it, which is a lot easier. It’s basically the same recipe as here, only with a bit of added vinegar. If you’re looking for a base recipe, this one is a good start. Once you make this, it will keep for a week in the fridge.

Keys to Success

  • Take your time browning the meat. It adds a lot of flavor. 
  • Adding the chile verde sauce at the end keeps flavors bright, and the sauce greener. That said, you can add it to the braising liquid and simmer it all together. This is traditional, and is tasty, but the sauce will be browner. 
  • This is a guisado, a thick stew you can put on a tortilla. You don’t want this thin, so if it is, cook it down uncovered. 
  • Go easy on the hot peppers. It’s easy to add them, hard to tame the heat if you overdid it. If you did, add potatoes; they help.
  • You do want lots of blackened char on the vegetables. That adds a ton of flavor here, and you will absolutely notice it. 

Calories: 690kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 85g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 278mg | Sodium: 359mg | Potassium: 1964mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 448IU | Vitamin C: 65mg | Calcium: 118mg | Iron: 7mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Source link: https://honest-food.net/wild-boar-chile-verde-recipe/ by Hank Shaw at honest-food.net

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