She Shoots 2: Where Michelle goes crabbing in Cape Coral, Fla., and shares a delicious crab-boil recipe.
Blue crab is a delicacy that my family and I enjoy eating when we are in Cape Coral, Fla. These crustaceans can be purchased from the local co-op for $18 per dozen, for those of you that like to do things the easy way. You could go to the fishmonger, purchase blue crabs sealed safely in a cardboard box and bring them home and drop them into a pot of boiling water. Heck, you could even just open a can of blue crab from the store. We, on the other hand, like to make things a little more challenging.
A crab pot is a wire cage with a place in the center to hold bait, a lower chamber to allow entry and an upper chamber to contain the catch. Crabs crawl into a funnel-shaped opening in the lower chamber. Once inside, the crabs cannot escape.
Recommended bait for use in crab pots ranges from fish pieces and turkey legs to pigs’ feet. Crabs are scavengers; the more the bait stinks, the better. I usually bait my trap with uncooked chicken backs and wing tips. This combination makes for a delicious meal, certain to attract any crab strolling through the canal.
Fortunately, I have in-laws that live on the Bimini Canal, so I didn’t have far to go to check my crab pot for customers. And, it didn’t take long for the crabs to decide to drop in at “The Cerino Bed and Breakfast.” In less than 24 hours, I caught 3 crabs — just enough for a 2-person appetizer.
A few mistakes in my past crabbing experiences have taught me that it is best to take the crab pot out of the water and carry it off of the dock before removing the guests. Once on land, I use the longest kitchen tongs I can find to grab the crabs and put them in a bucket. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to chase any escapees around the yard this year.
How to cook the crabs
Next stop – the hot tub! To prepare their tubby, I added Old Bay Seasoning, some fresh lemon juice and a little cayenne pepper to a large pot of water. Once the water came to a rolling boil, the crabs took a dip. Using my handy extra-long kitchen tongs, I grabbed each crab from the bucket and dropped it into the boiling water. It’s important to be ready to quickly put the lid back on the pot once the crabs are inside.
Cook the crabs for 12 minutes. You can tell the crabs are done cooking when they turn bright red in color. After cooking, place the crabs in a large bowl and run cold water over them. It is much easier getting them out of the pot than it is putting them in!
How to clean the crabs
- Remove the large front claws at the body by twisting and pulling them off. Put the claws in a bowl or platter.
- Remove and discard all of the other legs.
- Turn the crab upside down. Using your hands, lift the triangular piece of shell (the apron) break it off, and discard it.
- Pick up the crab with both of your hands, placing your thumbs in the hole where the apron was located. Pull in one motion, removing the top shell (carapace). Discard.
- Remove the mouth and all of the gills from the body.
- Hold the body with both of your hands and snap in half.
Time to eat!
I placed a few layers of newspaper on the counter, to make plenty of room for our crab eating adventure. Using crab crackers and seafood forks, we worked our way through our snack. Eating blue crab is not an easy thing to do. Actually, it’s rather time consuming and messy, yet delicious. We enjoyed our crab with cold frosty beers and my father-in-law’s famous mustard sauce.
Papa’s Mustard Recipe
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon boiling water
1 cup mayonnaise
1-½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
Place dry mustard in medium bowl, add boiling water and stir to form a paste. Cool. Whisk in mayonnaise, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and horseradish. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
When all is said and done, it’s not really about the meal. There certainly are easier ways to get and eat blue crab. What it boils down to is the crabbing experience.
You can find recreational crab-harvesting regulations for southwest Florida at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website.