- 1 lb jumbo lump crabmeat (or lump)
- ½ cup Hellman’s Mayonnaise
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp old bay
- 1 tsp finely chopped Italian parsley
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- squeeze of lemon juice
- Mix mayonnaise, egg, sugar, old bay, lemon juice and parsley together and blend well, this is your imperial sauce.
- Gently fold crabmeat into imperial sauce, being careful not to break up crab meat.
- place portions in baking dish using ramekins or small casserole dishes*
- Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes (top will turn golden brown)
- Allow to cool just a few minutes before serving, it will set and be more flavorful as it cools slightly.
Born and raised in the Tidewater area, I grew up as a child "going to crab" with my family. I remember my dad tying chicken necks up with a strong twine and placing them in the freezer on a Friday evening so that we would be ready to "roll" via our unairconditioned car around 6:00 a.m. on a hot sultry Saturday morning. We had six wooden slat baskets with metal handles, a bag chocked full of icy cold chicken necks, a cooler with little bottles of coca cola and 7 ups, homemade sandwiches and a bag of cookies. I did notice a few bottles of beer tucked down in the cooler. Dad? We didn't have sun screen back then but it didn't matter...we knew we would be crabbing in water up to our thighs tossing those chicken necks out until we could feel a "tug" on the line and we would be out there until all six baskets were filled to the brim. This was a family affair. I lived on the same street with my Dad's mother and four of his five sisters....and we loaded up early following each other in our unairconditioned packed cars to the Lynnhaven River which flows right then and there into The Chesapeake Bay.
Those....were the days. I have fond memories. Once we got home everyone took their basket of crabs home to "boil." The crabs have to be alive when you boil them. We didn't have Old Bay Seasoning back then so the aroma of the "sea" filled all of our houses...with a hint of dried bay leaves. Later that day we would all gather in our backyard at picnic tables, makeshift tables of plywood and barrels. The radio would be tuned to whatever was popular at the time. Galvanized tubs were filled with ice then filled with cokes, 7 up and Dr. Pepper (for the kids) and cans and bottles of beer for the adults. My Dad churned the ice cream in the old fashioned ice cream tub while my mother made a mountain of cole slaw because everyone said she made the best. My aunts brought hot dogs and buns for the grill, homemade cakes and cookies and then we settled down to why we were there....to pick the crabmeat out of those crabs. Newspapers were spread over every table and the folding chairs were opened and everyone had a place to sit. It was no easy undertaking but everyone was "seasoned" and eventually started arguing on the best way to get the claw meat out whole.
I love crab to this day and have an appreciation for it when I see it fresh in a 1 lb can in the seafood department at local grocery stores. Crab pickers are a unique group of people...a whole lot of work for minimal results.
This recipe is dedicated to my dear friend, LindaC.
This post was modified from its original form on 12 May, 15:46
You might ask why I didn't post my mother's recipe for Imperial Crab. She made it just like this recipe. Maryland is known for it's perfect, and I mean perfect, crab cakes...no bread crumb fillers just pure crab, a bit of mayonnaise to hold it together and a bit of Old Bay seasoning...different ways to season it but Maryland does it the best IMO. The bread crumb fillers were meant to hold it together and stretching the crab so to speak to render more cakes. Maryland and Virginia...The Chesapeake Bay....go hand in hand.
Diane, never having as yet seen the crabs on the East Coast, I am used to the Dungeness and of course the King Crab. We grew up prepfering the Dungeness as itis so sweet and nice and the crab meat is so much more tender. I never have seen why people rave over the King Crab other than it is so large and I guess they get more crab for the effort. LOL
Several species of crab are found in Washington's marine waters and along its shores, but the two favorites are Dungeness and red rock crab.
Dungeness crab can reach 10 inches across the back, although six to seven inches is more common. In Puget Sound this crab is most abundant north of Seattle, in Hood Canal, and near the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Dungeness crab is frequently associated with eelgrass beds and prefers sandy or muddy substrates.
Red rock crab usually measures less than six inches across the back and has large claws. It can be distinguished from the Dungeness by its black-tipped claws and its red color. Although it is less meaty than the Dungeness, red rock crab meat is tasty. The red rock crab also prefers rocky areas, as its name implies.
Some of the most productive crabbing is in Birch Bay, off Neptune Beach just north of Lummi Island, Samish Bay, Padilla Bay near Anacortes, Utsaladdy Bay on Camano Island, Port Susan, Hood Canal and Dungeness Bay.
- Crab pots are commonly used to catch Dungeness crab in Puget Sound and can be bought or made. They are constructed by wrapping netting or wire mesh over an iron frame in which one or two funnel-shaped openings, called tunnels, are provided for crab to enter. Rapid exit from the pot is prevented by a 'trigger' device. Two escape rings, 4¼-inches in inside diameter, are required on all crab pots with tunnel triggers.
All crab pots must be equipped with a biodegradable escapement device consisting of either: (1) a pot lid hook or tiedown strap secured by a single loop of cord, (2) a 3- by-5-inch escape panel sewed into the upper half of the pot with cord, or (3) a pot lid or one pot side (serving as a pot lid) secured by no more than three single loops of cord. Cord must be untreated, 100 percent cotton or other natural fiber no larger than thread size 120 or 1/8-inch. This cord, when attached as described above, will rot away and allow crab to escape freely if the pot is lost.
Crab pots are generally baited with herring, rockfish carcasses, salmon heads, or clams, then set in water 20-150 feet deep (they must be placed below the lowest tide line) and located by the line buoy. Sport crabbers must attach red and white marker buoys. These must be legibly and permanently marked with the operator's first name, last name and address. Buoy lines must be weighted sufficiently to prevent them from floating on the surface.
- Ring nets are baskets made from two iron hoops and cotton or nylon mesh. When lowered to the bottom, both rings lie flat to permit crabs quick access to the bait that is tied to the bottom meshes. When the ring net is hauled rapidly to the surface it forms a basket in which the crabs are momentarily trapped. These nets are tended frequently, about every 15 to 30 minutes. Ring nets can be used from boats, docks, piers and jetties.
- Dip nets are used to scoop up crabs in calm weather at low tide in shallow water over sand flats or eelgrass beds, either from a boat with a long-handled net or while wading with a shorter-handled net. This method is frequently employed in parts of Puget Sound, including the Dungeness and Birch Bay areas, and along ocean beaches. Boat dip-netting can involve a sporty chase and is used in areas such as Port Gardner off the Everett jetty, Lummi Bay, Padilla Bay, Camano and Whidbey Islands, and Port Susan. Waders generally tow a small tub or gunny sack to hold their catch, so their hands are free to use the dip net. See our Recreational Crab Fishing website for more information.
Just included information about crab and equipment used to catch them in Washington.
Of course the people that lived on the Coast (Seattle or west of there on the Peninsula or north around the San Juan Islands) always were able to have fresh crab during crab season. Most places where the really good crab was found is closed; some open in July through September; others August through October.
We would bring the catch home and "cook" them in big pots and as you said, Diane, they had to be alive before we threw them in the boiling water. Then we would take them out and run them through cold water so we could "pick the meat". We dd much like you, spread out either the "crab oil cloth table covers" (only used for this and then cleaned with bleach afterwards, rinsed, dried and stroed for the next year). The crab were taken from the cold water, drained and then the men would take tack hammers and "crack the shells". The were then thrown out on the tables and we would take a crab and break off the legs, using the claw from one we would them pick the meat from the legs and body. (Forgot, the women would clean the bodies, too before we got them to pick). The crab meat went into bowls and the adult women would take the bowls as they were filled and place an empty one before us and we just kept picking the crab until we were done.
Now that was what we did for the "big" picking.
Christmas Eve Mom would go to the local market and they would have "fresh" crab already cooked (steamed). Mom would buy 3 and have them cracked and wrapped in butcher paper and bring them home (they were chilled). The she would get out the crab table cover and cover the table, fill a couple of big bowls with the already torn apart crab (done at the market) and we would all gather around the table and start to pick crab onto our plate. We woould work until we had a fair share and then Mom had sauces. There was melted butter/garlic in ramicans, cocktail sauce (with horseradish) in ramicans. and just for my dad, plain melted butter. We would make our choice and then start to eat oiur "pile" of crab. She always made cole slaw as well, Diane and there were homemade rolls and cold glasses of milk. That was our Christmas Eve supper.
Now my friend, do you have your mother's cold slaw recipe and if so, can you share it. That is one of my favorite salads and while my Mom's was good, I know your mother had a better cole slaw as even my Mom wasn't thrilled with hers.
Thank you so much for this recipe and my mouth is watering. People living on the Coast (East or West) are the most fortunate of people as they have access to truly fresh shellfish, ocean fish, etc. Those of us that grew up inland would get these things after they were flown in and put on ice.
If anyone is ever to visit Seattle, Washington, you have to go to Pike Street Market and watch the fellows at the fish booth. They let you select your fish and then it is tossed from the ice to a fellow behind the "counter man" and caught and that person places it in a plastic bag and wraps it in butcher papers and then it is tossed back to the "counter man" and he either challenges you to catch it or takes pity on you and hands it to you. But the entire market is a wonderful experience. It is a farmer's market that has been in business since before WWII. During the War it was closed down as most of the vendors are Japanese truck farmers. You can purchase everything imaginable; cut flowers, homemade soap, jams and jellies, other canned goods, and every fresh vegetable and fruit grown in the area or broiught in by plane (fresh, ripe pineapple from Hawaii, etc.). And you can purchase the seasonal fruits as they become available. It is open all year long.
Diane, your family had to have had the greatest of time as that would have been so much fun. Those are beautiful memories; you need to write them all down as detailed as you can for your children and grandcildren. That is family at it's best and so important to pass on to the next generation.
Again, Diane, thank you for the Crab recipe and it looks so wonderful. I do have to try East Coast crab now.
This post was modified from its original form on 12 May, 16:37
My Aunt lives in Frederick, MD and she agrees, Diane, that no matter where she has crab cakes, they are the best in Maryland, the capital of crab cakes. The idea of just the crab and mayo and Old Bay seasoning is amazing. Now, what are they cooked in (Olive oil or vegetable oil or no oil?) Also, is there a sauce for them, lemon juice or just plain as I hate to admit this but I have never had a crab cake in my life and I so want to try them. But my Aunt said not to bother unless I come to Maryland or the Chesapeake area of Virginia and Maryland. You just confirmed her comments, too, so I guess that means I have to make a trip to the Chesapeake area, doesn't it.
Indeed it does mean exactly that, Linda! You have to make time to visit this area!
Thanks for your information about the west coast and the dungeness crab. While in San Francisco a few times I had dungeness crab and it was delicious.
Yes, great memories all around!
Sadly, not a lot of local crab in landlocked Kansas. All our fresh seafood, of course, has to be flown in. I can imagine how wonderful your local fresh crab must be. I like the idea of stuffing shrimp so I'll have my husband check out the Whole Foods. I have family in Maryland & friends in VA. Next visit to the area, I'll have to try the crab.
Whole Foods has a glorious seafood counter and they sell fresh crab in the 1 lb tins. You can also special order "crab claws" which are excellent, too. They also come in an airtight tin. I sometimes order them for a holiday party in a large bowl of ice spreading all the claws over the ice to keep them fresh and cool. A spicy sauce of fresh horseradish and catsup mixed together is great for dipping the claws. These are small claws and easy to handle. The only downside is that you have to be prepared to pay anywhere from $35.00 to $45.00 per can for the lump crabmeat.
For a special occasion it is worth it. My nephew goes crabbing every year and has so much fun; he has a license and is able to sell them and makes pretty good extra money that way. He has been doing it since he was really young with his mother's father. My brother, being in the Navy, was not always there to do it, but now that he is retired they both do a lot of that as well as fishing in the Sound. They live in the San Juan area of Puget Sound.
Diane, if we could figure out how to work it out, I would have them send some this way and share but we would have to wait until late summer and fall.