Wednesday, December 21, 2011

‘Tis the season……… Stone Crab season, that is.

My Daughter Maggie

Being a long time Floridian, I would be remiss if I didn’t pay tribute to the beautiful natural resource that has just become   available and is at the peak of the season. 

In this post we will explore the history and lore   of Stone Crabs, along with a few fun facts and my absolute favorite way to prepare them.

Now for a bit of Stone Crab history…………..

Meet “Everglades icon”, Loren G. “Totch” Brown.  Totch was born on March 12, 1920.  He lived his entire life in the area known as the Ten Thousand Islands.  Totch survived off what the Everglades had to offer as a commercial fisherman and gator hunter.

On a spring day in the late 1930’s Totch had an epiphany.  Tired of having his fishing nets tangled and ruined by these numerous, strange looking crabs, he decided to keep one.  He cooked it, ate it, and a new commercial industry was born.

He quickly met with his uncle, “Dollar” Bill, who was always scheming of ways to make a quick buck. In a matter of minutes they devised a plan. The two worked diligently and quickly building several hundred wooden crab traps.  They set out on the water and their first haul resulted in many large burlap sacks full of Stone crabs.

“Dollar” Bill loaded the sacks into his truck and headed east.  His destination: a lunch counter in Miami Beach where he met with the owner, a gentleman named Joe Weiss.  Mr. Weiss purchased the crabs for forty cents a pound and put them on his menu.  That restaurant today is known as Joe’s Stone Crab, which is still “the” place to go for stone crabs.

Fun facts about Stone Crabs……..

  • Stone Crabs have two distinctly different claws. A large one known as the crusher claw and a smaller one known as the pincher claws. The crusher claw is the only one allowed to legally be harvested.

  • Legal minimum size for a claw is 2 ½” in length, measured from the first joint. The smallest legal claw weighs about 2 ½ ounces.  The largest claw harvested on record weighed 25 pounds. Now that calls for a celebration!

  • Once the claw is removed, the crab is returned to the water. It will grow a new legal size claw in approximately 12 to 14 months.

  • To prevent the meat from sticking to the shell, claws are cooked as quickly as possible, usually right on the boat.  Meat will also stick to the shell if the claw is improperly frozen. Make sure you are purchasing claws from a reputable seafood market to ensure you receive the best quality claws possible.

Stone Crab Crusher Claws

How to crack a Stone Crab Claw:

1)  Hold the claw in the palm of your hand.  Using the back of a pasta spoon, sharply hit the center of the claw.  This will cause the shell to crack.  Remember, we are cracking claws not smashing them. Turn the claw over and repeat.

2) Now, rotate the claw in the palm of your hand so as the first and second knuckle drape over your index finger.  Again with the back of the spoon, crack the first and second knuckle, of the claw, not your finger.


The best way to prepare these beauties is a simply as possible.  I prefer ice-cold cracked claws served on a platter over crushed ice, garnished with a few strands of blanched seaweed. The sauce of choice, and tradition, is mustard sauce. 

Here’s a recipe for mustard sauce that was made famous by Joe’s Stone Crab.

Mustard Sauce (Yields: 4 ¾ cups)

Mayonnaise                       3 cups
Dijon Mustard                  1 ¾ cups
English Dry Mustard       1 Tbl.
Fresh Lemon Juice          2 Tbl.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the dry mustard and lemon juice; blend with a wire whip until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the mustard to “bloom” for 20 minutes. Add the Dijon mustard and mayonnaise and again, blend well with a wire whip.  Store refrigerated until ready for use.

The season only lasts until May 15th so get crackin’.  Let me know how they come out or invite me to dinner!


Chef Joe

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