Sunday, October 13, 2013

I wrote this article several years ago on the history and fun facts on Stone Crabs.  I thought it only fitting to re-post it on the eve of the opening of Stone Crab season in Florida. Enjoy the article and more importantly, enjoy Stone Crabs while you can!

Chef Joe

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

Stone Crab Claws
Being a long time Florida resident, I would be remiss if I didn’t pay tribute to the beautiful resource that has just become available.  In this post we will explore the history and lore of Stone Crabs, some fun facts and my absolute favorite way to serve them.

Now for a bit of history…………..

I’d like to introduce you to the “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.  In a matter of minutes, they devised a plan. The two worked diligently and quickly built several hundred wooden crab traps.  They set out on the water and their first haul resulted in many large burlap sacks full of crabs.

 “Dollar” Bill loaded the sacks into his truck and headed east.  His destination: a lunch counter in Miami Beach. 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.

Some 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 pincer claw. 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.

         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.

         Claws are cooked as quickly as possible (many times right on the boat).  This prevents the meat from sticking to the shell.  Another reason for the meat sticking to the shell is improper freezing of the claw. Keep that in mind the next time you buy claws for the local supermarket.

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 you 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 crab………).

The best way to serve these beauties is a simple as possible.  I prefer ice cold cracked claws served in a platter over crushed ice that is 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 last until may 15th so get crackin’. Let me know how they come out.

Chef Joe

For quick links to this blog, “LIKE” us on Facebook Landry’s Seafood!/LandrysSeafood and on our Muer Facebook pages at:

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Gandy Saloon, Pittsburgh, PA -
Meriwether's, Southfield, MI -
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