We will never be vegetarians. If you are squeamish, you may want to look away. Because crabbing, one of the most important parts of beach week, is the subject of this post.
Pop-Pop, Erin’s grandfather, was a longtime crabber. He taught us all how to crab, and in some not-insignificant way, waking up early to head to the pier on the bay is our way of honoring his memory. It just occurred to me that Pop-Pop died 13 years ago, but we still use so many tools that were his. Cages, the net, and of course The Stick, a small piece of wood that he marked with a 4.5-inch line (minimum acceptable width point to point). Even the bucket was Pop-Pop’s—though it just sprung a leak, so I put in a request for a white bucket (it will photograph better). We do a mix of cages and drop lines, about 4 or 5 each. Cages are an easier catch; drop lines take skill and patience—there’s something for everyone.
Most of the time spent crabbing is about waiting. Pull the the lines too frequently and you scare everything away! So a lot of what we do is chitchat. It’s some of the best time we have to catch up on all that’s happened in the last year. Everyone will make an appearance at crabbing at some point during the week.
I call the four of us in the picture above (me, two cousins, and their father) the “core crabbers”—we’re the ones who will always be there bright and early, no matter how late we were up the night before. One year, when the crabbing was bad, we tried to increase our luck by going out at 6:30 in the morning. (It didn’t pay off.) Sunday’s crabbing was pathetic this year. We caught one borderline crab and barely had any bites. Wednesday we went back and had a huge day! You can see how hopeful we were in the picture, before we’d even pulled a cage. Jason actually had some of the best luck that day, catching a 6.5-inch CRABZILLA with our most unlucky cage (the cursed green cage). In all, we got 13 that day. Lucky indeed.
We sat on the porch to devour Crabzilla just minutes after he came out of the pot. The sweetest meat comes from a crab you just caught, let me tell you! Because my uncle is allergic to Old Bay, we can’t use it on our crabs, but our boil in beer and water lets the flavor of the crabs shine. I’ve been cleaning my own crabs since I was little, and it’s easier than you think. Just follow the steps below. You’ll note that I scrape off the gills and the innards using the claw—you could just use your fingers but, um, I won’t do that. But I do like some of the “mustard,” called tomalley in a lobster, so I don’t scrape that off too carefully. And note the big lump of meat on the leg when it twisted out! Don’t miss out on a single morsel.
Bring a big pot of water to a boil, add a can of beer (family tradition dictates everyone takes a sip before it’s poured in, often necessitating another can be cracked open, so maybe it’s a can and a half of beer), and then drop the live crabs in. Everyone takes a turn dropping them in the water. Set the timer for 10–12 minutes, then drain and cool. You can eat them warm or straight out of the fridge up to a few days later. Yum!