Sunday, 18 September 2011

Caithness Crab

After the excitement of the salmon fishing, thoughts turn to gathering rather than hunting in this autumn season of bounty. While I am helplessly sensitised to bivalve molluscs ie scallops (clams) and mussels, crustaceans are no problem and my favourite is undoubtedly the local brown crab, cancer pagurus. I even prefer it to ten times more expensive lobsters which are also plentiful around the Caithness shores. The picture above shows velvet crabs being sorted before sale, sadly mainly to Spain. To the right we can see brown crabs and lobsters, all at Staxigoe harbour, just to the north of Wick. I bought a dozen for ourseves and friends, especially those whose wives won't permit them to boil crabs in the kitchen!
     September is reputed to be the best month for brown crabs because of the quality and quantity of the brown meat. A short crab anatomy lesson is now in order. White crab meat comes from the claws and legs and the muscles in the cavity behind the legs. This is reached by pulling out the whole section that has the legs attached. From what is left of the body we then remove the remaining bony bit by pressing on it until it clicks and breaks off. Everything that is left clinging to the underside of the shell then constitutes the brown meat. A few years ago, I had a bad experience with some purchased brown meat which was very pungent and off-putting. Not this time the flavour was wonderful and I'm now a convert to slighty stronger flovour of the brown stuff.
    We experimented with devilled crab, spicy crab pie containing high proportions of brown meat as well as having traditional salads with mild fruits and white crab meat. Every one was a winner.

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