For as long as I can remember, blue crabs have added an ingredient of fun to our family gatherings. As a child growing up in Florida, one of my fondest memories is of our frequent family outings to New Smyrna Beach (which is north of, and in those days was far nicer than, the more famous Daytona Beach). We would spend the day fishing and crabbing, and cook the day’s fresh catch right there on the beach. I can’t remember the last time we went crabbing, but we still eat lots of crabs.
The newest member of our family is Immanuel, who turned 3 on Christmas Eve. He ate so little and was so finicky about what he ate that from 18 months old until he was about 27 months old, he was in weekly “feeding therapy sessions.” But Immanuel is a Williams to his core. Even he has always loved crabs!! In fact, he loves crabs so much that he keeps everyone else busy cleaning crabs and piling pieces of the succulent white meat onto his plate: “More crabs, please. More crabs, please.”
My family is full of great cooks, men and women, across the three generations around the table and from generations past, but no one, not a single person has ever been known to actually write out a recipe – and we’re not too precise about quantities either. My father, Tom, and his oldest brother, Grant, who was a chef on an Air Force base and made his own wine decades before local wineries became popular, were both great cooks. They’ve both been deceased for decades now, but they would say that cooking is an art form, and that artistry comes from the soul. What you put into it is a lot more than the ingredients that makeup a recipe.
Where I grew up in the South, you cook from a feeling, rather than from a recipe. Even though my family has been enjoying blue crabs for at least five decades, it was a family project to come up with what’s written below. From my family to yours; enjoy!
Fill an 8-quart pot ½ to ⅔ with fresh water
- 6 oz. bottle of hot sauce (any brand)
- ¼ of standard 2 oz. bottle of Tabasco® sauce
- 2 to 4 fresh habanero peppers (depending upon size & how hot you like your food)
- ¼ to ½ cup of fresh crushed garlic
- 2 or 3 fresh bay leaves
- 1 bag of Old Bay® Crab Boil
- 1 cup of salt (yes; it is a lotta salt, but the crabs’ shells are hard, so the salt is not easily absorbed … or at least that’s the excuse my mom uses for adding so much salt)
Pierce holes in the red potatoes with a fork and add them to the water. Cover the pot, and allow the potatoes to cook for a total of 20 minutes or so.
Shuck the corn on the cob. After the water comes to a boil, add the corn to the water and replace the lid. The corn should boil for no longer than about 10 minutes.
After you take the corn out of the water, add as many crabs as you can to the water and recover the pot with the lid. The water will stop boiling, and it’ll take a few minutes for it to start boiling again.
Remove the crabs 10 minutes after the water starts boiling again.
Continue to add crabs until you’ve cooked them all.
For guests (or those rare family members) who don’t appreciate the tender white meat of blue crabs, we offer Snow crab claws (which, unfortunately, are generally only available frozen) and fresh shrimp. They need to stay in the boiling water only 5 to 7 minutes.
For those who prefer extra seasoning, Lawry’s® Seasoned Salt
My sister-in-law, Immanuel’s mom’s contribution: Warm garlic butter for dipping
- Melt a stick of unsalted butter
- Sprinkle in a couple of tablespoons of McCormick® Garlic Seafood Steamers seasoning mix
- Add a little garlic salt & stir
Homemade ice tea and lemonade (Southern favorites)
An ample supply of crab claw or nut crackers
Crabs are messy to clean (how to do that requires a separate blogpost!) – and eat, so we spread lots of old newspapers over the kitchen table (too messy for the dining room), and use paper plates, paper towels and paper cups, so that all of the trash can be rolled into a big bundle and easily disposed of.