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Crabs, Crabs, Crabs

   Baltimore is Crabtown. Learn about them with this  Crab Mentor
  Link: Baltimoretimeline's Crab recipes 

  Crabs, crabs, crabs-Baltimore is known as crabtown not just because so many crabs are eaten there, but because many crabs are caught each year in the Chesapeake Bay. Of course, we are talking about the renown blue crab which may be the tastiest, sweetest crab meat in the world.
  As every Baltimorian knows, the crabs actually harvested from the Bay are not available year round so sometimes the crabs they eat might be from the Gulf Coast and states of Louisiana, North Carolina, Florida and Texas-but still the blue crab is the symbol of Baltimore and are what tourists want to eat when they get here.
For the benefit of all-but especially tourists, here are some crab facts you can have at your finger tips when you arrive in Baltimore:
   Learn about crabs:
  Crabs are crustaceans which are part of group arthropods which have limbs that are jointed and a exoskeleton made of chitin which contains calcium carbonate. Because this exoskeleton if rigid, molting must occur and crabs do molt. Insects and spiders are also in the arthropod group.
   So crabs as crustaceans have something in common with
insects. Besides crabs, other crustaceans include shrimp, lobsters, crayfish,
etc. Many of them are aquatic and they move about freely. A lot of crustaceans like crabs also taste very good as many know well.
  Crabs are considered to be 10 legged but the claws are counted as two of legs. The claws also serve a lot of functions beyond the obvious function of defense so you better only try to pick a crab up from the back-and they can't do much then. The claws bring the food to the mouth (and crabs like humans are omnivores-they'll eat just about anything)-and claws can be used for digging or climbing.
  So crabs as crustaceans have something in common with insects and spiders!
There are so many species of crab but the most well-known one in Baltimore and in the Chesapeake bay is, of course, the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus (beautiful swimmer). So in Baltimore, when someone takes about crabs, they mean these very same beautiful swimmers and very tasty also with a sweet meat.
Other harvested crabs include the Japanese blue crab (Portunus trituberculatus) which is a large crab caught around China-not to be confused with smaller Chesapeake Bay blue crab. The snow crab or spider crab (Chionoecetes opilio) looks like a big spider and is caught in cold waters. The Dungeness crab (Cancer magister) found in Alaska is another popular food source. The Florida stone crab, Menippe mercenaria, is know for it's stone like large claws (that are very hard, but wonderful meat is inside). The small body (in relation to the claw) is not eaten.

  Japanese crab      Snow crab      Dungeness crab             Stone crab
 

  A strange-looking crab is Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis) which is an Asian medium-sized, burrowing dark crab with hair on it's legs. It also can be an invasive pest in Europe and North America.
  It is edible, however, and popular in Asia.
     Chinese Mitton crab
  Another more innocuous strange-looking crab because one of it's very claws is very over-sized is the fiddler crab. The males have
the large claw.
   At the Outer Banks, we saw a lot of sand crabs. These are small crabs and kind of transparent and they zoom to their holes

      Fiddler crab
when spotted. They are in the family Hippoidea.
The Blue crab:
   Alive, the blue crab isn't too friendly; in fact, they are very aggressive and will protect themselves with their claws which can deliver a
nasty bite. They can also try to attack you.
The only way to hold them is to grab them from the back where their pincers can't get to you.
Catching crabs:
  Recreational crabbers usually catch crabs one of two ways. The less sporting but easier way is the crab pot. These are specially designed traps where the crab can easily get in (to the bait that is in the trap), but they can't get back out because the opening is smaller inside and the crabs just don't have the smarts to figure this out and escape. So one just leaves the traps there and checks
them periodically.
  The other way to catch crabs is a lot more fun. This way, you get a trot line (a rope basically) and you simply tie on bait-usually chicken legs and wings at intervals. Usually you set up a lot of these and check them periodically. If you pull them up gently, you can feel the crab nibbling on the bait. When that happens, you oh so gently, pull up the rope and the crab follows the bait. Then with a crab net, you prepare to scoop up the crab to catch it. This takes quite a bit of patience and some skill but it is great when you do net the crab.
Cooking crabs:
  After you catch crabs, then, of course, you have the dilemma of how to cook them. There are many ways to prepare crabs like crab cakes either broiled or fried, crab imperial, crab soup, etc. but the most popular in Baltimore is still steamed crabs. The crabs are simply steamed with water, vinegar, and popular Old Bay seasoning (which you can find everywhere in Baltimore). The blue crabs turn red when they are ready.
Then comes the challenge of eating the crabs-it's not that easy. Many who visit Baltimore can be intimidated at the prospect of tackling a pile of hard crabs. You just have to take advantage of the crab anatomy and use the right tools.
The first step is usually to remove all the legs and claws. The meat in the claws is very good and can be accessed with a wooden mallet usually supplied with the crabs. Just hit the crab legs to split them open. Then the crab meat can be easily removed in one delicous chunk.
  There are many aspects of Baltimore that any visitor can enjoy. One special aspect to enjoy are the delicious blue crabs.   -Carol Koh