Preserving fresh shellfish

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Preserving fresh shellfish

Postby Jenise » Sat Jun 10, 2006 5:40 pm

Last summer I had a rather large party to which someone brought a gentleman who lives in our neighborhood named Walter. I was warned ahead of time that Walter was "different but harmless". So I was wary, but honestly I didn't see "different", I saw a well-dressed, good-looking gentleman who was a totally normal and charming, and in fact an extraordinarily helpful guest.

Then he and I had this conversation:

Walter: I want you save me all your wine corks.
Me: Okay.
Walter: No, I really mean it, I am collecting corks.
Me (thinking he's going to make Christmas wreaths or something): Sure. What are you planning to do with them?
Walter: I'm going to build a raft.

They were right: Walter WAS different.

I did not see or hear from or about Walter again, that is until last Sunday morning when the doorbell rang and there was Walter wanting the corks I had not saved for him. He said he also had something else he wanted to talk to us about, could he come in. Oh no, I thought, "Jehovahs Witness! Amway!" But I smiled and invited him in anyway. Neither was right. Instead, it seems that he's rather hyperactive (that's why he was so helpful last summer), and has decided that to fill his days he's going to start a flower business. This is 'filling' because he has to drive to Portland to get the flowers. While there a few weeks ago he ran into a guy with a commercial crabbing boat who needed crew, so he volunteered. Now he plans to extend his trips to Portland by two days, which is enough time to crew the crab boat, and returning with both flowers and crab. These are jumbo Dungeness with 8-10 inch carapaces (where 6" min is legal), says Walter. So if I would give him a mere $120 and an empty cooler with my name on it, he would bring me a dozen. I love fresh crab, and this was so much better than an Amway pitch, and $10 each is almost free, so I said Heck Yes. And then I forgot all about it.

But Bob didn't, which I found out when I tried to tell him just now that we were going to the Pickford tonight with Mark and Sue to see the PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION movie. We can't go anywhere because in 6-8 hours a crazy person is going to show up on my doorstep with 12 enormous crustaceans.

I THINK.

Presuming they show up, what am I going to do with all those? It'll be 9:00 or 10:00 before we get them cleaned and cooked. We'll eat one or two for dinner, and then must deal with the rest tomorrow. Clearly we'll spend the morning picking them, but then we have to preserve the crabmeat. Last summer, I froze some crab leftovers in two cup portions in ziplock bags. A few weeks ago I thawed one of them out to make crab and artichoke enchiladas. The enchiladas weren't very good--the concept worked but the crab itself was stringy-textured and had gotten extremely fishy.

So I'm hoping there's a better way to preserve both fresh flavor and texture, but I don't know what it is. Can anyone help?
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Preserving fresh shellfish

Postby Ian Sutton » Sat Jun 10, 2006 6:04 pm

In general - but with no reference to crabs in particular...

a short-term alternative to freezing is marinading fish/meat. If kept airtight and with a suitable marinade / sauce (perhaps just lemon juice and water), meat/fish keeps quite well in the fridge, acquiring the flavours of the marinade - and staying moist and tender. Now time this will keep will vary depending on size/freshness etc., but a week is certainly feasible in general.

regards

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Re: Preserving fresh shellfish

Postby JoePerry » Sat Jun 10, 2006 8:14 pm

Jenise, I assume the crab was cooked that you preserved last year.

Did you freeze it in any liquid or mixture, or just "dry"?
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Re: Preserving fresh shellfish

Postby Jenise » Sat Jun 10, 2006 8:29 pm

Joe, yes it was already cooked and picked--so pure meat. And yes, 'dry', though it was quite moist of course because it was so fresh.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Preserving fresh shellfish

Postby Karen/NoCA » Sat Jun 10, 2006 8:42 pm

Being born and raised near the ocean and having a father-in-law who crabbed all his adult life, I can honestly tell you that frozen crab is awful. Our local fish monger freezes fresh crab and sells it off for fresh. He even does this with whole crab. Awful stuff!
Now if you could figure out how to pasteurize the crab and can it like the Phillips brand that Costco sells, you would have a fine product for future use.
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Re: Preserving fresh shellfish

Postby JoePerry » Sat Jun 10, 2006 10:07 pm

Try making crab cake mixture or bisque to freeze.

I don't freeze crab myself (because I eat it all right away/within a few days), but that's what I'd do!

Best,
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Re: Preserving fresh shellfish

Postby Randy Buckner » Sat Jun 10, 2006 11:38 pm

In water, whole. Carole and I used to crab with our neighbors when we lived in Steilacoom. We would usually come back with 30 crab between all of us. We boiled them as soon as we got home, then we covered them with water, placed whole in plastic containers (you know, the throwaway Tupperware-like stuff). We put two per container, which gave us roughly a pound of meat when cleaned.

They stack nicely in the chest freezer. Take them out when ready to use for cooking, thaw in warm water, clean, and use immediately. It is the best way we have found short of fresh meat.
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Re: Preserving fresh shellfish

Postby ChefCarey » Sun Jun 11, 2006 9:22 am

Two things, jenise. First, I'm surprised your neighborhood has a name. And even more surprised it's named "Walter!"

Secondly, Bucko is close. I assume you don't have a blast freezer or a freezer with a glazer chamber. Safe assumption? Okay, I'll go on then.

While it will never be as good as when it came out of thew water you can freeze crabs to preserve maximum flavor and texture.

Do not freeze them whole! And don't cook them. Remove the shell, guts and gills. Break off the claws. Place claws and bodies in a tough freezer bag with a *little* water - or, if you have an ice-maker that makes small cubes, ice - covering them (as close as you can get to glazing in a home kitchen.) You can reserve the shell if you want it for presentation. Freeze.

Boy, my age is *really* showing. We used to serve a cracked crab, in several restaurants where I was chef, in San Francisco, for about $12.95 and a half for $6.95. They were all well over a pound in those days, too.
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Re: Preserving fresh shellfish

Postby Jenise » Mon Jun 12, 2006 11:52 am

Thanks everybody for your comments (which I read Sunday morning after the crab arrived, and we cooked it--yes, Walter showed up). I'll have to try Randy and Chef Carey's methods next time I have whole crab again--by the time I'd read your responses, all the crab had been been cleaned (as Chef Carey describes), but also cooked.

I now have about two pounds of crab meat. Got to talking with one of the ladies at a party next door yesterday afternoon about it. She hasn't tried it yet, but someone she knows pours fresh cream over the picked crab and freezes it that way. "Comes out as good as when it went in, maybe even better," she said. Chef, ever try this?
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Preserving fresh shellfish

Postby ChefCarey » Mon Jun 12, 2006 12:07 pm

Jenise wrote:Thanks everybody for your comments (which I read Sunday morning after the crab arrived, and we cooked it--yes, Walter showed up). I'll have to try Randy and Chef Carey's methods next time I have whole crab again--by the time I'd read your responses, all the crab had been been cleaned (as Chef Carey describes), but also cooked.

I now have about two pounds of crab meat. Got to talking with one of the ladies at a party next door yesterday afternoon about it. She hasn't tried it yet, but someone she knows pours fresh cream over the picked crab and freezes it that way. "Comes out as good as when it went in, maybe even better," she said. Chef, ever try this?


No, but I'm dubious, having seen all too often the effect freezing has on cream.
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