One of the best things about being my own boss is that I can make my schedule and so I was free for an amazing tour of the Eastern Shore crabbing company and oyster farm arranged by Kitchen Play and Maryland DNR.
My blog has been playing second fiddle to Fluffed Up Desserts and so I thought this would be a good opportunity to rekindle my love for exploring non-sugary foods.
soft shell crab
After a cold, windy and rainy weekend I was a little nervous that our trip would be rained out but thankfully, while the clouds remained, the rain stayed away for the entire day. There were two carpools arranged, one from DC and another one in Annapolis, I got to meet up with Langston, Sherron and Daphne and spend the ride out getting to know them.
don’t let go, Jack!
The ride out to Cambridge, MD was filled with great conversation and gorgeous views. We arrived at J.M Clayton Crab Co. and launched quickly into learning about Maryland Blue Crabs.
boy crabs (left) have the Washington monument on their underbelly, she crabs (right) have a round imprint on their underbelly
Did you know that October is a great month to buy Maryland crabs? Since the crabs are older and colder they have built up more fat and are more delicious. Squeeze the side of the shell between the claws and if there is give then the crab was a waif. If it doesn’t, you know they were storing away for winter and are full of deliciousness.
10 bushels of crab fit in each of these metal containers and are headed to the steam room.
Also, did you know that you can eat the yellow stuff inside of the crab? We were at a crab fest a few months ago and someone at our table told us that we needed to clean out all of the yellow stuff. Not knowing better we did what the good Samaritan suggested, but never again! The yellow stuff is called Mustard and it is what gives the crab its flavor. The misconception comes about because Lobsters live up to 30 years and have time for to build up toxins that you want to avoid. The crabs just don’t live long enough to build up toxins like that, but still make sure to avoid the lungs!
piles of crabs going into cans to be pasteurized-will be fresh for at 18 months
After we finished learning about crabs we moved into the crab picking portion of the plant. I was shocked by how low tech it was, it was a room filled with women cracking up crabs and dividing the pieces into containers based on what type of meat it was, jumbo lump, claw and backfin. We were given some to taste with just a sprinkling of sort of old bay seasoning and that was the breakfast of champions.
90 year old canning machine applies the lid for the pasteurized cans
When we were learning about the process our tour leader told us that the biggest threat to his company is the issues that they are having with the H-2B visa cap. Six years ago, I was on The Hill and joined a coalition with the staff from Senator Mikulski’s (D-MD) office to get a bill together to extend the cap.
workers days start at 5am and end at 3pm and these ladies work so fast that they are all being paid per pound of crab prepared.
Each year there are a limited number of temporary visas and they are at risk for running out of visas for companies needing workers later in the year. A few attempts have been made to increase the visa cap but none have succeeded. A University of Maryland study has even determined that each H-2B visa job creates 2.54 jobs for US citizens. To learn more about the visa program you can read about the rules and regulation here.
J.M. Clayton ships nationwide (overnight) so you too can enjoy fresh crab meat
After we finished up at JM Clayton, it was time to go to Choptank Oysters. Stay tuned!