In conjunction with National Seafood Month, Maryland officials have declared October “Maryland Seafood Month.”
“Seafood is one of Maryland’s greatest family traditions and part of our identity. Generations of hard-working watermen make their living from the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries and people come from far and wide to enjoy the delicious finfish and shellfish they catch,” said Governor O’Malley. “Purchasing Maryland seafood also stimulates the local economy by supporting local watermen, aqua farmers, processors, and countless others involved with the Maryland seafood industry. Maryland Seafood Month’ is as much a tribute to Maryland’s seafood ‘family’ as it is a celebration of our greatest natural resource.”
Maryland’s blue crabs are at their largest in the fall, after having grown all summer. They also have not shed their shell since late September, which makes them very full and heavy. An abundant supply of large crabs is available at seafood markets at very reasonable prices. The large supply has lowered the price dramatically and consumers should take advantage of prices of the very large crabs now and enjoy hot and spicy Maryland blue crabs on a crisp autumn weekend. Hold a half-time crab feast or tailgate party. Just line your serving area with plastic then cover with newspapers for easy clean-up. Or serve chilled steamed Maryland blue crabs.
Seafood quality and safety has been, and continues to be, another Maryland tradition. Our seafood is monitored by several state agencies, local health departments and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These agencies conduct regular product and plant inspections and water tests ensuring that Maryland seafood is wholesome. In addition, Maryland crab meat undergoes a voluntary quality control and sanitation inspection. Maryland is the only state that has this extra level of inspection for crab meat. Such rigorous standards are another reason that Maryland crab meat is superior to all other crab meat in the world!
Maryland seafood is more than delicious. An excellent source of high quality protein, seafood is easily digested, generally low in fat, sodium and calories and high in important vitamins and minerals. In addition, seafood contains Omega-3 fatty acids, believed to be effective in lowering cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
“Eating Maryland seafood is a delicious part of a healthy diet,” says Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “Maryland blue crabs are at their largest in the fall, after having grown all summer. October also signals the harvest of savory, plump oysters. Our world-famous state fish, striped bass, known locally as rockfish, is also a tasty and popular fall dish.”
When purchasing fish, look for signs of freshness and quality: bright, clear eyes, scales that adhere tightly to the skin, skin that springs back when lightly pressed, bright pink or red gills and a mild sea breeze scent. Crabs and oysters should be purchased live. Crabs should be lively and you should discard any dead crabs before cooking. Oysters purchased in the shell should have tightly-closed shells or should close when touched. Both types of shellfish should be cooked the same day as purchased. Always rinse finfish and shellfish with cold water before cooking. Cooked seafood, as with all cooked food, should not come into contact with or be stored in the same container as raw food. This is to protect from cross-contamination of bacteria that is normally found on raw food products. As with beef, poultry and pork, proper cooking kills bacteria in seafood. Careful clean up of preparation area and utensils is always important with all raw food products.
For tailgating or harvest gatherings, try these easy to transport Maryland crab recipes.
SOUTHWESTERN-STYLE CRAB WRAPS
1/3 cup slightly softened cream cheese
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons mild or medium-hot picante sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped green onions or chives
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
16 ounces picked-over backfin crabmeat
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup very well drained bottled roasted sweet pepper or pimiento, chopped
1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar or jack cheese
4 large (11 inch or similar) flour tortillas
About 8 large lettuce leaves
In a large bowl stir together cream cheese, mayonnaise, picante sauce, green onion, and Worcestershire sauce until well blended. Lightly fold in crab meat. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Dividing the mixture equally, spread it evenly over surface of tortillas. Pat roasted peppers dry with paper towels. Dividing equally, sprinkle them, along with the cheese, evenly over crab mixture. Pat lettuce leaves completely dry on paper towels. Lay lettuce leaves on tortillas, patching and tearing as necessary, to completely cover filling. Press down leaves to compact mixture as much as possible. Fold up one side of tortilla about 1 inch to form a bottom and hold filling.
Then, working from one perpendicular side, roll up tortilla neatly. If desired, cut crosswise across of the tortilla to trim off excess dough and to expose the roll-up filling. Tightly roll up wrap in wax paper, twist the paper ends to prevent unrolling. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Wraps can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated until serving time. Remove from the refrigerator to warm up slightly before serving. Remove paper from around wraps just before serving. Make 4 burrito-size wraps.
Steamed Blue Crabs
½ Cup Seafood Seasoning
½ Cup Salt
3 Cups White Vinegar
3 Cups Beer (or water)
3 Dozen Live (and lively) Maryland Blue Crabs
Mix seasoning, vinegar and beer (or water) well. Put one-half crabs in very large pot with rack and TIGHT fitting lid. **Pour one-half of seasoning mixture over top. Add rest of crabs and remaining liquid. Steam, covered, until crabs turn bright red in color, about 20 to 30 minutes. Serve hot or cold. Make about 6 to 12 servings, depending upon size of crabs and other foods served.
** If two pots are used, layer crabs and measure seasoning mixture accordingly.
source: Maryland Department of Agriculture