|Maryland Blue Crab|
The Recipe: To Boil Hard Crabs – from Mrs. Harris
About the Recipe
The classic culinary crab available in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and in other regions along the Eastern Seaboard of the USA is the Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus). Its range extends from the Delaware Bay to Florida. Though indigenous to this particular area, it was introduced abroad to the Eastern Mediterranean and is now common there, as well.
This recipe is way too early in time to use a commercial crab seasoning such as Old Bay. Instead, the crabs are seasoned much more simply in vinegar, salt, and pepper. Old Bay was not offered for sale until 1939 when it was developed by a German immigrant, Gustav Brunn, who came to Maryland when he fled Germany. This recipe for this iconic crab seasoning mix contains mustard, paprika, celery salt, bay leaf, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, mace, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger. This is a classic "kitchen pepper" which includes both savory and sweet spices. These mixtures were designed to be used to flavor savory dishes and were very common for centuries. Without Old Bay, crabs were clearly seasoned in a much less complex way, though good crabmeat hardly needs any seasoning at all!