Like its crustacean cousins, shrimp and spiny lobsters, the blue crab ranks high on the list of seafood delicacies in Florida.
Although blue crab meat is available year -round in the pasteurized form, live crabs are seasonal and much more plentiful during the warm-water months of the year.
Fresh or pasteurized cooked crab meat is usually available for purchase as lump, flake, or claw meat. Lump meat consists of whole lumps from the large body muscles which operate the swimming legs. Flake meat consists of small pieces of white meat from the body. Claw meat consists of a brownish-tinged meat from the claws.
Blue crabs in seafood markets usually are sold by the dozen. An average blue crab weighs about 1/3 pound, but the edible portion is quite low. An experienced crab picker can produce about 2 1/4 ounces of meat from each pound of live blue crabs. This is just about a 14 percent yield. The actual yield depends on the size of the individual crab and experience of the crab picker.
The consumer is probably better off to purchase the crab meat already prepared unless the picking is incorporated into a "crab boil" or "picnic type" activity. You can estimate a price comparison between fresh andpasteurized meat by studying the following example:
Pay $15 per dozen
1 crab weighs 1/3 pound
1 dozen crabs weigh 4 pounds
A pound of crab meat already prepared and selling for less than $26.78 would be the best buy. If the prepared pound costs more than $26.78, buy the dozen for $15 and pick your own—if your labor is cheap and you have the time.
For basic preparation:
Cook live crabs in boiling, salted water for 12 to 15 minutes. Drain and cool.
1) Remove the claw and set aside for removing the meat later (Figure 1).
2) Hold the crab firmly in one hand with the top shell up. Lift the top shell off with opposite hand (Figure 2).
3) Scrape out the internal organs and cut off the face (Figure 3).
4) Slice off the top of the inner skeleton (beneath the gills) on first one side, then the other, and 5) remove the exposed meat on these slices (Figures 4 and 5).
5) Place thumb over exposed backfin lump meat and carefully cut down and away the legs on both sides (Figure 6).
6) At the back of the crab on each side is the backfin lump of meat. Remove this backfin lump with the point of a knife (Figure 7). Remove the white flake meat from the other pockets with the point of the knife.
7) Hold the claw on a hard surface with its inside portion upward. Score the claw using a crisp blow with the dull edge of a knife blade near the pincers (Figure 8).
8) Break the claw at the point of the score (Figure 9). Use in this form for serving as crab fingers or remove the meat by clasping it with the thumb and fingers of one hand while pulling out the tendon with the fingers of the opposite hand. Crack the section to remove the meat from the remaining section of claw. Pull out the meat with the knife point or small fork.
Blue crab recipes are available online at www.fl-seafood.com through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bureau of Seafood and Aquaculture.