A few days ago Jason and I took a motorcycle ride down to the Virginia/North Carolina state line to browse the farm stands and to buy these jimmies (male blue crabs). He had heard from his co-worker, Archie, of a good place to buy live crabs that wasn't too far from where we live. Riding down interstate 168, just before passing into North Carolina, we saw signs for "Live Blue Crabs", "$35 a Bushel". I had no idea how much a bushel was but it sounded like a whole lot of crab for not a whole lot of money.
We pulled the bike up to a large trailer hitch parked on the grass off the side of the road. It looked like one of those rentable U-Haul trailers you attach to the back of your truck when you need to move. Except, this one was gigantic and even air-conditioned! Sitting under a make-shift canopy next to the trailer was a friendly couple ready to sell their goods. Inside the trailer were dozens of bushel baskets filled with crabs. By the time we got there that day the Jumbo blue crabs were already gone but they still had jimmies for $12/dozen and sooks (smaller females) for $6/dozen. We went with a dozen jimmies. The nice crab guy bagged them up for us and we gently squeezed them into the bike's saddle bag for the ride home.
Nice crab guy also told us the best way to eat the crabs was to pull off their top shell and steam (not boil) them. Neither Jason nor I had ever cooked live crab before so when we got home we immediately looked up how to prepare and clean live crabs. It took a lot of elbow grease to pry off those shells (Jason did all the hard work, =]) and some more work to pick out the sweet meat but oh, boy was it worth it! By the end of the meal we were two satisfied crab eaters, covered in shattered shell fragments and sticky with their juices.
After prepping and cleaning the crabs, we simply sprinkled on some Old Bay seasoning and steamed them over a water/vinegar mix. The best method for eating: twist and pull off legs and pinchers from the body, munching on any juicy white meat that comes off with them. Then, you can either crack and feast on the lump claw meat or pick out the rest of the body meat. I like to dip the crab meat in a mix of equal parts salt & pepper with a squeeze of lime juice or you can go traditional with simple melted butter.
Next time, we'll definitely try to get the JUMBO blue crabs.
Before: Bright blue, cleaned & ready to steam.
After: Bright pink and ready to eat!
Note: Nice crab guy on I-168 will be there until mid October, when he packs up the crab business and switches over to leading duck hunts.