Sunday, May 26, 2013

Pacific Heights Crab Shack

I have been craving crab for the last three months.  Crab dipped in warm garlic butter....yum...  The last time we had crab was four years ago, fresh off the dock in Tofino, BC.  We cooked it up in our beachside cabin.  It was divine.  So you can see, not just any crab would do.

Then recently a new friend/neighbour had been posting on Facebook about the fish and crab her husband had been catching locally.  I remembered back to last summer when we saw guys plucking crab out of the ocean at Centennial Beach - maybe it was possible for us to do it too.  Serendipity brought it all together when the local homeschooling community posted about the lowest tides of the year happening Sunday at 2pm.  Perfect.

I bought an ocean fishing license online and read all the rules of crabbing.  We were only allowed to bring home 4 crab per license.  They had to be male and over 6.5 inches wide across the back shell.  My friend's husband told us all about baiting crab traps and nets and stuff, but we are ghetto fishermen so we brought BBQ tongs and a bucket.

We hit the somewhat rainy beach today with our 'gear' and a few friends who wanted to witness the craziness we had got ourselves into.  There was a big hike out to the ocean.  The tide had gone out REALLY far.  Once we hit the ocean we saw a few other guys with nets so we knew we were on the right track.  We went in up to our knees and wandered the shoreline.  It didn't take long until we found our first one.

Sadly, he was only 6 inches across and he had to go back. 

Our second one was huge!  The biggest one of the day.  He sure was feisty.  We had to watch Annie's nose.  She really wanted to protect us from the scary beast.

We started a crab fight.

It was great fun.  We caught three.  A kind fellow fisherman who had reached his limit gave us two - one of which was a tad too small, but we were only allowed to take four anyway.

photo care of Angela D'Eon 2013

We were just blown away at how easy it was.  No special gear was needed.  You can see our bucket and tongs above.  Yes, a net would have been nice, but we did great without it.  We caught our own dinner!  Can you believe it?  I am still in shock.  Pluck some crabs out of the ocean.  Done.

Here is our final catch...

And then it was time for cooking...

And fifteen minutes later....done!

I think the hardest part is taking out all the sweet meat.  Luckily I have a husband that doesn't mind getting his hands dirty.

This is what two crabs worth of meat looks like.

Sorry there aren't any more photos of food.  We dipped it in garlic butter and ate it.  The end.

But we couldn't eat it all.  And there is two more crabs left!  Tomorrow there will be crab cakes and the day after that there will be grilled cheese sandwiches with crab.  Oh my.  Yes.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Respect Your Elders

Even though we are on our way out of cold season, it is time to start planning for the next bout of illness. One of my favourite cold remedies is Elder.  Elderflowers and elderberries can be used in teas, tinctures, honeys, and syrups.  Right now is the perfect time to gather the flowers.  You probably have seen them all around you and never knew what they were.  Tiny white blossom bursts in a cone-shaped formation on large bushy trees.  They seem to line the highways and roadways.  They are sun seekers - you will not find them deep in the forest. They always seem to pop out the same time as the cherry blossoms, but don't get the same fanfare, except from me.  I get so excited when I see the first cones.  It is time to make medicine!

Do you see the white cones above?  Here is a close-up:

Snip off the blossoms, just below the cone.  You don't need the leaves.  Fill a jar:

Bring it home and admire the loveliness while you decide how you want to proceed...

I have made honeys, tinctures, teas and syrups.  They all are great in their own ways.  Honeys and syrups are sweet and therefore are easy for kids to take.  Dried blossoms for teas are nice to have on hand for when you want something warm.  Tinctures are quick and simple for adults in need of a remedy. But liqueurs are the nicest way to take your medicine.  I have found that when I am feeling run down and need something special to lift my spirits and my immune system, there is nothing like a small cup of elderberry/elderflower liqueur on ice to warm your insides and banish the bugs.

The process for tinctures and liqueurs starts out the same.  Fill a jar with blossoms (or berries), and cover with vodka.  Any vodka will do.  Let it sit for 6 weeks to allow the alcohol time to draw out the medicinal properties.  Shake jar every week to ensure that all surfaces have been touched.  After the six weeks (or longer) strain out the blossoms and squeeze out any excess liquid.  You now have a tincture. If you want to make a liqueur you can add sugar or honey.  Honey adds additional medicinal properties - local honey is even better!

I happened to have some berries left from last summer hanging out in my freezer.  You see, the easiest way to remove the berries from the toxic stems is to freeze them in a bag and then smash the bag around and the berries release from the stems.  

These are blue and black elderberries.  The blossoms shown above produce a red berry.  The red berries are not as sweet and palatable as the black and blue - but the blossoms are just fine for this project.  I want to let as many flowers turn to black and blue berries - I can't waste my secret stash!

I followed the same process with the berries - covered them with vodka (supervised by Chief of Quality Control - Mr. Simon).

Now all three jars are ready to be tucked into a cool dark cabinet for the next two months.  The berries seemed to have settled, didn't they?

Try your hand at other liqueurs...blackberry is another favourite around here!

Also....Happy May Day!  My little helper and I had such a great time in the sun, breathing the fresh floral air and snipping the cones.  I think gathering elderflowers is going to be my new May Day tradition.