Wednesday, August 26, 2009

End of Summer Beach Treasures


Somehow, I find myself with bowls of shells, stashes of beach junk and pocketfuls of sea glass at the end of every summer (not to mention every beach walk!) Now what to, do to display all of my treasured finds?

A few years ago, while in LaConner, I saw some great outdoor planters using simple white clam shells, mortared on large red-clay pots with gray sand mixed into the grout. Gorgeous and creative way to display our Northwest Butter Clam Shells! So, I thought that there must be a way to show off my shells from Sanibel Island with my collection of seaglass and broken pottery..

So easy to do, and could be a fun project with your kids!

What you will need:
  • Newspapers (for making a mess!)
  • Terracotta Clay Planter
  • Paint - Acrylic used for outside projects would be the best
  • collection of your beach junk
  • sanded grout. Be creative - can be colored!
  • clear spray paint to protect your art
Start by painting the edges of the pot that will not be covered by shells, let dry thoroughly before beginning to apply the grout. Start spreading your grout in one spot on your
planter, carefully pressing and arranging your treasures into the grout. Keep rotating the pot until it is completely covered and you are happy with your creation!

Let dry, and spray carefully with clear coating. Voila' -- you are now a shell artist!




Monday, August 24, 2009

Cooking Rock Crab


My dad is a crab cooking expert, claiming that the best way to cook crab is in clean sea water. I will agree with that - just make sure to clean out the stray floating piece of sea kelp! (Salted water can be substituted, just not quite the same flavor)

Needed:
1. very large deep pot for boiling
2. clean seawater
3. long tongs to drop in the crabs
4. a little bravery!

Fill pot with the sea water and place on the stove to boil. Be aware, due to the amount of water in the pot and the salt, it may take a while for the water to come to a boil.

There are two theories about preparing the crab for cooking; the crab can be cracked in half and cleaned before placing in the pot, or the entire crab can be placed into the pot and then cleaned after it's cooked. Either way will work, it's all in your preference for mess. I prefer cooking the whole crab first.

Carefully place the crabs in the pot using your tongs. I like really really long ones to avoid getting pinched - my dad is much braver than me! After filling the pot with the crabs, place the lid on and turn the heat down, but still boiling. Timer should be set for 20 minutes. When the crabs are done, run continuous cool water on them until they cool down.



Cleaning can be a very messy affair! We usually spread old newspaper on the outside
picnic table, it seems to be the easiest way to make clean-up a breeze. Alex and I have determined that effective crab cracking is all in the tools; GOOD crab crackers, and maybe a small hammer as Rock Crab are just a little harder than a dungeness to break open.

Cleaning:
1. Remove the back first, holding the base of the crab and pulling the shell away from the body
2. Remove the triangular-shaped section on the flip-side of the crab and lift away. Should be then easy to gently remove the gills on either side, and wash away the "crab butter" (kind of gross yellow stuff..). Some crab connoisseurs consider this a delicacy, not me.
3. Break off the legs and the front claws
4. Gently wash the remaining body under cool fresh water
5. Dig in! Use your fingers, crab picks, crab-crackers or whatever you find to break out the crab meat - YUM! Wonderful to dip in melted butter with garlic and lemon, or simply eat right out of the shell.



Here's one of our favorite E-Z appetizers to make! So easy, can be whipped together in about 5 minutes - one of my favorites after fun crabbing afternoons in the San Juan Islands.

Ingredients:
8 oz. softened cream cheese
cocktail sauce
cooked, cracked crab

Spread softened cream cheese on a decorative plate, then layer with cocktail sauce and crab. Serve with your favorite crackers. Guaranteed to be the hit of your next party!

Here's the kid, Alex, relaxing after a hard morning hunting crab and cleaning....


Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Art of Rock Crabbing




Tools Required:
1. Super low tide (-3.1 or better)
2. Beach Shoes or Rubber Boots
3. Sturdy Rake
4. Big, Deep Bucket
5. Gloves (maybe)
6. ATTITUDE!

Rules:
1. Crabs must be 5 1/2
inches across the top of their shell to be legal
2. Must have shellfish license and can only take 6 per person (must also be Crab Season)
3. Leave the girl crabs on the beach (flip them over before putting them in the bucket to make sure)
4. Don't get your fingers anywhere near their strong front claws - OUCH!




Here's Alex, headed out on the hunt for the mighty Rock Crab! Note the determined stride, to find the wily creatures hiding under big leaf seaweed and in hidden holes under big rocks. Rock Crabs are distinctly different than Dungeness, shells are much tougher, brighter red in color and taste (I think) much sweeter than a Dungeness. They are definitely worth the effort!




I am a great bucket holder and picture taker, and perfectly happy to let Dad and Alex rake for the crabs under the bigger rocks, and wade out into the water to find them scuttling along underneath the layers of kelp. They are both wearing boots... my beat-up Keds won't withstand a rock crab pinch!

One of the best side benefits of rock crabbing is getting the chance to see all kinds of other sea life that we normally don't see because it is all covered up by cold, deep Puget Sound water. I found some of the most gorgeous, colorful sea stars that I have ever seen, and again am always amazed at nature's color palette.


Look closely at the photo on the right, for the girl crab hiding underneath the rock near the light purple sea star on the left.





Anemones galore on my mom and dad's beach!

Brilliant oranges and reds - have to be so careful though when shooting the pictures to not touch them, or they quickly shrink out of sight.


Alex and Dad easily found 11 crabs and I actually found 3 all by myself! Lots of girl crabs and crabs missing front claws that we decide to leave on the beach for next year. As you can probably tell from the photo, it is a little tricky to capture one and make sure that it doesn't pinch you. Here's Alex with one large rock crab on his rake before he deposits him in the bucket. We can put quite a few crabs in each bucket, and they usually fight for a while before settling down. So Critical to have a deep bucket to prevent escaping!


Next blog post: Now that you've caught 14 crabs, what do you do with them?

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