Catching and Canning Crab on the Oregon Coast

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We had extremely good luck catching crabs in Newport, Oregon, when we were there celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary.  Over the weekend, we pulled in over 30 crabs that we could keep, and of course, many more we could not.  It was very fun and rewarding.

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We cooked the crabs, gave away a lot to friends and family, and I cracked out the remainder.

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Then, I canned it in little 1/2 pint jars, as it was more than we could eat.  I wrote about the exact process here.

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We had a wonderful time, and are feeling very blessed by the crab, but even more so by the 35 years to marriage together.

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How to Buy an Albacore Tuna From the Docks, What to Do With It, and a Trip to Newport, Oregon.

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On Wednesday, we took our nephew, Jake, and our daughters Lovana, Ja’Ana and Patsy down to Newport, Oregon.

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Rob did some surf fishing for perch, but did not catch any.

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The big girls huddled in blankets because it started out foggy.

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The younger kids dug for hours, tried to dam up the little river, and otherwise enjoyed the beach the way kids should.

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We then visited the Mark Hatfield Marine Science Center.  It was awesome, as usual, and we loved the new exhibits.

After that, we went down to the docks.  We looked for signs advertising tuna.  We found a couple of places that had tuna, one for salmon, black cod, and a couple for crab (Dungeness).   We parked and walked down to one that had tuna.

We asked when the fish was caught, and it was very fresh (caught the day before).  He said it had been cooled very quickly after being caught, which is important.  It was $3.45/lb, and you needed to buy the entire fish.  For an additional $4, he would filet it out.    He was very busy, which was a good sign to us, and the people before us bought over $300 worth of tuna (4 big ones), and around $75 worth of crab (4 medium-sized ones).  We were able to see how nice the fish looked, and get our questions answered by watching.  (The other 2 times we have canned tuna, we had our son-in-law get it for us, and it came frozen)  There were people behind us waiting, but by that time, we knew what we wanted.

We asked for a good sized fish  (1), and he gave us a choice from his huge icy bin of tuna.  Ours was a little over 20 lbs. and he quickly cut it into 4 large pieces with no bones.  He gave me the belly fat, too, as I needed it for the best canned tuna.  He gave Rob the carcass, as Rob wants to do some crabbing soon, and will use it for bait.  We put the fish and carcass into a cooler with ice in it.  If you don’t go prepared, your fish will lose quality quickly, and maybe even rot before you get home.  If you buy it on a whim, you need to plan on purchasing an inexpensive cooler and some ice.  The young man had plastic bags for the fish pieces to ride home in.  We popped them right into the cooler, and then kept the fish well-iced all night as we returned home too late to process it that night.

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There was not much waste at all.  The young man was clearly an expert.  Later, at home, Rob cut it into pieces that would fit into the crab trap bait box and froze it.

The next day, I cut pieces that would fit into my 1/2 pint jars that I keep for this purpose.  They are shaped similar to a tuna can you would buy, but are canning jars.  I added a piece of belly fat to each jar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I did do a couple of wide-mouthed pints, too. Then, I put lids and rings on, and carried them out to the pressure cooker on our outdoor porch.  I was able to get 3 layers, separated by racks, in my extra-tall cooker.  It’s designed for layering.  I can get 2 layers of pints in, but these jars are so short I can get more in.  I put about 2 quarts of water in the bottom, fastened the lid on, and brought it up to 11 lbs. of pressure.  It had to stay there for 100 minutes.  Yes, an hour and 40 minutes!

At our house, someone always watches the pressure cooker canner, and we both wanted the job.  Rob had been organizing and cleaning in his shop all day and I’d been canning, and we both had been watching Jake–taking turns.  We were tired.  Rob got the job this time, and I did some other things I needed to do.

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After they were finished, we let the canner sit for about an hour to let the pressure completely go down.  They came out beautifully, and all sealed.  What a rewarding process.

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In case you want to do the math, this kind of tuna is not cheaper than the kind from the store.  We got 2 pints and 22–1/2 pints.  So, it’s around $3/jar.  There is more tuna in there than you get from the little cans at the store and the quality is amazing!  It comes out in a large piece/ or pieces– if I filled in cracks on the sides with pieces once I dropped the large piece of loin in the jar, and is full of the Omega Fatty acids that are so desired, since I put that little piece of belly fat in each jar.  There is no comparison to the store-bought tuna at all.

I use this tuna for sandwich filling, patty melts and could make fish cakes if I wanted to.  I mix in my home-make sweet pickles or relish and some mayo and go from there.  That’s our favorite way to eat tuna.  Our oldest daughter got us started doing this a few years ago.  This is the 3rd time we’ve canned our own tuna, and we are very pleased with the results.  The people in front of us were going to freeze it– that’s what they always do.  The lady 2 people behind us only wanted a carcass.  She wanted to make soup and go crabbing.  I believe that young man gave it to her for free.

 

Cooking a Crab

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Last week, Rob caught this crab on his fishing pole.  We couldn’t wait to eat it, but of course, had to cook and clean it first.  Here’s what we did:

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We kept Mr. Crab alive in a bucket and took him back to our campsite where we heated a large pot to boiling on our outside stove.  Rob added 1/4 cup salt to the water.  Some people add spices.  We just use salt.

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You can see that he started turning red immediately.  We brought the pot back to boiling and left him in there for about 20 minutes.  Some sources said to wait until he floated.  Then he was  plunged into ice water, as shown in the top photo.  We used the cooler.

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As you can see, the narrow band on the underside of the crab indicates that he is a male crab.  That piece is lifted up, and peeled back.  The insides follow right along and all of that is removed along with the top shell.  The crab is then broken in half and washed out, removing any remaining insides.

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And there you go!  1 crab, ready to put inside a Ziplock bag and store in the fridge until we are ready to crack it,  which we did the next day.  We laid newspaper out on the picnic table and used forks to crack it out, putting all shells, etc. onto the newspaper.   The crab meat went into a plastic cup.  When we were done, we rolled up the newspaper and burned the shells and paper in the fire and devoured the crab.  It was so good!

Clams

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Last week while we were at Ft. Stevens State Park, we took the girls clamming.  Rob and I had not been clamming for many years, and the girls never had.  We had one clam gun and one shovel.  The clam gun worked the best, but we did get a few with the shovel.  It only took Rob and I a little while to remember what to look for–a little bump on the sand where the clam was getting its air from.  Sometimes, it was a little hole with no bump.

When one of these tell-tale circles was spotted, the person holding the clam gun quickly twisted, pushed and dug down with the plastic tube.  Then, her finger was placed on the hole at the top to create suction, and the tube of sand was pulled up.  When the finger was removed, the sand fell out of the tube.  Hopefully there was a clam inside.  Truthfully, more times than not, it took several digs to get one, and sometimes they escaped.

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Sometimes they didn’t!

We got a total of 39 clams.  We could have had more, but it started pouring rain on our heads, and after all, there was only one clam gun and we had to take turns.  We were so soaked when we finally did stop that we had to go to the laundromat and wash our coats and clothing that afternoon.  We were having that much fun!!!

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We followed the instructions on U-Tube and dipped the clams briefly in boiling water to easily remove the shells.  Then, we (mostly Rob) cleaned them out.  Frankly, we were not great at that.  We ended up with a lot of pieces, not the large, whole clams on the video, but still, we were satisfied.

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The rules said that you had to take them all, broken or not, so we did.  The broken ones were especially sandy.  I washed them many times and finally trimmed off any parts that were so sandy I couldn’t get them clean.  I froze 2/3 of the clam pieces and saved out 1/3 to experiment with.

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I made a gluten-free tempura batter from Bob’s Red Mill 1-1 flour (about 1 cup), 1 egg, some milk and a little seltzer water.  I dipped them, and then fried them in a shallow pan with oil in it.  I could have used more oil, but made do.

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We then sprinkled them with Lowrie’s Seasoning Salt.  They were good, but were on the tough side.  I think I cooked them too long.  I thought I’d make bigger clam strips than what you get in restaurants, but I guess there’s a reason they are small.  I think it takes too long to get the larger amount of tempura to cook all the way through.  I also could have cooked them more quickly if I had owned more oil.  I want to try it again.  I also plan to make clam chowder with some of the frozen ones.

We will go clamming again.  Everyone had a good time.  We now have our shellfish licenses, so can use them all year.  It was very rewarding to catch so many.  The tide was very low, so we will try to find another day with a low tide and try it again the next time we are down at the beach.  We might even want to invest in another clam gun or two.  Then there won’t be so many discussions about whose turn it is……

Dungeness Crab

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Recently, friends gave us some crab they had caught on a recent crabbing expedition.  They shared 4 lovely Dungeness Crabs with us.  What a treat!  Living in the Pacific Northwest provides us with an opportunity to enjoy seafood on a regular basis.  However, to buy crab is quite expensive, so it’s a wonderful gift when someone shares.

IMG_0566We haven’t been crabbing for a while, but enjoy going when we get an opportunity.  Rob likes to use the square cage traps because it’s harder for the crabs to escape.  We do use the round ones as well. The bait we have the most luck with is chicken.  Rob buys the cheapest chicken he can find and puts it into the inner bait box.  If he has time to let it sit out in the hot sun, it works even better.  The crabs seem to love chicken that is starting to turn bad.  He has also used old fish carcasses that are sold for bait, but for us, chicken works the best.

After the traps are baited, they are tied to the railing of the dock and thrown into the water.  They are left down in the water for 15 minutes, if you are crabbing with kids who can’t wait, and much longer if you aren’t.  If you have the location to do it, they can be left in all night long, but we don’t usually do that.  When it’s time to pull them out, the round ones must be pulled quickly or the crabs escape.  The square traps can be pulled a little slower, if need be.

If the crabbing is any good at all, there will be a trap full of little and big crabs.  All of the little ones usually scurry off the dock and back into the water.  The big ones are grabbed, carefully, and measured with a crab measuring stick.  If a crab meets the length criteria, and is a male, it is a keeper and is placed into a bucket, and the trap is re-baited and the process starts again.  Crabbing is usually best when the tide is changing.

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When we are finished for the day, the crabs need to be cooked.  We throw the live crabs into a pot of boiling water that has been salted with rock salt for 20 minutes.   After removing them, they are cleaned, and then put on ice immediately.  Then they are ready for cracking and eating, or sharing.

Cracking takes a while. It took about 1-1/2 hours to crack out 4 crabs, using a fork, and I got about 4 cups of crab meat.   We’ve spent many an afternoon at a picnic table in a campsite, cracking crab as a group when many have been caught, especially if the catch was big!  It’s just too much for any 1 person to do alone.  If a crab had a claw that could not be conquered with a fork, I used a small glass with a super heavy base and smashed it lightly to crack the shell, then picked the meat out.  We ate about 2 cups for dinner, and I froze the rest.  It won’t be as nice after freezing, but I don’t want to waste any.  Crab is rich and we can’t eat huge quantities at one sitting.

The way we enjoy crab the most is in Crab Louis salad.  We make a base of lettuce and greens, and put cheese, hardboiled eggs, tomatoes, or whatever toppings we have on, and then cover it with the cracked crab.  We like Thousand Island dressing with it.  That way we get to experience the flavor and enjoy every succulent bite of our hard-earned crab!

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