Spring Means Crawfish Boils in Louisiana

Why do Louisianans eat these weird looking things?

It isn’t spring in Louisiana without an inaugural crawfish boil. Crawfish (not crayfish) season spans from March to June. Louisiana spring festivities are marked with Crawfish.  I can’t imagine Easter and May graduation parties without it. Farming, however, has extended crawfish season year-round — though locals usually abide by spring boil traditions. 

The worship is almost ritualistic, crossing all cultural and age groups in Louisiana. Many populations claim they were the first for crawfish, and possibly they all were.  Crawfish are an easy, abundant food source in Louisiana.  The alien looking, mudbugs were once viewed as rural cuisine.

There are a few guesses at what turned boiled crawfish into a widespread spring staple. (Other than the fact they are delicious and cheaper than shrimp.)

I have heard folklore that the Depression caused Louisianans to stop turning up their noses at a food source.  I’m not saying people didn’t eat crawfish, I have seen étouffée recipes that go back generations. [For my crawfish étouffée recipe, click here.]  The boiled crawfish Louisianans so revere has only been popular for decades.

Crustacean cuisine continues to evolve, modern chefs serve crawfish pie, crawfish cheesecake and crawfish sushi, to name a few.

How do Louisianans boil these weird looking things?

Ingredients:
– 50 pound sack of crawfish
– 2 bunches of celery coarsely chopped
– 2 bags of onions (3 pounds each) — cut up 1 bag, keep the others whole
– 1 cup of Cayenne Pepper
– 6 garlic bunches, halved (cut horizontally through the toes)
– 6 bags of crawfish boil
– box and a half of salt
– 10 pounds of red potatoes (corn on the cob can be added too)
– 3-5 pounds of sausage, optional

To wash the crawfish, place them in an outside tub and submerge them with fresh water from your hose. Allow them to sit for 5 to 10 minutes.  Flip them over to make sure all of the bait and junk has been cleaned off.  (Heads up, you may get bitten.)
Bring water in large crawfish pot to boil.
Throw it all in!
Once it boils again, cook 12-15 minutes.
Turn it off and let soak in the hot water for 15 minutes.
Dump them out on a table covered with newspaper (per tradition and easy cleanup) and eat!

The proper way to peel crawfish. Photo by Julie Becnel.

 

Seriously, how do Louisianans eat these weird looking things?

– Peeling. The process of peeling a crawfish can be a little overwhelming to boil newbies. I recommend this step-by-step guide provided by Southern Living.

Beware. Don’t eat crawfish with straight tails. It means they were dead before you boiled them.

– If you love something … Set one free! As a kid, I would always pick one lucky crawdad to set free in a ditch before my dad could boil him.

– Our good friend Tony. Many Louisianans sprinkle Tony’s Chachere’s creole seasoning over boiled crawfish.

– Abita Beer. Pair spicy crawfish with cold beer. Ever since Louisiana brewery Abita Beer introduced its seasonal Strawberry Harvest Lager, Abita Strawberry and crawfish have gone together like peas and carrots.

 

This post was originally featured on Caroline’s food blog, The Old Country Blog, see original post

Changing Planet

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Caroline Gerdes recently graduated from Louisiana State University where she studied journalism and history (her major and minor, respectively). As a native of the Greater New Orleans Area, she decided to explore her own backyard with help from a Young Explorers Grant. Caroline is currently conducting an oral history project about the New Orleans Ninth Ward. She seeks to record the community’s full history — its immigrant beginnings, the development of jazz, the depression and prohibition, desegregation and hurricanes. Caroline’s exploration is also a personal quest as her father and paternal grandparents grew up in the Ninth Ward. Her blogs reflect an inside look at New Orleans life and culture, especially the edible aspects.