Crabbing – Making Memories

velvetcrab
Velvet Crab

Crabbing is an essential part of childhood. I remember doing it on various childhood holidays. The excitement of dangling a bit of weighted string off a jetty with a lump of pork chop and hauling up monsters (and then watching parents trying to put the in a bucket without losing their fingers) stays with you.

ediblecrab
Brown (or Edible) Crab

We’re a little more sophisticated now and use a crab snare, although there’s a range of equipment you can use (albeit a length of string, pebble with a hole in and a bit of chicken works perfectly well!). A crab snare is small, wire metal box which you put the bait in, and attached to the box are nylon free running snares.

Whether you take the crab back home (or to the campsite) and eat it, or simply set it free, your children will have the experience of being close to nature, being away from tablets and playstations, and… well… being being kids. Crabbing is a ‘quality time’ thing to do.

Your children are unlikely to remember hours on Minecraft, but they will remember catching their first crab. Make a competition out of it. A prize for the first caught, the biggest and the most caught.

There are 65 different species of crab in the seas around the British Isles. The brown and velvet crabs are particularly common (and make a very good meal!). Brown crabs have particularly strong claws used for crushing mussel shells (so be careful… don’t say we didn’t warn you!). The crab you’re most likely to find is the shore crab (and yes they’re edible, with a sweet flavour… very popular in Spain).

Bait

crabnet
Crab Net

Crabs detect things by sense of smell, so the smellier the better. Raw food such as pork, chicken or fish is ideal but do make sure the kids wash their hands before eating ice cream after they’ve been crabbing! Oily fish works well, and a piece of mackerel (or mackerel head) is good to bail cage or net traps (I never did work out how to tie a fish head onto a string). Even better if you leave the bait out for a day or so to get a bit rank and even smellier!

Equipment

Take your pick…

Go Traditional: A simple length of string (or paracord) tied around a rock to weight it down (or use a large fishing weight) and then wrapped around bacon, chicken or pork chop works well. It’s how I used to catch crabs as a kid. The crabs cling on, and you haul them up from a jetty or sea wall hoping they won’t let go (they usually don’t)!

crabbingline
Safety Lines

Safety Rigs: For a couple of pounds, you can buy a hand reel, line, with a weight and netting bag attached to the end. Quite why they’re called safety lines escapes me, but they work well, and I always have two in the boot of the car (no comments please that it’s about time I cleaned the car out).

Crabbing Nets: These are large nets much like a bucket, which you pop bait into, drop to the sea floor, wait and then can scoop up several crabs at a time.

crabcage
My Crab Snare

Crab Snares: Little seen in the UK, but popular in America (and introduced to me by Thomas), the picture is of my very own crab snare. A small, plastic coated wire cage, with free running snares attached. You’ll need to attach your own line (string or paracord is fine) and weight down the cage (pebble or a fishing weight). You can also attach these snare boxes to a fishing rod! Use a decent strength line as weighted down with three crabs, these boxes can get heavy! The secret is to slowly haul (or reel) in the line so the snares draw closed on the crab legs and claws. Be warned, removing the crab from the snare can be an adventure (yes, those claws do nip).

 

Pyramid Star Crab Traps: If you find the idea of dealing with snares and pincers a little scary, why not try a pyramid trap. These are clever pieces of kit where, when lowered to the sea bed, the four sides open up, allowing the crabs to scuttle to the bait. Draw the string up, and the sides close shut! No risk of losing your catch, and once you’ve hauled it up, place it on the ground, lower the cage to the ground and the sides come back open.

 

You may want to put the crabs back, and that’s fine. It’s a matter of choice. Personally, I’d eat them if they’re a reasonable size (whoever said there’s no such thing as a free lunch never tried one of these!).

See our article on Guilt Free Crab Killing.

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Catching Crayfish

northamerican
North American Signal Crayfish

Crayfish are a wonderful delicacy, and in the right locations you can catch 20 to 30 in a couple of hours by simply tossing a trap into water where they’re present. Please be aware that you need a license to capture native white clawed cray fish. In many waterways, an invasive species, North American Signal Crayfish are also present, and these are a pest. They spread a disease which harms native stocks, and damage river banks and eat salmon and trout eggs.

You need three things to catch non-native crayfish in England and Wales:

1. A lawful trap;

2. The landowner’s permission;

3. Consent from the Environment Agency in England or National Resource Wales (this is free). This application form should be used.

whiteclawed
White Clawed Crayfish

Once your application is approved, you will receive identity tags for your traps and a catch return form. Please be aware that if you catch crayfish without consent and using equipment which does not meet the Government requirements you may be prosecuted. If you catch a North American signal crayfish by mistake and throw it back in the water, this in itself could be a criminal offense. The maximum fine is £40,000 and you could face a year in jail.

If you want to catch crayfish in Scotland, contact Marine Scotland on 0300 244 4000. North American signal crayfish are still relatively rare in Scotland, and licenses may be more difficult to obtain than in England. If you’re going to catch them, do it legally. The risk to the environment from breaking the law (and to you personally if prosecuted for unlawful trapping) simply isn’t worth it.

Identifying Species: The colour of white clawed crayfish claws is lighter on the underside than on the top (hence the name) and the claws are smaller relative to the size of its body. The bottom of North American signal crayfish claws are red with a prominent white or bluish patch in the claw joints (and the claws are large!).

Compliant Traps: Crayfish traps must conform to specific criteria. This is to stop other species such as otters from being caught and drowning. Trap entrances must be no more than 95mm wide, be no longer than 600mm, be no wider than 350mm and have mesh no wider than 30mm.

Be cautious of buying collapsible traps online. Some are not UK compliant. We like the Swedish Crayfish Trap, which is! If you want one which collapses for convenient transportation, don’t buy the ‘luxury’ ones online which tend to be too long (over 600mm). Jackal Outdoors sell one which is the right legal length and width.

Baiting Crayfish Traps: Fish heads, cat food or even salami is used. Most crayfish nets have a small zipped or drawstring bag for you to put the bait in. You’d be amazed at how many you can catch in some waterways, with 80 being caught by one friend in an afternoon.

Placing Traps: In the South of England, crayfish have spread all over the river system. You’ll find it easier to get a license in the south than in the north or Scotland. Place the baited trap in the water course (some take a can of cat food, drill holes in it and use that as the bait. Weight it down with a couple of stones inside to stop it floating away. Tie a length of paracord to the net and stake the other end down firmly on the river bank. It really isn’t harder than that. Come back and check in a few hours. Make sure you wash and disinfect the trap thoroughly to stop the risk of transferring crayfish diseases to other water courses.

Preparing Crayfish: Boil them, skewer them and cook over a campfire, or put straight onto a barbecue. Mr Mears shows you how to humanely despatch them in the video below. You’ve done the difficult part… you’ve got your license, get permission from the land owner, bought a suitable trap, waited patiently… was it worth the effort? For a bucket full of baby lobster… HELL YES!

 

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Campfire Baked Bananas

bakedbanana1One of camping’s easiest and tastiest deserts.

Baked bananas.

Directions:

  • leave the bananas in their skin, but slice down one side;
  • wrap bananas individually in tinfoil;
  • place the wrapped bananas on the grey coals around the fire (not directly on the flames);
  • bake for ten minutes.

Want to make them even nicer?

Chocolate baked bananas

chocolatebakedbananaPress a Cadbury’s flake or chocolate buttons onto the banana while it’s still in the skin. Wrap up in tinfoil and cook as above.

Want to make them even nicer?

marshmallowbananaMarshmallow chocolate baked bananas

As before, but add chopped up pieces of marshmallow alongside the flake or (and?) chocolate buttons.

Want to make them even nicer?

…at home, do these in the oven then add ice cream. Just the grown up kids about… add a little slug of rum!

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Midwest Staple the BBQ Pork Steak

If you live in the Midwest United States you do not have to read any further just go ahead and fire up the grill and toss on the pork steaks.  If you have no clue what I am talking about read on and your taste buds will fall in love with you all over again.  For everyone that does not know, pork is one of the best meats to cook on the grill and can be even better if cooked over an open flame.

Boston_buttWhere to buy

Let’s backtrack a little for people that can’t just run down to the local market and pick up a lovely package of these babies. Pork steaks, some times known as pork blade steaks, are cut from the pork shoulder.  If your store doesn’t have these, you’ll have to find yourself a butcher.  Ask for a nice pork butt shoulder roast (this is also known as the Boston Butt) and have the butcher cut it into one inch thick steaks.  My mouth is already watering and we’re not even out of the shop yet.  Now this is not your lean ‘new wave’ healthy steak at all.  The flavour is in the fat!

Decisions, decisions

Now that you have your steaks what to do with them… so many choices.  Do we do a dry rub or wet sauce?  Do we slow smoke them or cook them hot and fast with crispy edges?  (This does not mean BURNED!)  There are so many options.  I think for our first time cooking these babies you should just do a basic hot and fast cook with crispy edges and finish up with some BBQ sauce.  Ooh so good!

Fire up the pit

barbecuepitFor your first time cooking these and to make it a bit easier, let’s cook them on a BBQ pit if you have one. A BBQ pit is a covered barbecue (every truck should have one). With these, you’ll find it easier to regulate the cooking heat compared to an open fire.  Start up your barbecue like you normally would to make a good hot fire.  I do this by stacking the briquettes in the middle of the pit and giving them a good douse of lighter fluid.  After a few minutes the coals will start to turn white.  Spread them out so you have a larger hot area to work with.

While the charcoal is getting going and before you spread them out you have time to do the prep work on the steaks.  Now you can get fancy but all you really need to do is rinse the steaks off in cool tap water and season them on both sides with salt and black pepper.  Yep that’s it that is all I use.  Next the sauce!  I prefer using my own but you do not have to and I will be adding my favorite BBQ sauces in the future.  If you do not have one yet any store brand that you like will work.  Pour the sauce into a large enough bowl that you can submerge the steaks into later one at a time.  Now we cook!

porksteakdoneOnce you have your coals spread out and the steaks are ready place them on the grill with about a inch between them.  You should be able to get six to eight on the grill at one time depending on the size of your grill of course.  If the fire flares up give it a little squirt of water to knock it back.  Close the lid and leave it sit for around 10 minutes.  Now I am not going to tell you have to put the crisscross patterns on them to make them look all pretty or anything like that.  Come on now we are here to eat not play checkers.  After around 10 minutes take a look at the steaks and see if they are done on the bottom side.  They should be a nice brown with little charring on the edges.  Time to flip and rotate the steaks if need be to get them all nicely cooked the same.  Close the lid and give them another 10 minutes or so to be cooked until they are done on both sides.  This is pork so I cook it until it is done all the way throw.  Once the steaks are done to your liking it is time for the BBQ sauce.  One at a time remove the steaks and completely submerge them into the sauce and return them to the grill.  Do this until all of them are covered.  Close the lid for about 3 or 4 minutes or until the sauce starts to turn sticky and coats the steaks.  The Meat Is Ready.

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Potless Barbecued Mussels

You may have heard mussels should only be eaten in months with an R in them. That’s a folklore, and actually applies to oysters. That said the saying has some wisdom as it stops harvesting during months when the mussels breed (which helps maintain their stocks) and removes the risk of the mussels being contaminated by algae blooms which can occur in summer months.

Read more

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Meat without a fridge

Wild camping and camping on a site where you’re not using the owner’s fridge or don’t have electronic hookup (and a portable fridge) requires a little creativity when it comes to ensuring meat and fish doesn’t spoil. You can shop each day, but there are alternatives! A little planning gives you more swinging time!

Fresh meat: If you’re camping for a couple of days, take a cool bag stuffed with ice packs and frozen meat to help avoid salmonella. The meat should defrost in the first day, but still remain sufficiently chilled for the second. Keep the bag in shade and don’t leave it open. Also, make sure your food containers aren’t left on the ground. Hand the bag from a tree and make sure food containers are air tight and the bag sealed to prevent insects or larger critters having a banquet at your expense.

If there’s a stream near you, you can use this as an impromptu chiller. Ensure the meat is in a waterproof container – either an air (and water) tight tupperware container or sealable freezer bags. If using freezer bags, tripple bag the meat. Remember the water may contain parasites and bacteria like giardia or be contaminated by agricultural chemicals. Weigh down the container or bags with a smooth stone to stop them floating away. Nature’s natural refrigeration, and good to keep soft drinks, milk, wine and beer chilled too!

There’s no reason why you can’t take home prepared beer can burgers for the first night. These and potato grenades will leave you stuffed!

Something about sausages: You may be a traditional Brit who believes the great British banger is the bees-knees. Bear in mind many of those household favourites may say they contain meat, but gristle and skin is a closer description. Many years ago, I took a call from a factory wanting mincers that could manage “5 tonnes of trotters and snouts a day”. Their sausages are packed with salt and fat for flavour, but don’t provide much in the way of nutrition.

kangarooOur favourite shop bought British bangers to cook on the barbecue are Sainsbury’s pork and sweet chilli sausages. Sharpen a stick, pop the stick straight up the middle, and everyone can cook their own (also a good way to barbecue on a campfire if you forgot the grill). Pre-soaking the sticks in water before using them as skewers helps prevent them from going up in flames. Take long bamboo skewers as an alternative (metal ones can leave you with hot fingers).

The Sainsbury’s sausages have got a little competition now though. We recently discovered kangaroo sausages sold by Iceland. My daughter said they’re the best sausages she’s ever had, and I’d almost agree, but do love a Polish sausage (see the next section). Well worth a try though and fun for the kids to tell their friends they’ve eaten kangaroo. Nice one Skippy!

Cured, pre-cooked or dried sausage: salamis, chorizo, hot dogs, and smoked sausage (for a UK version, think Mattessons). These can be barbecued, added to pasta dishes or stews.

sausagePolish sausage: The increase of available Polish cuisine in supermarkets should be seized upon, as our Polish friends know a thing or two about sausages! Make sure you visit that section in your Tescos or Asda!

I was introduced to Polish sausages in the 1990s while driving from Warsaw to southern Poland to stay with a lovely lady called Agni (met in a forest in Germany) and her circus performer friends. Motor way service stations were somewhat basic in the Soviet era, but they had these wonderful, grilled sausages which were heaven. My first introduction to kielbasa czosnkowa. Wonderful people, wonderful food, and many happy memories.

When you camp, take kabanosy  (a thin, dried sausage) or kiełbaski myśliwska (hunter’s sausage) to snack on, and frankfurters (try serdelki which are giant frankfurters) to barbecue or pan fry. Kielbasa jalowcowa (juniper sausage) is a semi-dried pork sausage made with crushed juniper berries which doesn’t need refrigeration. Kielbasa czosnkowa (a garlic sausage) is lovely with scrambled egg, as a cold cut, used in stews or grilled on your campfire (and is pretty good chopped up in a thai curry). Kielbasa krajana is ideal for grilling on a barbecue or campfire (a double smoked sausage made with chunks of pork rather than ground mince)… thick, juicy and packed with flavour! Kielbasa grillowa is another ideal for cooking on a grill.

Tinned meat: Take your pick, from corned beef (for a wonderful US style corned beef hash) to tinned tuna, salmon, spam… there are plenty of choices. That said, I prefer to eat something a little more tasty, and the line “You can eat it, but it takes like…” springs to mind (courtesy of Crocodile Dundee).

Hunting, foraging and fishing: Coming soon!

We may be adding a section from the Roadkill Chef, if we can convince him to write one! He’s famous for his smoked squirrel.

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