Preparing and Eating Landcrabs
It's been quite a while since I've had them. They were a common meal back in the 60's when the area was overun with them and mating season could bring roads covered with them as far as the eye could see in the mornings within a mile near the water. They were a nuisance back then as you found them several miles from shore and they would dig burrows that were about 6 inches wide, easy enough to get a foot into. They had a large, powerful claw that could put a big hurting on someone. It wasn't uncommon to see a dog learning the hard way not to mess with them. Those claws in the upright position were famous for puncturing tires in the days before belted designs if you ran them over.
Preparing them was a chore as I remember because they had to be purged before cooking them. After a night's catch, they'd be penned up and fed bread and cornmeal for about a week. Cooking could be as simple as boiling them in water with a few bay leaves and eating them as is, to the inclusion in a chilipowder like sauce served with rice that you'd have to use a shell cracker or a wooden pestle to break it up. I do remember that they had to be essentially fed to clean them out or the taste would be horrible and at the same time you were getting them well nourished for plenty of meat. Bahamian, Puerto Rican, and other out island recipes varied, but cleaning them out was pretty much the same, but other things like rice would be fed to them. Some did a water change during the cooking I've read that helped diminished the bad taste of unpurged crabs. The specialized tool to catch them was a straighened and hooked shirt hanger either as is or lashed to a piece of broomstick. These were big rascals with a carapace alone over 6" not counting the legs or claws. One of the claws could be as big as the crab's body that they would raise in defense when cornered....and a convenient point to hook and drop into a burlap bag or trash can that accompanied the hunt.
Their numbers are very low now and the state has placed guidlines about harvesting and can either be caught by hand or net. Most folks here have never even seen them and it's rare or outright improbable to see them miles away from the water as it once was common. They're much a memory now. I'm curious if any of you have eaten them, prepared them, or remember the hoardes of crabs that would roam around september/october towards the water here in Fl. I understand that on the west coast, there's still some areas with good numbers as well as some areas on the east a bit higher up the gold coast.