May 08, 2010

Maryland Crab Cakes - The Real Ones

I grew up in Maryland and that means I grew up eating steamed crabs in the summer.  Not the ones steamed or boiled in some flavorless water, but the ones that are steamed with Old Bay Seasoning and maybe a beer thrown in for good measure.  They are best eaten hot from the pot covered with Old Bay and best enjoyed with a cold beer.  Newspaper is spread on a picnic table and a bucket of soapy water is settled nearby for messy hands. Big rolls of paper towels are here and there to wipe fingers before picking up your bottle of beer (these days I go for gluten-free beer).  The best meat is in the body of the crab but kids just learning start with the claws. The body can be picked and pried apart with bare hands and the judicious use of a kitchen knife.  The claws are disassembled with the swift whack of a crab hammer or the handle side of a knife. Oldtimers eat the "mustard" but some of us just prefer the white moist meat.  And we all know to avoid the devil - the gills. Unfortunately, my brother-in-law from Massachusetts found that out the hard way.  There is some etiquette to eating crabs - the leavings are piled somewhat neatly near your spot.  At the end of the feast, if there are any crabs left, you pick the remaining crabs and save the meat for crab cakes and Maryland crab soup. 

There is a lot of debate about the best crab cake recipe.  Some use bread crumbs for filler, but it is not necessary and the cakes taste better without them I think.  When my mother died in 1999, I was lucky to be able to gather several of her oldest recipe collections, handwritten on old plain pages in a book simply entitled "Recipes" or written on index cards with stains from years of use.  I collected all the recipes into a book on my computer and which I printed out for my siblings to have. The recipes are those handed down through several generations, often called things like Grandmother Edwards' Chocolate Cake or Dot's Gingerbread.  Many of them are for baked goods and are decidedly not gluten-free or primal without a lot of manipulating.  In the oldest book, there is a recipe called Maryland Crab Cakes and unlike the many cookie recipes, it is totally primal.  It is on the recipe page, but here's a picture to whet your appetite:
And yes, they are good and they are true Maryland Crab Cakes.  I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.  I paired them with some Bok Choy sauteed in the same pan afterwards, but a good cole slaw would be more authentic and a little yellow mustard on the side is never a bad thing.


  1. Hi there: I came over from the link on Jimmy Moore's blog, just to have a look! I see from your profile that it took you 51 years to learn how to eat. Well,it took me 60 years and like you I'm still learning. It's never too late to change, hey? And I am very glad that I did - I am happier and healthier than I've been in years. All the best to you! I'll be checking in again.

  2. Thanks, Judith. Maybe old dogs can learn new tricks, huh? The best thing I ever did was stumble across the link between migraines and gluten, and the rest is history.

  3. Hey Laurie,

    I have been looking for the perfect Crab Cakes for a long time, and I think that these may be the ones. Can't wait to try these out and love the Bok Choi pairing! Thanks Jo

  4. Let me know what you think!

  5. I grew up in Florida, and have many fond memories of going crabbing and feasting on the bounty. We'd get up early in the morning and head out to one of my grandpa's favorite fishing spots where we'd set up pieces of raw chicken tied to long pieces of twine. We'd lower a few of these into the water til we felt the chicken hit bottom, and wait a while. Then, slowly, slowly as possible, raise the line. The blue crabs in the river would hold on tight to the chicken, munching away with no idea that this was going to be their last meal.

    We'd boil them up with Old Bay, or sometimes just celery salt and beer added to the water, then, just as you described, we'd gather round a newspaper covered table and dig in!

    I'm looking forward to trying your crabcake recipe.

  6. Let me know what you think of them. I love them, but I'm prejudiced!