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Crabbing on the Eastern Shore

The Blue Crab makes its home here in the Chesapeake Bay — and aren’t we glad! The Bay is the main spawning grounds for these delicious crustaceans and we consume somewhere along the lines of 40 + million pounds a year out of the Bay!!! Blue Crabs go through three major cycles in their growth : peeler, soft-shell and hard shell and we harvest them at all three times. When we say harvest we mean one of two things: either we are bringing in crab traps or, just like when we were kids, we are spending the day on the dock, chicken leg tied to some line, and netting a couple dozen crabs while soaking in the sun. Because we are the home of vast stretches of estuary and wetlands, it is easy for us to get peelers and soft shells.

PEELERS: Just before shedding the crab is called a “peeler”.

SOFT SHELLS: Just after the crab sheds and for only a few hours it is a “soft shell” and is eaten shell and all. YUM!

HARD SHELLS: After shedding, “hard shell” blue crabs are the bounty of the Bay. We sprinkle them with McCorrmick’s famous “Old Bay” spice and steam them in beer, we pick them, we devil them and we make crab cakes. Some fancier folks even stuff their flounder with crab imperial.

Here are a few favorite shore recipes:

Tidewater Crab Cakes
1lb. crabmeat
2tsp Old Bay
¾ tsp salt
1tbsp mayonnaise
1tbsp Worcestershire
1tbsp chopped parsley
1 egg, beaten2 slices bread, crusts removed, soaked in milk
Mix ingredients and shape into cakes. Place on plate and put into refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes to “set-up”. Fry quickly in 1/8 an inch of bacon grease or shortening until brown on both sides. Serves 4.

Soft Shell Crab
12 soft shell blue crabs, medium sized
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup of milk
2 tsp salt
¾ cup of flour
¾ cup of dry bread crumbs
Dress live crabs by cutting off the face just back of the eyes. Remove the apron; remove the spongy parts. Rinse in cold water; drain. If crabs are already cleaned and frozen, thaw. Combine eggs, milk, and salt. Combine flour and crumbs. Dip crabs in egg mixture and roll in flour and crumb mixture. Place crabs in heavy frying pan which contains 1/8 an inch of shortening, hot but not smoking. Fry at moderate heat. When crabs are brown on one side, turn carefully and brown on other side. Cooking time is approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Drain on absorbent paper. Serves 6.



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