When the phone rings at any of Seaview’s markets, chances are good that the person on the other end of the line has a question about seafood availability, and most of the time they’re asking about blue crabs.
Common to our coastal waters, the blue crabs are a market favorite.
It doesn’t matter whether customers are buying shrimp, fish or if they plan to dine on the lively crustaceans – they will usually peek in the green boxes at the back of the market to see what the crabs are doing.
Parents lift up their small children to see the crabs and a few foolish souls wave their hands over the crabs trying to elicit some response.
The crabs never disappoint. They spring to life, swinging at the movement with claws clacking.
Each of the bins are full of the different sizes of blue crabs: Mixed crabs, Number 1 Jimmies and Jumbo Jimmies.
The mixed crabs are female crabs and small males, while the Number 1 and Jumbo Jimmies are the larger male crabs. (See table below to see the sizes).
A family on vacation from Ohio come in the market to buy crabs for a boil later that evening. “We want crabs, but we’ve never fixed them before,” the man explains.
“But we were told to buy the Number 1 Jimmies, so I guess that’s what we’ll get. I think two dozen will be enough.”
Fishmonger Daniel Suggs dons a pair of heavy gloves and begins putting the crabs in a bag for the customers.
The glistening crabs grab each other, so that Daniel is sometimes able to get a trio of them at a time.
As Daniel places the lively creatures inside the bag, the woman looks worried.
“How do we cook them?” she asks. He tells them how to boil the crabs, emphasizing the fact that the lid to the pot must be securely fastened.
“I’m a little afraid of them,” says the woman, as she hears the crabs hitting the side of the bag with their claws.
Though cooking crabs can seem overwhelming to the uninitiated, the sweet succulent taste of freshly steamed crab is worth the effort.
The fishmonger tells them that he will place a bag of ice on the crabs, which will calm them down significantly.
“When you get ready to cook them, place them in an ice bath in the sink before they go in the pot,” he explains. “This will slow them down and make them easier to handle.”
He assures them that they will do fine.
They pick up some seasoning, pay for their blue crabs and head out the door. “We’ll be back for some more seafood at the end of the week,” they tell him. “We’ll let you know how it went.”
Another customer comes in and wants a dozen crabs, but seems bewildered when they learn Seaview sells their crabs by the pound, not the dozen.
“Why do you sell them by the pound?” they ask.
The fishmonger explains that when you buy the crab by the pound, you are getting exactly what you paid for because all crabs are not created equal. It’s a tough concept for some people to grasp as they are used to only buying crabs by the dozen.
Nathan King, co-owner of Seaview Crab Company, says selling crabs by the pound is a more equitable approach.
“Crabs are different weights, so there are smaller dozens,” he explained. “Also, crabs tend to drop claws and some people don’t mind eating ‘buffaloes’ while other people only want crabs with two claws. Overall, selling by the pound is more fair.”
Buffalo crabs – also called doorknobs- are blue crabs missing claws or legs. Some customers don’t mind clawless crabs because they concentrate their efforts on other parts of the crab.
“I know a lot of people don’t like to eat the females because they are smaller but I think they are missing out on a lot of good, fatty meat,” one customer says. “I always buy the mixed crabs, but prefer it if I can get only females.”
Whatever your preference in crab eating, Seaview Crab Company hopes you’ll come in and buy some North Carolina blue crabs.
Catch you next time.