The Crayfish is a thing of beauty, a small freshwater “lobster”. When, in the depths of the Finnish archipelago, I first came across vast piles of bright orange and ruby crayfish piled high on plates on wooden tables, glinting in the midsummer sun – the air mellow with the smell of the all-pervasive Dill that smothered the crayfish and fragranced their cooking broth, I was smitten. Washed down with ice-cold vodka and adorned with a bib to catch the juices we, a little inelegantly, sucked the tender meat our of the shells, the evenings were, quite literally, endless. Sadly, the lovely Finnish crayfish is becoming rarer and rarer and so are increasingly replaced by the larger Signal crayfish from north American and that, indeed, is the only one I source here in England.
For all its voracious takeover, however, the Signal is still a fabulous treat. And that brings me home. Our native White-Clawed Crayfish which inhabits many of our streams and small rivers in under severe threat from these rapacious North American Signals that have entered our waterways and which prey on the smaller, less aggressive, natives. The White Claw is protected and cannot be trapped, the giant American Signals are causing havoc in our waterways but you still need a licence to trap them and even that seems to be discouraged. I know we need to protect our native guys, but still, our rivers are increasingly full of this fabulously tasty treat, they are free, and eating them surely helps to restore the balance? – but still I have to eat imports from Canada. Such a shame.
But this was Midsummer, and I for one, was content to crack open these North American Crayfish and unscrew the Stolichnaya.
If you are lucky enough to have live crayfish you will first need to “purge” them, by putting them in water for at least 12 hours, preferably a day or so. This is best in a bath or paddling pool, with some kind of lid (assuming neither are in use!), but if you use a bucket you must change the water regularly as the easily starve of oxygen, and like all shellfish you must not cook them if they are dead. Cook for about 3-5 minutes in boiling water with salt and copious amounts of fresh dill. (Choose the humane way of killing these that you feel most comfortable with). Leave to cool and then savour!