Friday, September 23, 2016

How to cook Swedish Crayfish

The other day, Gustaf asked me if I would go down to the lake and fish crayfish with him.  When Gustaf was small, we would often go down to a creek near where we lived and catch crayfish.  We only ever caught a few at a time, mainly for the fun of catching them, rather than for the eating.  So, when he asked me this, I had visions of sitting for hours trying to catch some pesky crayfish by hand, and I politely declined the pleasure.

So the next day, I was quite surprised when he went to pick up his haul of crayfish.  He had obviously moved on in terms of technique because he had laid out a crayfish cage.  He caught a bucket worth, 44 to be exact, of which he threw 10 back because they were too small.

When he proudly and happily came home with his bucket of crayfish, Farfar sprang into action.  He showed Gustaf how to flavor the boiling water.  He added salt, tasting periodically until it was sufficiently salty.  Farfar whipped out a bag of frozen home grown crown dill, which is the flower of a fully grown dill plant and is traditionally used to flavor boiling water for seafood in Sweden. He threw in a few sugar cubes and then pronounced it ready.

After the water was brought to boil, we threw in the crayfish.  "All at once," admonished Farfar, annoyed when I tried to stop the action to take a picture, "otherwise the water cools and the last crayfish don't die immediately."  The crayfish are boiled for a few minutes and then set out to cool in the cooking water. Two days later, we sat down to eat perfectly salty, sweet crayfish.

Here's roughly how we did it, with a rough estimation of the measurements of sugar and salt that Farfar threw in:

About 1 kilo freshwater crayfish (about 25 to 35, depending on size)
2 teaspoons sugar
about 3 liters water
about 1.5 dl salt
6 to 8 heads crown dill

Take a large pot that will generously hold the crayfish and fill with water.  Add salt until the water is as salty as sea water.  Add sugar and crown dill.  Bring the water to a boil.  Add the crayfish. Put the lid on.  Boil for about 7 to 8 minutes.  Take off the stove and set aside with the lid on.  Leave it to cool.  Put the pot in the refrigerator and leave to sit, preferably overnight.  It can keep a few days like this in the refrigerator.

To eat a crayfish, take a crayfish in one hand.  With your fingers, pry up the bodyshell where it hits the tail.  It will come off, leaving the tail attached to the body and legs.  Put your mouth on the naked body and suck the juices.  Trust me, it tastes good.  Check the shell to see if there is some good "butter" in there and eat it.  Pull the body off off the tail.  Flip the tail over and break the shell and pull the tail meat out.  Eat it.  This is the best part.  If the claws are large, you can break the shell with your teeth and pull out the meat. Repeat.

Eat the crayfish cold.  The traditional accompaniments are a cold glass of schnapps and hard bread with cheese. Skål!

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