The word crayfish comes from the French word ‘escrevisse’ which literally means ‘to crawl’, though it has been suggested that it may come from the Anglo Saxon word ‘crevik’ which has the same meaning. Whether you call them crayfish, crawfish, crawdads or mudbugs, they are freshwater crustacean cousins of lobsters. In the wild the are usually found in fresh, unpolluted, shallow, warm water and like to eat decomposing plants as well as, small fish, algae, and insects. Rice farmers in Louisiana noticed that crawfish like to inhabit their rice ponds, as it was the perfect environment for them and since they didn’t negatively impact on the growth of the rice, they found ways to farm crawfish at the same time as rice and double their profit. Today Louisiana supplies 98% of the crayfish harvested in the US, half of which comes from crawfish farms and the other half from fishermen in the Atchafalaya Basin.
Crawfish season in the US runs between March and June, and this Saturday we were invited to a Crawfish Boil at a neighbours house. I think Corby had bought about 80 pounds of live crawfish for the pot, which sounds like a lot for about 20 people, but there wasn’t much left after everyone got stuck in.
Though there is no agreed crawfish boil recipe, they always use live crawfish and some, or all of the following ingredient, potatoes, corn ears, heads of garlic, lemons, mushrooms and Andouille sausage. Andouille is French in origin, and was brought to the US through Louisiana by French immigrants, the Cajuns. Most people will buy ready made crawfish boil seasoning, but it will usually contain some mixture of salt, coriander, allspice, dill, crushed red pepper, bay leaves and cayenne pepper for spiciness.
The herbs and spices are boiled up first, then the vegetables and sausage are added and then last but not least the live crawfish, before the whole lot is drained and tipped onto a newspaper covered table. There’s no real trick to eating crawfish. You just pinch the tail and suck the head, and if you’re not making a terribly disgusting noise, your not doing it right.