Stone crabs are delicious –no doubt about that but what is really remarkable about this crab is the crab fishing industry itself. In Florida, for nine months of the year, October 15 until May 15, a trap catches the crabs and then one of the crab’s claws is removed. The crabs are then released back into the ocean, alive.
That one claw is a delicacy. And rightfully so, it takes the returned-to-the-ocean-crab 12 to 24 months to re-grow its claw a legal size for harvesting again. Yes you heard me correctly… crabs are just like Wolverine, they can loose a limb and it grows back… bigger –better –faster –stronger.
This makes them a good choice of fully sustainable seafood.
Fishing for crabs this way (one claw at a time) greatly increases their chance of survival and minimizes the impact the fishing industry has on these crustaceans. If both of their claws were removed then they would have limited defense against predators. It would make it much more difficult to find food, considering they use their powerful pincers to crack through oyster shells –their main food source.
Don’t worry about the crab loosing a claw either, these crabs loose their limbs often and easily to escape from the clutches of a predator. When their limb breaks off, they heal themselves quickly with little or no blood loss.
In Florida, it’s illegal to keep a whole stone crab. A minimum size of 2 ¾ inches, measured from the very tip of the pincer to the first joint, is the legal size limit. If both of the black-tipped claws are of legal size then they can be take but it’s not recommended. Lacking two claws severely impacts the crab’s ability for food and their ability to re-grow both of their claws. It is also unlawful to remove any claws from female crabs that have eggs.
Because there is such a huge demand for the claws, much more than the fisherman are able so supply, this is an expensive treat. To purchase claws be sure to measure a pound per person (which is plenty enough due to the richness of the meat).
Stone crabs are to Florida what Blue crabs are to Maryland. They even have the same grading scale; from mediums sized to jumbo to colossal. The price for the claws starts at $22 upwards to $45.00.
Storing your claws for later is also a bit tricky. If you were to freeze a raw claw the meat would stick to the insides of the shell making it impossible to eat. This is the main reason why only cooked claws are sold.
You can freeze your cooked claws for up to six months (if you can wait that long to eat them;)) Previously frozen crab tastes the best when they have been thawed in the refrigerator over night.
If you catch your own, be sure not to place them on ice. Have a cooler with you to keep them cold until you are ready to cook them.
Cooking stone crabs is so much easier than any other crab. You can cook your claws by putting them in boiling water or by steaming them. Boil them for 6-7 minutes or steam them for 8-10 minutes. Run them under cold water immediately to stop the cooking process.
These crab legs are usually served with a mustard sauce.