CRABS: the most popular of all crustaceans. They are found in great variety, some existing entirely in the sea, others in shallow water, both fresh and salt, and yet others on land. They multiply rapidly and are in season all the year. At the mouth of the Chesapeake, the beach is often covered for miles with a layer of crabs a hundred feet wide, driven ashore by the wind during weather cold enough to partly numb them.
• In this country the type principally consumed is the Blue Crab, but we also en joy, particularly as a garnish, the tiny Oyster-Crab—which makes its home within the oyster shell, but is nevertheless a true crab. The Hermit Crab is another small soft tailed variety which makes its home in univalves or single shells, as the Oyster Crab in bivalves. As food, the two important divisions of Blue Crab existence are into Hard Crabs and Soft Shell Crabs.
Soft Shell Crabs, in season from April or May (according to the season) to October 15, are those which have just cast off their shells. At one stage they are called Shed ders. They come to market packed in seaweed, and should be kept moist, and in such a position that the gills are always wet.
The male crab has a long white narrow tail turned around its under part. The female has a broad, brownish feathery tail. The meat principally eaten is that from the inner top of the back and the claws. The center of the body is filled with the liver, a soft yellow substance which is not generally consumed, but which some people con sider a delicacy, especially when mixed with the eggs or "coral" of the crab.
The crab catch on the Chesapeake and the canning of the meat are thus described: "Each of the boats carries six hundred feet of lines, anchors, buoys, etc. Small
lateral lines are attached to the main line at intervals of eighteen inches. To these the bait is attached—tripe generally being used. At stated periods the boats are visited by a larger one which collects the catch and carries it to the factory. There the crabs are carefully assorted, and any that may have died during the trip are thrown out. Those that pass the inspection are placed in latticed cars, each holding two hundred and fifty dozens. The cars are run into steaming tanks and sixty pounds of steam is in stantly turned on. Each individual crab, with one spasmodic twist, immediately relin quishes all earthly ambitions and dies, that man may profit by his involuntary sacrifice. There is no lingering torture, as in the old-fashioned way of boiling, to cause the meat to become fevered and 'Soggy–Lit leaves the shell as white, sweet and dry as it is possi ble to get it. After the steaming the crabs are passed to the 'strippers.' These, stand ing before the trough of clear, cold water, dexterously remove the top shell, viscera, etc., and after carefully washing each crab pass it to the pickers, who occupy long tables running the length of the house. The meat is here picked out into half-gallon buckets to the tune of 'We'll Put John on the Island!' and Tin Traveling to My Grave,' a hundred colored voices taking up the refrain. Afterwards it is weighed and care fully "examined to see that it is clear of shell—if not up to the standard, it is returned to the picker. From the Weigher it goes to the canning-room, where it is packed in one and two pound cans, and then passed to the process room, sealed and cooked. Every can is afterward examined to see that it is perfect. If found so, it is varnished, wrapped in a handsome label and packed two dozen in a case, ready for market. Thus packed, it will keep.for an almost unlimited time in any climate."