I’ve recently come to realize that being raised in the deep south of Louisiana comes with some important responsibilities and truths to face! Coming up on the list right after “knowing how to fend off a ‘gator,” is “respecting the Louisiana crawfish tradition.”
With crawfish season upon us here in Louisiana, I’ve been reminiscing about my memories revolving around these tasty crustaceans and growing eager to fulfill my Louisiana crawfish responsibility by learning more about its edible traditions. I cherish my experiences of growing up going to backyard crawfish boils and religiously attending the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival each year with family and friends. So, I knew it was time for me dive deeper into the secrets of Louisiana crawfish, find me a nice muddy pond, and cross “crawfishing” off my bucket list! My opportunity came just a few weeks ago when the manager at C&M Crawfish in Vidalia, Louisiana, Dorthy Jones, invited me to go behind the scenes of their crawfish business. Of course, I immediately said YES!!!
What in Tarnation is a Crawfish Anywho? I’m so glad you asked! Imagine taking a lobster, placing it under the shrink ray from “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids”, and zapping it to reduce it about 4 times in size. Apart from their similar appearance and tendencies to taste delicious with a butter sauce, lobsters can only be found in saltwater ecosystems, whereas crawfish can only survive in freshwater ecosystems. More often than not, you can find these crawdads digging holes in the mud after a huge thunderstorm! In fact, the peak of crawfish season spans throughout Louisiana’s rainy season in the spring and summer. This is the perfect time for neighborhood crawfish boils!
The Southern Louisiana , a.k.a. Cajun Country, tradition of a crawfish boil involves just what you think it might: boiling tons and tons of crawfish! And of course you can’t forget to add in the classic spices and seasonings like “C & M Crawfish Seafood Boil” (also fantastic on steak) in the water along with sausage, mushrooms, corn, potatoes, and whatever else your heart (or stomach) may desire. Once everything is well seasoned and boiled, it’s tradition to dump it, pile it, peel it, and eat on top of a newspaper-covered table, where it’s everyone for themselves. You may or may not hear Uncle Boudreaux yell “Laissez les bon temps roulez!”
I’m sure you all are wondering where and how to you find and catch all of these mudbugs in order to sustain the high demand of Cajun crawfish cravings throughout all of Louisiana? Hopefully my experience at C & M Crawfish will give you a better idea of what it’s like to fish for and prepare crawfish.
I started off my day at C & M Crawfish with Lauren Simon, from Lauren Simon Films, where we were greeted like family by Ms. Shannon Melton (owner) and Dorthy (manager) who showed us around the restaurant. Boy did they know their crawfish facts! Dorthy immediately took us over to Mr. Barry Richardson’s property where we were given a tour of pond # 10 out of his 20 separate ponds. Dorthy mentioned to us that out of her six seasons with C & M Crawfish, this would be her first experience crawfishing as well. We all hopped on in the boat, put our fishermen hats on, and began crawfishin’!
Here’s what Mr. Barry taught and showed us about crawfish trapping:
grab the trap out of the water
empty your catch into the bucket
put the new crawfish bait/food into the trap you just picked up
repeat the process as you make your way around the entire pond and finish checking all of your traps
Also remember to:
Monitor the temperature of the pond
Monitor the algae in the pond
After the tour around the crawfish pond, Lauren and I were taken back to C & M facilities and led over to the loading and preparation areas. It was soon explained to us that when the live crawfish arrive to the C&M crawfish loading area they are transferred onto the sorting conveyor belt. Here the workers go through each catch and sort out the live crawfish; removing any blades of grass that may have been in the traps or crawfish that didn’t survive along the way. They do this because if these imperfections get thrown into the boil it could easily alter the taste. For example, the crawfish that are already dead will be mushy and taste rotten after being boiled.
While the sorters were going through the crawfish, other employees were preparing the water to a rapid boil. PHEW! I’m sweat’n just thinking about it!
Next we watched them throw in the crawfish, corn, sausage and potatoes. We were reminded that the most important step after adding the crawfish is adding in C & M’s homemade seasoning. We asked what the secret ingredient was, but unfortunately we were sworn under oath not tell a soul! You’ll just have to try it for yourself.
Peeling and Eating
Warning: content may subjective and may induce a Cajun dispute.
Finally, the moment we had been waiting for all day arrived when the team at C & M asked us to taste test the most recent batch of crawfish after being boiled. But first, we were given a lesson on how to peel the crawdads, which is half about tradition and half about efficiency.
How to peel a crawfish correctly:
Take the crawfish at the natural spot in the middle and break apart the head and body/tail
Peel off the first segment of the shell around the tail
Pinch the end to make the tail-meat pop right out
Optional: put your lips on the opening to the body you originally peeled off
from and draw in the juices!
Note: Loud noises are OK in polite company when sucking crawfish heads.
Special thanks to the C&M Family:
Shannon & Lonnie (Owners since 2012) Dorthy (manager) 6 years Marsha (manager) 2nd season DB is a boiler/supervisor 3rd season Zach is a boiler 4th season Katelin is a front worker 5th season MJ is a front worker 2nd season
Lauren DeWitt (Content Editor) Website