Spring is upon us. When the weather starts to lose it’s winter chill, New Orleanians gather their families and friends, breakout their boiling pots, and have a crawfish boil. Crawfish boils are as much a sign of spring as seeing flowers starting to bloom.

Crawfish have become synonymous with the Cajun people. Cajuns are French Canadian descents who settled in the Louisiana Swamp area after being forced out of Nova Scotia by British Troops. One legend says that after the Cajuns were exiled, lobsters yearned for the Cajuns so much that they set off cross country to find them.

This journey, over land and sea, was so long and treacherous that the lobsters began to shrink in size. By the time they found the Cajuns in Louisiana, they had shrunk so much that they hardly looked like lobsters anymore. A great festival was held at their arrival, and this smaller lobster was renamed crawfish.

On spring weekends, crawfish boils are held all across Louisiana. When I first moved here, I thought crawfish boils were a thing of the past. Fortunately, I am able to get a good supply of live crawfish from a few different places locally. It has been a joy to share my crawfish boils with my new friends here in Searcy. Here is my recipe so you can boil your own.

Boiled Crawfish

Equipment

A large boiling pot with a strainer. They range in size from 22 quarts to 100 quarts. They come with a burner that gets hooked up to a bottle of propane for heat.

This recipe is based on using a 60 quart boiling pot. Adjust seasonings to the size of your pot.

Ingredients

Sack of Live Crawfish ( 30 to 36 pounds), purged
3 26-ounce Salt Rounds
1 box Zataran’s Crab Boil in Bag
3 cups Zataran’s Liquid Crab Boil
1 cup Zataran’s Dry Crab Boil
3/4 cup Cayenne Pepper
6 Large Lemons, cut in half
6 Yellow Onions, Peeled
6 Heads of Garlic, peeled of outer skin but enough left to keep head in one piece
24 small Red Potatoes
10 Corn Cobettes
4 pounds Smoked Sausage, cut into bite sized pieces

Zataran’s is a New Orleans spice company, whose products I use. You can use whatever brand of seasonings you prefer.

To Purge Crawfish

This is a very important step. If you don’t purge your crawfish, they may still taste like mud. Purging cleans the crawfish inside and out. Pour live crawfish in an ice chest or large metal tub and sprinkle 1/2 round of salt on crawfish. Fill the ice chest with water until the crawfish are covered. Gently stir the crawfish to dilute the salt. Leave the crawfish in water for 10 minutes or so. This will cause the crawfish to purge themselves of mud and other things. Drain the water and purge one more time. After the second purge, rinse the crawfish until the water around them is clear.

To Boil Crawfish

Fill boiling pot halfway with water. You can do multiple batches and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Begin heating covered water to a boil. When the water begins to boil, add seasonings. After the water has been boiling for 5 minutes, add everything except the crawfish. ( If you wish, you can put all of these items in a mesh laundry bag. This way, all of the sides are kept together.) Boil for 10 minutes. Add crawfish and boil for 4 minutes. When done, turn off the heat and allow to soak for 10 to 15 minutes. The longer you allow the crawfish to soak, the spicier they become. Allow the crawfish to drain before dumping them on a newspaper-covered table. Let the Feast begin!

How to peel a Crawfish

Grab the head firmly with one hand and grab the tail with the other. Twist and pull the tail from the head. Suck the head for a little extra flavor (optional). Peel off the first two or three rings. Pinch the end of the tail and pull the meat from the shell.

Next week, I will share with you some recipes to use the leftover crawfish tails from your boil.