|Mug, recipe and soup!|
Have I been doing it wrong all of these years? Can’t be. I’m the soup lady. It’s what you might call “my thing”. Following a pattern set by my father many, many years ago, starting the first weekend after Labor Day till the first warm day of spring, there is a pot of homemade soup going on the stove every Saturday afternoon.
Best soup after a high school football game? Chicken noddle accompanied by a chip steak sandwich, chips and pickles. Something to take the chill off the late afternoon of a brisk October day? How about a hot bowl of baby Lima bean soup? If it’s Saturday, there’s soup to be made! And while everyone in the family has a personal favorite, the recipe that always brings a unanimous rave is one that I copied off of an apron that was hanging on the wall of a crab house in Annapolis Maryland. At the time, I had a job that required me to work a few weekends each summer in this beautiful historic city. My family would often accompany me and during down time we would wander around its' streets, the Naval Academy and the fishing piers along the fabulous Chesapeake Bay.
The scent of seafood, especially the infamous steamed Maryland blue claw crabs, permeate the air and the atmosphere of this bay side town, and it is your nose that finds best places to eat. Such was the case as we were passing by a small wooden shack with an aroma that stopped us in our tracks. Inside were bubbling cauldrons of a soup so laden with wonderful spices that it made your mouth water in anticipation. One styrofoam cup filled, and I was hooked on Maryland crab soup. This concoction is the sea’s version of a good, hearty vegetable soup but instead of beef chunks there is a generous supply of lumped crab meat. The broth, which in many variations is based in a beef stock, is generously seasoned with the infamous Old Bay Crab Seasoning or Maryland’s own, J.O. Seafood seasoning (my personal favorite). With the salt air scent of the Chesapeake Bay coming in the back door, and the pungent aroma of the soup wafting up with the steam, I was in soup heaven. I just had to know how to make is!
I asked the elderly man dipping a very well-worn ladle into the soup, if there was a recipe card available. He grunted something and pointed to the wall behind me where an old, soiled white apron hung. Hand written in red ink, were the ingredients, and not much more in the way of directions. I copied them down on the only thing I could find to write on…a napkin. Ten years later, I still have that well-worn napkin tucked in a cookbook.
And until recently, it was the only version of Maryland Crab soup that I knew. But a few weeks ago, on an autumn weekend getaway with friends, my husband and I strolled into a store in St. Michael’s, Maryland and found a huge mug with the recipe for our favorite soup printed on the side. I picked it up and while reading it said to the sales clerk “I thought I knew how to make this, but I never put cabbage in it like it says here”. A pleasant looking gray hair woman, who looked like she’s made several pots of soup in her life, replied. “Now how can you make Maryland Crab Soup without cabbage?” How? It wasn’t on the apron! As I continued down the list, there were other ingredients I didn't recognize like Kitchen Bouquet and Chesapeake Fire Sauce. “What is Kitchen Bouquet? I've never put it in my pot. And hot sauce, are you kidding me?” The lady took the mug from me and wrapped it in tissue. She knew I was buying it. “Honey, I don’t know what you have been making, but this is the only way to make Maryland Crab soup.”
And WOW! What a difference! So without further ado, below is my new recipe for crab soup. It only cost me $500 for two nights in a beautiful hotel, about $250 for meals at some of St. Michael’s fabulous restaurants and about $120 in gas. But don’t worry; I’m giving it to you for free!
2 quarts and 1 cup of beef broth 3 cups mixed vegetables
1 cup chopped celery 1 tsp Kitchen Bouquet
1 cup chopped onion 3 cloves of minced garlic
1 Tbsp parley leaves 1 lb lump crab meat
1 qt chopped tomatoes 8 tsp of crab seasoning
3 cups of chopped cabbage Add Chesapeake Fire hot sauce to taste (just a few drops)
Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot except the crab meat and seasoning, bring to boil and then simmer for 1.5 hrs. Then add crab meat and seasoning and simmer for another half an hour.
Note: I usually add an additional 1/2 lb of crab claw meat as well because it has a lot of flavor. I put the hot sauce on the table and let the men have at it!
More Important Note: The only other essential item needed with this soup is a loaf of crusty Italian or French bread and a tub of butter! If you don't have this...wait till you do to make the soup.