Ah – She-Crab Soup for Glorious Springtime. This soup means it’s springtime in the South. It’s what dreams are made of and what we look forward to year after year. Glorious springtime. With everything going on in the world around us, what could be better than getting lost in fantastic words and images that celebrate our cherished Southern lifestyle. This year is different although the beauty of nature has the ability to renew and refresh our spirits even in difficult times. May your spirits be uplifted as we imagine gathering around this lovely table set in the garden. We can still dream of being with friends and welcoming the season. This could even be a setting for an Easter gathering. I love the green and the idea of sitting close again someday to a precious friend.
I’d like to thank my dear friend, Beth Blalock, for this table design. Her creativity has no boundaries.
Local legend traces the origin of Charleston’s iconic she-crab soup to a presidential dinner served at the home of Mayor Rhett in the early 1900s. Requested to create a special dish for the occasion, Rhett’s butler created a rich sherry-infused soup of freshly harvested crabmeat and cream. Next, he stirred in the roe of the female crabs which added a depth of flavor that easy very much ahead of his time. In Charleston Receipts, the spiral-bound classic published by the Junior League in 1950, Mrs. Henry Church suggests crumbling the yolks of hard-cooked eggs in the bottom of the soup plate as a substitute.
Mother had a dog-eared copy of Charleston Receipts that she kept close by in the kitchen. The pages are stained and tattered with comments by the recipes she loved the best. This is one of those recipes. She also had shoeboxes filled with recipes written on the back of church bulletins, grocery store receipts, bank deposit slips, and little cards. Every one of those recipe cards splattered and yellowed with age is a treasured keepsake that connects me to my mother, grandmother, and cherished friends. They are truly priceless.
Crabbing off the end of this dock was always a sure thing. There were so many crabs in there, we couldn’t catch them fast enough.
There was a time when we would go to the dock on our property with a chicken neck, a bamboo pole and a string to catch our own blue crab. We’d tie the string to the pole, attach the chicken neck to the bottom of the string and wait for a crab to bite. Then we would carefully pull in the crab and put it in a tall bucket we kept beside us. My daughter Elizabeth loved to go crabbing and learned how to pick a crab from the time she was old enough to sit at the table. She and her grandma would sit on the porch, picking blue crab and telling tales. Now it’s one of her favorite memories of growing up in the Lowcountry.
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1-quart whole milk
1 pound fresh crabmeat
1/4 pound crab roe or hard-cooked egg yolkss
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
2 cups half and half
1/2 cup sherry wine
1 tablespoon table salt
garnish with fresh parsley
Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over low; add onion, and saute 3 minutes or until softened. The onion should not be browned, only softened.
In a Double Boiler: Pour water to a depth of the 1 inch in the bottom of a double boiler over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer. Place the remaining 11/2 tablespoons butter in top of the double boiler over simmering water. Cook until melted. Whisk in flour.
In a Dutch oven melt butter over medium heat and whisk in flour.
Stir in onion and milk, stirring constantly until blended. Stir in crabmeat and the roe or yolk. Add pepper and mace, and cook 20 minutes. Stir in the half and half. Remove from heat, and stir in the wine and salt.
CONTEMPLATION by Jonathan Green