Crabbing with kids in the Chesapeake Bay nets bushels of fun

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Cooking your family's catch

Once you've hauled your catch in, the traditional Maryland way to cook crabs is by steaming, according to July Colbert, Crofton resident and author of the cookbook "Chesapeake Bay Crabs." She recommends using a three-piece pot, with the liquid (water or beer) in the bottom, the crabs and seasonings in the top pot and a lid that fits securely so the crabs can't climb out. In a pinch, a single pot can be used with aluminum foil wadded up at the bottom to keep the crustaceans out of the liquid.

Crabs are steamed live—never cook dead crabs, Colbert says. Use long-handled tongs to grab them from behind near the swimmer fins to avoid being pinched by the claws. Unlike lobsters, crabs don't "cry" or make noise when they are steamed. She recommends dunking the crabs in ice water or popping them into the refrigerator before putting them in the crab pot. The shock will prevent them from losing their claws in a futile attempt of self-preservation.

Layer the crabs with seafood seasoning in the pot and steam for about 20 minutes. The crabs will be done when their bluish-green shells have turned bright reddish-orange.

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