Monday, March 23, 2009

COLLECTING & PREPARING SNAILS

FINDING YOUR SNAILS
Snails are nocturnal, and like places which are dark and damp.
In spring and autumn they are most active, destructive and edible.
     When it’s dry or cold they seal themselves up, they hibernate in winter, and aestivate in summer. After being closed up for long they have less fat, but are still edible.
     The French used to collect them in autumn, when they have recently gone into hibernation (dormant).  At this time they're still fat.  They are then already naturally purged and safe inside their shells.  This is easiest time to simply collect and cook snails. It is a good shortcut, avoiding the need to fatten them up and dry or purge them.
     To see check if a snail is mature, not growing any more, feel the outer, front edge of the of the shell opening. If it has a hard lip it has finished growing, if it's a bit soft, and less prominent, it is an immature one, leave it to grow up!

BEFORE COOKING THEM
If you collect them while they're active, not hibernating or aestivating, then you need to prepare them.  Provide them with a home like a bucket or washing up bowl for about a week, (see slideshow) where you can give them food and water, exclude soil and grit, and crucially, keep them in. They are good escapologists! An old pair of tights makes a good cover for a bucket. A softwood box is good. It is important to provide plenty of ventilation.
     Feed them with human-friendly vegetarian food for a week or more, to clear out any grit in their guts and fattens them up a bit. Lettuce, onion greens, apples are things they love, stale bread, bran and sunflower seeds are good. If you keep them for more than a week you must give them powdered lime, from a garden centre or builders merchant if you want a sack!

PURGING
Before cooking they are purged, that means no food or water for 48 hours, so their guts empty and their close up in their shells with a membrane protecting them. They are washed thoroughly before this stage, and after.
     Take the snails out carefully from the home they were feeding in to another container like a colander, wash them well, two or three times. Then put them in the purging bucket for 48 hours. you can use the same bucket, but might need help to prevent escapes while you take everything out of the bucket, wash and dry it and just return what you used for their shelter, but no food or water.  Stones or broken flowerpot or crockery or wood will give them something to hold onto. 
    Commercially they just hang them in nets for up to a fortnight.  Make sure they are well secured with the tights or a secure lid which allows air exchange.
   

7 comments:

  1. me too....i caught one this morning trying to sever the stem of a broad bean seedling('tis Spring Down Under) and wished I knew how to eat it instead of wasting it!
    Wish more weeds were available in our area but it's a very harsh environment. Hope to read more of your tales,
    Sue C

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  2. I think it is important to cook them thoroughly at a high temperature due to some issues with parasites. If you do this you should be fine. There are tons of recipes online. Butter and Garlic are usually involved, but I think experimenting would be great...

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  3. Nice, I have been wanting to do this for quite some time. Although I doubt my wife will be very excited about it. I have a huge snail city living in my garden and they always seem to get to my strawberries before I can.

    I've eaten them sauteed in shell with butter and garlic with some fresh chopped parsley to finish. You could probably finish with shredded fresh parmesan as well. Serve with fresh baguette and enjoy!

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  4. Congrats for the blog, nice work. I am on my first attempt on preparing garden snails. Maybe you could enlighten me on this: After the 4th day since the collection I noticed that most of the individuals were trying to hibernate (although the conditions were not extreme) and the high moisture probably prevented them from doing so. Also I found 5-6 individuals dead with their body attached to but out of the shell. Is this normal?

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  5. I always knew you could do this , my sister in law was putting her pests in the bin and now has a bin snail problem! now I can Get them fresh instead of waiting for my folks to bring some back from holidays and help the plants

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