Wednesday, October 21, 2009

See the March 09 archive for details of preparation and recipes

Eat snails now, no trouble. And More TV

Autumn is a good and easy time to gather snails to eat straight away. The French do this traditionally. The snails have grown and fattened up throughout the summer, and are now hibernating. This means they have purged themselves and are dormant, but have not yet lost much weight. All you have to do is find them, and kill them in boiling water soon after gathering. Don’t keep them in a warm damp place first or they might wake up again.
If you’re ready for a snail meal, you can freeze or bottle them after boiling in stock. See the March 09 archive for details of preparation and recipes.

Another TV film crew! This time it’s for S4C, the Welsh channel, and particularly for teenagers. Since I can't speak Welsh I was not allowed to contribute any pearls of wisdom or scraps of knowledge directly to the show. I dread to think what the angle is, but I heard a lot of laughter.
Now I think: What a ridiculous thing to be famous for, eating snails. I can't really understand what’s so strange and fascinating about it. There are far more interesting things in my life.

Autumn 2009

I decided to empty the vivarium of snails for the winter.
I picked out a few of the biggest to keep overwinter, hibernating in a bucket in the shed.
The rest, including some quite small, but mature snails, I cooked in a weed stock. They are in the freezer for future use.
The babies that bred in a bucket I think are too small still to overwinter successfully, but I'm keeping them and we’ll see what happens in the spring.

15.6.9 I meant to cook snails tonight!

I had decided to eat the runts and small but mature snails. I gently felt the lip of each one in the vivarium, any that were soft are still growing, so I left them. There were several which looked quite small, but had a hard lips, indicating maturity. I wouldn’t want to breed from those, so I could either release them to the garden or eat them. Since there are still plenty around the house I decided to eat them and put them in a dry purging bucket to aestivate, which they did. Following my own instructions I washed them before plunging them in boiling water. As I washed them in a colander under the kitchen cold tap, they started emerging from their shells! It’s been very warm weather, so I suppose they were only waiting for a drop a water to get going. You can still kill them like that, but I don’t like the idea and would rather they were dormant, believing they suffer less. So I cleaned the aestivating bucket and put them back in. (we ate pizza instead!) They’re washed now, so in another few days I will kill them in boiling water without further ado. I think 3 days from today will be OK.
Next time I'm going to wash the snails thoroughly before putting them to aestivate, then only clean them up dry by hand, before killing them. When they’ve been killed I throw away that water anyway and then pick them from their shells. After that, I wash them very thoroughly, particularly to remove slime from the foot. I think this might be partly at least the mucus operculum, which when dry is a bit like sellophane. I actually cook them in good stock, with weeds in. and then bake them in the oven with butter sauce. There are others ways to cook them of course. There are a few recipes on this Blog, more ideas from you, dear Reader, will be posted too.

Other snail websites

I found an interesting website, from the US Department of Agriculture. It’s about raising snails commercially for food. It’s also got good information on their biology.

Winter hibernation: they can bury themselves up to a foot deep.

I had previously found a good blog by an American malacologist (snail scientist) called Aydin Örstan. You can see a PDF published by the American Malacological Society, written by him on Rearing Terrestrial Gastropoda. His blogsite goes well beyond snails, and is fascinating and fun:--