There isn’t another food I can think of that I enjoy cooking as much as Maine Lobster. I guess it is lucky I live in Maine! Unfortunately, I am in the minority in our house. Having the kids fall in love with lobster is a high priority of mine. I view it as nearly a crime not to enjoy the seafood Maine is so well known for.
So in order to get the maniacs on the same page with me I need to get them involved in the process and show them all the great things that can be done with Maine Lobster. In this post I will go through where I source the lobsters, how I cook them, how I preserve them, and how I like to eat them. Since we will be freezing lobster to preserve I hope to have a number of great lobster recipe in the upcoming months to share.
So the first step in my lobster adventure is to source some great shellfish. To do that I head to the Orono Farmers Market on Saturday morning. When I first started taking in interest in growing my own food, eating locally produced food, and trying to create healthier eating habits this is where I ended up. The Orono Farmers Market was the first market that blew me away with the variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, and other local products that were available. That was six years ago now and feeding the kids (or just kid, at that time) was the catalyst for that journey. All these years later I still maintain a certain loyalty to this market and most of the farmers and fisherman don’t realize the impact they had in changing our families habits. I got excited about local organic produce for the first time at the Snakeroot Organic Farm stand with their variety of vegetables. I had our first pasture raised pork chops from the Tangles Oak Farm stand that showed me the difference between cared for animal meat and industrial produced pork. Honey from the High Lonesome Farm stand, Salami from Smith’s Smokehouse, farm fresh eggs from Maine-ly Poultry, and I had my first carrot that tasted like candy it was so good from Ripley Organic Farm (I have no clue how they can make a carrot taste so good- but they do). And there are many more (you can read about market members on this page).
Of course when I say “get in the car, we are going to the farmers market,” Norah’s eyes immediately light up with the thought of a giant cookie from the Enchanted Kitchen stand. She will even take money from me and stand in line and order herself so she doesn’t have to wait for us to catch up to her. While she is ordering her cookie I am heading to my favorite place the Lobster Shack.
If you have never been inside the Lobster Shack truck and you love local seafood you should definitely make this a priority. Perley and Caty Frazier have been lobstering for over 40 years and sell their catch and a ton of other amazing locally caught seafood from their truck at the Orono, Stonington, and Bar Harbor farmers markets. I would recommend getting their early because I have always seen a line to get into this truck but trust me, it is worth it.
I desperately tried to get Norah to agree to try squid (one of my favorites) but she refused and I let that go as a project for another day. Today we were here for the Maine Lobster. We ordered 15 lbs of hard shell lobsters. The soft shells weren’t in yet and they are a definitely a treat (along with being easier to process) but I love the amount of meat you get from hard shelled lobsters.
When it is your turn to hop into the truck it is similar to winning the lottery as you are presented with an amazing variety of choices.
Lobster for us today and I love buying them from wonderful people that catch the lobsters themselves!
Now we were well supplied with 15 lbs which was 12 actual live lobsters and we were ready to head home and start cooking, freezing, and enjoy our “catch.”
When I purchase a couple soft shell lobsters to cook and eat I usually steam them in some water, beer, lemon wedges, and sea salt but with a large batch of hard shell lobsters that I plan to freeze I will boil them. This way I can get a big pot boiling and throw them in batches and process some while the next batch is cooking.
The only thing going into the pot of boiling water besides the lobsters is 3 large tablespoons of Maine sea salt that I keep pretty much solely for this purpose.
Three lobster in at a time and I put the cover on the pot not completely covering so as to allow steam to escape and to prevent boiling over.
I boil the lobsters for around 15 minutes and then using tongs remove to a large bowl with cold water and ice to cool them down and stop the cooking. The last one of these will not go into an ice bath but directly onto a plate!
Once the lobsters are cool then the work really begins. I have a small hammer I use specially for hard shell lobsters. A little hammer works a lot faster then lobster crackers.
Every bit of these guys are hiding delicious meat and I don’t want to waste any of it.
The tail and claw get all the attention but I love the little legs on hard shelled lobsters.
If you break them in half you can squeeze the meat out of them. I remember as a kid being given a large plate of legs and just chewing on them. In hindsight the adults were probably trying to keep me away from the good stuff while they ate it, but I still will chew on the legs while working away on the rest of the lobster.
As I work I separate the meat into piles on paper towels. When it comes time to refrigerate and freeze I want to have a mix of claw, tail, and knuckle meat in each pack.
First I will store away a couple cups of the cooked lobster meat in the refrigerator to use in lobster rolls, sandwiches, and general refrigerator picking over the next few days. I put a piece of paper towel over the meat under the tupperware cover to soak up moisture.
Next I get to work freezing the lobster meat. I use my vacuum sealer and seal up cup and a half sized portions. These will get thawed and be thrown into things like my Christmas Eve Seafood Chowder over the course of the next half year. I do think you lose some flavor and texture in freezing cooked lobster meat so this won’t go into lobster rolls or things like that. I will use it in casseroles like my Lobster Tuna Casserole recipe.
In doing some research I came across the lobsterfrommaine.com website that recommended blanching lobsters and freezing them whole. I used my second to last guy to try this method. I blanched for 60 seconds and removed to ice bath, then doubled freezer bagged him and put him in my chest freezer. I will report back how this goes but I already have a feeling this will be far superior to just freezing the cooked meat (read their step-by-step directions here).
With one whole blanched lobster and around 7.5 cups of cooked meat in the freezer, and another few in the refrigerator my work was almost done. In reality it could have been more but I use a pretty strict method of one piece for the pile and one piece for my mouth processing method.
I can’t in good conscious let the empty shells go to waste. I also do not have the motivation to tackle another project this afternoon so I load up the empty shells into freezers bags, remove as much air as possible and toss them into the freezer. I will use them to make a lobster stock for chowders and maybe something pretty cool I haven’t even thought of yet.
The work is done and #12 is all mine. In the end the best way to eat lobster is to just cook it and dive in. A freshly cooked lobster is a wonderful thing. A little butter is okay but not necessary in my opinion.
Despite my efforts to include Em and the maniacs they are really not into tearing apart lobster. They are good sports and all try it. I see that as progress and I have plenty of time to bring them around to the amazing world of Maine Lobster!
- 1 live Maine Lobster 1.25 lbs
- 3 tablespoons sea salt
- butter – optional
- Boil a large pot of water and add sea salt.
- Place lobster into pot and cover loosely to allow steam to escape.
- Boil 12-15 minutes until done.
- Allow to rest 5 minutes to cool.
- Crack open and enjoy with butter if desired!