Sunday, August 3, 2014

Crabbin' in Virginia Beach

Last year when we were in Virginia Beach we went crabbing. We were so successful we spent a whole evening cracking and eating our bounty.

You can find out an enormous amount of information on crabbing in Virginia Beach from the VB Guide: From late spring until early winter, the succulent blue crab abounds in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. All along Rudee Inlet and Linkhorn Bay, you will see clusters of people standing on the banks, dangling strings in the water. Although this method of catching crabs may seem primitive, it is highly effective. A mature blue crab is usually between five and seven inches wide, across the back from “point to point”. The back of the blue crab is olive green, but their undersides and legs are white. Their claws have a blue-ish color, hence their name. One way you can tell a male blue crab from a female is by the tips of their claws. A female looks as if she has just returned from having a manicure- her claws are tipped in red. Many people assume that crabs are always red, but actually they become bright red-orange only when they are cooked. A male crab is called a “Jimmy”. In addition to his plainer claws, you will notice that he has a small “apron” on this underside. A “Sally”, or she-crab, has a larger apron. If her apron is rounded and covered with an orange, spongy substance, she is known as a “sookie”, or egg carrying female. If you catch a sookie, you must return her to the water.

Crabbing is a major industry for the Chesapeake Bay and the Eastern Shore. Commercial crabbers usually trap their crabs in “crab pots”, although some set long baited lines along rivers. In winter, when crabs are dormant, boats dredge the bay. In the late spring, Watermen traditionally bait their pots by using a Jimmy as a male siren to attract the innocent Sallies.

Although crabbing for a living is a hard life, catching enough crabs for dinner is fun and easy. Crabs will eat almost anything. Watermen say they prefer eel, but weekenders usually save chicken necks or hunks of “trash fish” for them. Tie the meat to a piece of twine, and throw it into the water. (You may need to weight it down with a spare key or fishing weight.) Wait about 5 minutes, then slowly put it in. Crabs are greedy and this is often their downfall. A crab will usually hold onto the line as you gently lift it up. Bringing them in is not difficult, but don’t try to grab the crab or remove it from the line! Crabs will protect themselves! Carefully retrieve the crab with a net and then flip it into a cool container. Do not kill the crabs you catch. They must be alive when you begin cooking them. Just keep them cool until you are ready to begin dinner.

Crabbing is permitted in Virginia Beach without a license, but there are certain regulations. Crabs must be a minimum of five inches wide from point to point, and all egg-carrying females must be thrown back. You may catch only one bushel a day. Most crabs you catch will probably have hard shells, but you may come across a soft-shelled crab. When a crab has grown too large for its shell, it will molt or discard the shell. The remaining skin hardens in a short number of days to form another hard shell. But in the meantime, it is very vulnerable and is referred to as a “soft-shelled” crab. Watermen and crabbers can tell when a crab is going to shed its shell. Some companies sort out the crabs and hold the shedders until the day they molt. On that day, the tender soft-shelled crabs are sent, still alive, to the market. But because soft-shelled crabs can remain soft for such a short time, many are now frozen and then distributed. Soft-shelled crabs are prized as delicacies. They are best when small, lightly floured and sautéed in butter. However, most local restaurants serve large ones, battered and fried. You eat the whole crab-claws, skin and all-sometimes in a sandwich. Many watermen augment their incomes by selling fresh crabmeat. Commercial firms also cook and pick the meat and then pack it in cans, often pasteurizing it. Undoubtedly it keeps longer, but the process also tampers with texture and flavor. Really fresh crabmeat is unbelievably sweet and delicate, and it needs very little cooking because crabs must be cooked before the meat can be removed from the shell. Just sauté the crabmeat in butter with a little pepper and lemon. Another favorite is a spicy, steamed crab dish. Add some seafood seasoning to a couple of inches of water in a large steamer or pot. Pour in a beer or two and some vinegar. Bring to a boil and dump in live crabs. Cover and steam the crabs until they are bright red-orange. Pick and dip in fresh, melted butter.

Crab Balls
Our Southern Shores Specialties Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes and Crab Balls come from the Chesapeake Bay. A fluffy blend of jumbo lump and backfin crabmeats are combined to impart the sweet flavor of the Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab. Crab meat washed and cooked within an hour of delivery, then handmade and frozen to ensure freshness. Delicious!!

This year we're hoping to try again to collect enough crabs for a crab ball or crab cake feast.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Peachy Summer

Peach Brandy Preserves
In Virginia, peach season typically runs from early June through September. This year, the cold winter means there are fewer early-season varieties available. However, starting in mid-July a great crop of the best tasting varieties is expected. The dry conditions have been perfect for developing a really sweet-tasting peach. The drying-off period really brings out the sugar.

Gift Box Sampler
Graves Mountain Lodge will be celebrating peach season on July 26, 2014 from 10:00 - 4:00. Their 3rd Annual Peach Day Festival will highlight the peach harvest with Peach Ice Cream, Peach Pie, and Fresh Peaches as well as other Graves Mountain Foods.

 Can’t make it to the Peach Day Festival, try some Graves Mountain Peach Preserves or Graves Mountain Peach Brandy Preserves. Also available in Samplers and Gifts Sets.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

July Events at Graves Mountain Lodge

Graves Mountain Lodge, nestled deep in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains north of Charlottesville near Syria, Virginia does not only makes delicious old-fashioned preserves and apple butter, it is also a place to visit for celebrations and music festivals.

Just in the month of July there will be two reasons to visit. Celebrate July 4, 2014 with a Graves Mountain Picnic dinner available to purchase at the Sycamore Picnic Pavilion from 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM. The menu will include Hotdogs, Pork BBQ, Chicken Tenders, Ice Cream, Fried Dill Pickle Chips, Funnel Cake Sticks and more. A sit-down dinner will be served at the Lodge from 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM . The menu will include Fried Rainbow Trout & Spaghetti and much more. The Cody Austin Band will be playing music from 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM at the Sycamore Picnic Pavilion. Stay for fireworks at 9 PM. Pony rides will be available from 4:00 to 8:00.

Later in the month, join them on July 26, 2014 from 10:00 - 4:00 for their 3rd Annual Peach Day Festival. There will be live music by James River Cut Ups from 11:00 to 3:00, craft vendors, hayrides, pony rides, and more. Of course there will be Peach Ice Cream, Peach Pie, Fresh Peaches as well as other Graves Mountain Foods.

If you can't make it to the Peach Day Festival, try some Graves Mountain Peach Preserves. Also available in samplers and gift sets.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Blue Crab Bay Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer is 20 Years Old

Seafood Lover's Gift Basket
Blue Crab Bay Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer is 20 years old! According to the folks at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan , the Bloody Mary began as the “Red Snapper” cocktail in the early 20th century when their bartender, Fernand Petiot, concocted it for one of his vodka-loving clients who asked him to recreate a tomato juice cocktail he’d had in Paris. At that time, the name “Bloody Mary” was deemed too vulgar for the hotel’s elegant King Cole Bar, hence it originally was named the “Red Snapper.”

Blue Crab Bay is all about incorporating the local flavors of the bay into wonderful products. The unique combination of flavors they’ve created for Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer blends clam and tomato juices, spiced with Chesapeake Bay seasoning and freshly grated horseradish, to create a thick, rich, morning jolt of a Bloody Mary. We also recommend it as a cooking sauce, with Recipes for interesting dishes like our favorites Bloody Mary Shrimp and Pasta and Scallops Italian.

Southern Gourmet Treasures
Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer as won gold and silver sofi awards at the Fancy Food shows (National Association for the Specialty Food Trade) for outstanding beverage. Although it might be sound strange at first, clam juice adds a natural earthiness to the usually spice-forward cocktail, and Sting Ray does an incredible job of blending these flavors together.

At the Virginia Marketplace we put Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer in many of our Seafood Gift Baskets:
Seafood Lover's Gift Basket, Bloody Mary Brunch Basket, Party at the Beach, Nutty Seafood Lover and
Many Ocean Bounty! Baskets. Sting Ray is also includes many other Virginia Marketplace Gourmet Gift Baskets such as Southern Gourmet Treasures, Barbecue Time,  Bloody Mary Breakfast, Tasteful Gourmet Treats, Tasteful Gourmet Treats Galore, and  Ready for Spring.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Peanuts and Peanut Butter are Good for Your Diet

April 2 was National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day. Peanuts and peanut butter are good for your health. Research studies suggest peanuts may be good for your heart, and eating them may make it a little easier to lose weight. They're a good source of protein, fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids, niacin, folate and vitamin E. Peanuts and peanut butter also contain resveratrol, which works as an antioxidant.

Peanuts and heart health: Peanuts are heart healthy because they're a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids. Eating peanuts may help lower your total cholesterol. The United States Food and Drug Administration allows the following claim to be placed on the packaging of foods that contain whole or chopped peanuts:Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts such as peanuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.

One and a half ounces of peanuts is equal to about 50 nuts, and would have about 240 calories -- but you can divide that into two different snacks. Or you can use peanuts in your recipes or sprinkle them on a salad.

Peanuts and weight loss: Peanuts are not low in calories because they're energy-dense. But as long as you watch your portions, eating them may help you lose weight. Studies indicate that people who eat nuts, including peanuts, tend to have lower body mass indexes. So how can food that's high in calories help you lose weight? Part of the reason may be that peanuts are high in good fats, protein and fiber, so just a small serving can satisfy your hunger and keep you feeling fuller longer. The key to eating peanuts and losing weight is to watch your serving sizes closely. Next time you get hungry between meals, eat one ounce of peanuts (about 35 individual nuts). That will add about 160 calories to your daily intake, but may tide you over until your next meal and this may help stop you from overeating when that meal is served.

Peanuts and weight gain: It may seem a little odd that the same food can be good for losing and gaining weight. But it's true -- a small amount of peanuts may help curb your appetite, but they provide extra calories and encourage weight gain when eaten in larger amounts. If you want to gain weight, you should do so by increasing your intake of nutritious, energy dense foods, not by eating more junk foods. Since peanuts and peanut butter are higher in calories -- but still nutritious -- they're a good choice for adding extra calories or try a healthier Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Natural Bridge to Become Virginia State Park

Natural Bridge, a 215-foot-high stone bridge once owned by Thomas Jefferson and a centuries-old tourist attraction, has been sold by its private owner, Angelo Puglisi, at a fraction of its value to a conservation group and is destined to become part of Virginia's park system. Once the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund repays the loan it used to pay Puglisi, the attraction will be transferred to Virginia as a state park. Angelo Puglisi donated the 215-foot limestone arch, valued at $21 million, to the newly formed Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund and received conservation tax credits estimated to be worth about $7 million along with $8.6 million in cash for the balance of his Natural Bridge holdings that encompass more than 1,500 mostly forested acres. For Puglisi, entrusting the historic structure to the state offers the assurance that generations to come can stand in awe of Jefferson’s bridge on property surveyed by George Washington and hear the story of the nation’s founding. That could occur as early as 2015.

Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president, bought the property from the British crown and built a log cabin on it. It has since been in private hands. The site was a popular destination for tourists in the 18th and 19th centuries and ranked with Niagara Falls as a must-see attraction. The Bridge is a Virginia Historic Landmark as well as a National Historic Landmark.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

America's First American Holiday

By the Julian calendar, which was in general use in Great Britain and her colonies in the early 18th century, George Washington was born on February 11, 1731/2.March 25th (the Feast of the Incarnation of Christ) had earlier been celebrated as the start of the New Year, but Washington’s contemporaries celebrated that holiday on January 1. On December 31, 1751 Great Britain officially switched from the Julian to the more widely accepted Gregorian Calendar. Switching to the Christian or Gregorian Calendar required the addition of 11 more days to the year 1752, and retroactive redating moved Washington's birthday back to the date of February 22, 1732. February 22 was observed as a federal public holiday until 1971 when President Richard Nixon declared that in order to honor all past presidents, a single holiday to be called Presidents' Day would be observed on the 3rd Monday in February. Due to the legal mechanism that President Nixon used, the name Presidents’ Day never became the permanent name of the holiday, and the day is still properly called George Washington’s Birthday on all official Federal Government calendars and writings.

George Washington was born on his father's Pope Creek tobacco farm on February 22, 1732.
Popes Creek is a 5.3-mile-long tidal tributary of the Potomac River in Westmoreland County,  Virginia. George Washington spent the first 3 formative years of his life on his father’s plantation and would return as an adolescent to visit his older half brother, Augustine, Junior. It was here at Popes Creek that George performed his first survey at 14. In 1779 the home where Washington was born burned. A Memorial House was built near the spot in 1930. Today the National Park Service operates a colonial farm where costumed interpreters recreate the sights, sounds and smells of 18th century plantation life. The George Washington Birthplace National Monument lies along the north side of Popes Creek. George Washington Birthplace National Monument preserves the heart of the Washingtons' lands in America. John Washington, the immigrant, arrived in Westmoreland County in 1657, and settled near Bridges Creek. Generations of Washingtons lived on these lands and established a legacy of public service, leadership, and love of the land. The rich legacy of the Washingtons would culminate with George Washington's achievements as the "Father of Our Country."

When George was 3 1/2,  his father took his family to live at Mount Vernon. The riverside estate of George Washington now includes the Ford Orientation Center and Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center, new facilities with 25 galleries and theaters, more than 700 artifacts, and interactive displays that introduce visitors to the real George Washington. The most famous dentures in the world are on display, along with three life-size models of Washington created from a forensic investigation. The historic area features the restored Mansion, original outbuildings, the tomb where the Washingtons are buried, beautiful gardens, and heritage breed animals who work at a four-acre farm site near the river.
Located 38 miles south of Mount Vernon on the banks of the Rappahannock River opposite Fredericksburg, is Ferry Farm, George Washington's boyhood home. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the land Washington inherited at age 11 and where he lived between the ages of 6 and 20. Washington's Ferry Farm is an active archaeological site and the discovery of the location of the Washington house was announced in 2008. The Visitor Center contains an archaeology lab with displays of fascinating artifacts from the Washington period.
Did you know Washington's Birthday was the first American Holiday?
In 1778, in the midst of the War for Independence, the first public celebration of Washington’s Birthday took place at Valley Forge. A band of fifers and drummers from Proctor’s Artillery serenaded General Washington at his quarters. In 1781 the French at Newport held a parade in Washington’s honor. The French celebrated it on Monday, February 23rd to avoid holding the event on a Sunday. Washington wrote to Count Rochambeau that, “The flattering distinction paid to the anniversary of my birthday is an honor for which I dare not attempt to express my gratitude. I confide in your sensibilities to interpret my feelings for this, and for the obliging manner in which you are pleased to announce it.”