Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blue Crab Bay Co. Turns 25

In 1985, Blue Crab Bay founder Pamela Barefoot had an inspired vision of wht a business could be. From her seaside farmhouse kitchen she imagined a company that would put the tastes of the Chesapeake region on the map, be a protector of the environment and provide stimulating and fun employment for citizens of her rural community. Surrounding herself with foods from the Chesapeake, a functioning stove, a list of contacts and boatloads of imagination and determination. Barefoot got to work. Sales exploded, awards rained plentiful, and the number of empoyees mounted. Barefoot began distribution of other products, including foods and gift items.
Her first brand, Bue Crab Bay Co., featured original products like seasonings for crab dip and gift packs wrapped in weathered fishnet with seashells. In the late 1980s, on the strength of the addictive "Clam Dip Blend", the customer base escalated geographically and her small company began exhibiting a national trade show. Blue Crab Bay offers an extensive product line of specialty foods and gifts, internationally recognized for their signature blue labeling, handsmoe packaging and unrivaled taste. The handsome packaging even gained the attention of Hollywood set directors. Kitchen cabinets were stocked full in an opening shot of Julia Roberts' film "Sleeping with the Enemy."

When she found her company in financial trouble, Barefoot did not give up. She went into her kitchen and developed her dream product. She spent the early months of 1994 mixing tomato paste, clam juice, horseradish and seafood spices to create Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer. Their best selling Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer won top honors in Outstanding Beverage a prestigious award competition at the International Fancy Food Show in New York.

Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer is a thick and rich blend of clam and tomato juices spiced with Blue Crab Bay Co.'s Chesapeake Bay Style Seagfood Seasoning and freshly grated horseradish. Great alone, as a mixer, or a cooking sauce. Check out our Recipes using Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer as a cooking sauce. A true combination of the flavors of the Chesapeake region!

Sting Ray was featured on Food Network TV's Food Finds. As featured in the NEW YORK TIMES: In a blind taste test of 8 Bloody Mary Mixers, Sting Ray won top honors! "Sting Ray - with an excellent balance of pepper. horseradish and tomato, this delightfully tangy mixer, made with clam juice for a subtly briny hint was the best in the tasting." Florence Fabricant NEW YORK TIMES. Winner of Outstanding Beverage, 1998 International Fancy Food Show! Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer came in NUMBER ONE in the "Great Bloody Outlaw Radio Mary Mix" competition in the category of "Best Seafood Lovers Mary Mix and came in #2 in all around best tasting mary mix.

Over the year's, Blue Crab Bay has won many awards in addtion to the
Gold Trophy for Outstanding Beverage in June 1998 at the International Fancy Food Show
Siver trophy Winner at the International Fancy Food Show for:
Outstanding Appetizer CRAB DIP KIT July 1999
Outstanding PRODUCT LINE June 1998
Outstanding Food Gift Pack SOUPER GIFT PACK June 1998
Outstanding Beverage STING RAY MIXER June 1997
Outstanding Beverage STING RAY MIXER July 1995

Awarad of Excellence for a Regional Product, presented by Julia Child and the American Institute of Wine & Food, Washington, D.C. October 1991.
Hottest National Brand, Virginia Business Magazine 1999
Fantastic 50 Award, Virginia Chamber of Commerce, for recognition as one of Virginia's fastest-growing private companies March 1998

In the shadows of all this success, Blue Crab Bay Co.'s corporate culture continues to demonstrate a strong committment to the environment and its rural Eastern Shore community.

At The Virginia Marketplace we are currently offering Blue Crab Bay Bloody Mary Mixer in Seafood Gift Baskets and in a Bloody Mary Brunch Basket. We also sell all 5 of their seafood soups: New England Clam Chowder, Eastern Shore Clam Chowder, Crab Norfolk Chowder, She Crab Soup and Cream of Crab soup. They are available alone, in samplers, gift boxes, in a nautical gift box, and gift baskets. At The Virginia Marketplace you can also find Blue Crab Bay Clam, Shrimp, and Crab Dip Kits. They are also available in gift baskets, alone, as a sampler, and in gift boxes.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs

There's nothing more "Chesapeake" than the Bay's signature crustacean, the blue crab. Callinectes ("beautiful swimmer") sapidus ("savory"), a member of the swimming crab family, is an aggressive, bottom-dwelling predator and one of the most recognizable species in the Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay, located in Virginia and Maryland, is famous for its blue crabs and they are one of the most important economic items harvested from it.

As both predator and prey, blue crabs are a keystone species in the Chesapeake Bay food web. Blue crabs also make up the most productive commercial and recreational fisheries in the Bay.
*Blue crabs are prey for fish-even other blue crabs! Soft-shelled crabs that have recently molted are especiall vulnerable to predators.
*Predatory fish like striped bass as well as drums, eels, catfish, cownose rays and some sharks, rely on juvenile blue crabs as part of their diet.
*Blue crab larvae are part of the planktonic community and are fed on by filters feeders such as oysters, menhaden bay anchovies and juveniles of other fish speicies.
*Bottom-dwelling blue crabs are among the chief consumers of the benthos. They feed on thin-shelled bivalves, other crustaceans, fish, marine worms, plants, detrius and nearly anything else they can find.
*Blue crabs enhance salt marsh communities by feeding on marsh periwinkles.

Catch restrictions were imposed in 2008 prompted by increasingly urgent warnings from scientists that the bay's crab population was dangerously close to collapse. They estimated that the number had declined by more than 70 percent in the previous 15 years. In the wake of the crisis, the U.S. government in 2008 declared the famed Bay crab fishery a national disaster. Restrictions were aimed at reducing the catch of female crabs by a third, and ensuring that fewer than half of all the bay's crabs would be caught each year. The federal government sought to soften the blow by doling out $15 million each to Virginia and Maryland to help cushion the blow. The states used the funds to hire watermen to rehabilitate oyster reefs and retrieve abandoned crabbing gear, and to buy back licenses in an effort to prevent future overfishing.

In April, 2010, based on the annual winter dredge survey of crabs as they slumber on the bottom of the bay, Maryland and Virginia scientists estimated there to be 658 million crabs, the highest since 1997.

This announcement is the second year of good news from the annual winter survey of crab abundance conducted by Maryland and Virginia scientists. However, it is unlikely to ease catch restrictions. Officials want to avoid a boom and bust in the crabbing industry that occurred in the 1990s.

The governors of the two Bay states jointly announced the happy results, saying that strict, controversial regulations enacted in 2008 are paying off-but that more work remains. State officials said the rapid and remarkable turnaround vindicates their politically difficult decisions two years ago to impose stiff rules that significantly cut harvests of female crabs and shut down Virginia's winter crabbing season for the first time in more than 100 years.

By leaving female crabs alone, Virginia allowed more mothers to spawn, which led ato a baby boom last year- almost a doubling of the number of juveniles born into the population.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Virginia Peanuts Planted in May

Virginia's peanut belt has clearly defined boundaries. Peanut crops demand sandy soil because the ground must be loose enough to allow the pegs to push down a few inches into the dirt. West of Dinwiddie, east of Suffolk and north of the James River, the ground isn't suitable. The peanuts are planted in early May, and about a month later the shin-high, oval-leafed plant blooms. The plant's delicate, yellow flowers send stems, or "pegs," into the soil below. From each of the 40 or so pegs, a peanut grows underground.

Peanut plants are more sensitive than mone might think. They are susceptible to disease and fungus, and the dewy mornings and humid summer days so common in southern Virginia are the perfect petri dish for organisms that can ruin a crop.

Come September, after a few months of meticulous care, the peanuts are harvested. Peanut farmers use a "digger" to do the job. It turns the entire plant - leaves, pegs and peanuts - upside down. Rather than immediately whisking away athe peanuts for processing, howver, farmers do a curious thing: They leave them in the field to dry. The peanuts themselves consist mostly of water, and allowing them to dry in the field for a week reduces the moisture content and gets them ready to be shelled and processed.

Virginia's weather is actually a mixed blessing. While the weather fosters peanut-destroying fungi and bacteria, it is also what makes Virginia peanuts stand out from those - even of the same type - that are cultivated in more southerly locations. They dry naturally for seven days, and Virginia's climate is one of the reasons that our peanuts are some of the best in the world. These peanuts are cured. Down south they have hotter weather, which dries the peanuts out quicky and changes the complex of the oil. Our 60-,70-, 80-degree days cure them a lot slower and keep the good flavor in there.

Once the peanuts have been collected from the field and had their stems removed by a picker, they are inspected by regulators and moved to the tanks, where they await their turn in the adjacent "sheller." For all but in-the-shell peanuts, the hulls ust be removed and the peanuts separated accoding to size. The sheller highly mechanized series of instruments that remove the kernels from their shells in rotating drums. The peanuts pass over a series of screens, computerized air jets and gravity separators an emerge whole, clean and ready to be trucked away.

Because of their large kernels an superior taste, Virginia Peanuts have acquired the reputation of being the "Cadillac" of peanuts. Virginia peanuts are valued by consumers for their large size, for their outstanding flavor and pleasing crunchy texture.

After nearly 170 years, Virginia farmers still grow some of the world's best (and biggest) peanuts, and state processors still put the salty, crunchy morsels on tables across America.