Craving for Crayfish
Text Ilkka Sirén |
Yes. It’s that time of the year again. Like every year on 21st of July at noon the crayfishing season starts. And like every year I’m both excited and just a tiny bit scared. All though very delicious the crayfish brings with it a series of long dinner parties where aquavit schnapps flows like water. But we will get back to that in a minute.
The crayfish season is open from 21st of July until the end of October. That’s the only period when you can legally catch crayfish. You can find the little creatures in some rivers and lakes. Like with mushrooms the locations of the best spots to catch crayfish are secrets that people usually keep to themselves. I’m fairly new to crayfishing but already I’m scanning my lake for the best spots and I wont make a big noise if I do find a great location. Why? I’m not sure but I think that’s just the nature of the game. I usually go with a small rowing boat and place the crayfish traps in the afternoon. These small and tasty crustaceans are usually active during the night. So, normally you would go check the traps maybe just before you go to sleep and very early in the morning.
The hard part is catching the crayfish, cooking them is fairly straightforward. You clean them, boil them in hot water with some salt, sugar, dill and a dash of beer. The dill is actually the king of the table. It’s not just used to flavour the broth but people even decorate the table with it for the crayfish dinner parties. And if you have a headache the next morning it’s always the dill’s fault, not the schnapps. The crayfish dinner parties usually start with a soup. In this case my wife’s creamy chanterelle soup with cold-smoked reindeer shavings, chives and black pepper on top. Simply delicious.
To pair with the soup we had Niepoort’s Dócil Riesling 2011. A Mosel-like white wine from the Douro. A fabulous pairing with the soup I must say. Although the wine has more flesh around the bones than its German cousins, the quality for a fresh riesling from Douro is still pretty damn fantastic. One reason for this is the high vineyards at 800+ meters above sea level. Making a wine this fresh with 8% alcohol in Douro is no walk in the park but Niepoort nailed it. A light wine with the starter soup was good way to kick things off.
Next up was: crayfish. A platter of these red devils is a feast for eyes. The prices of Finnish crayfish can get quite high so catching them yourself is not only fun but it can save your wallet from imploding. Eating them is a form of art. You have special crayfish knives but mostly you work them by hand. The claws contain some of that delcious broth as well as some meat. You can eat it as such or with some white bread and butter. Simple and tasty.
Then comes the schnapps. Oh boy! The traditional saying goes “one schnapps per claw”. Each crayfish has two claws and on average you usually have at least 10 crayfish in one sitting. So, that means you would have to down 20 shots of aquavit during the dinner. Luckily nowadays that’s just a saying. That being said people do drink quite a bit in a traditional crayfish dinner party. It also involves a lot of singing, Helan går! (“All at once”) being the most well-known song. Aquavit doesn’t have the best reputation in Finland but make no mistake, there is some really good aquavit out there.
One of my favorites is Linie Double Cask Aquavit. Like the Madeira wines back in the day this Norwegian aquavit matures at sea. It sails twice across the equator in sherry casks. This particular aquavit sailed on board the M/V “Tamerlane” from Oslo to Boston, then to Sydney, Singapore, Yokohama, Panama and back to Oslo. Quite an epic journey, eh? Then when it gets back to Norway it goes through an extra maturing in port wine casks. All together 22 months in cask. Definitely not the most cost-effective way of producing booze. Whatever the case it’s not only one of the best aquavits out there but it’s one of the best spirits, period.
Another great crayfish party. One thing I look forward all year and one thing I can’t wait to be over. That dill is lethal!