Food & Drink

Packing the whole crab: They still do it on Smith Island

In the story about crabmeat, and the obsession diners and resaurants have for 24-7 jumbo lump crabmeat, Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen said he would love to able to buy packaged crabmeat taken from the whole crab - a single container, in other words that contained claw, backfin and the occasional unbroken lumps.

There's not much demand for that, so crabmeat processsors don't provide it. But former Baltimore Sun reporter Tom Horton told me about one place that does. In fact, Rob Kasper wrote about it in 1996.


The Smith Island Crabmeat Coop, Inc., located in tiny Tylerton on Smith Island, was formed by the wives of the island's watermen.

From the Facebook page:


"For those that are not aware of the style of Smith Island crabmeat...we pick the whole crab. We do not separate because receipe's are much better with the whole crab included. There are more lumps in our crabmeat than in a pound of lump sold elsewhere. You've tried the try the best!!!!"

I will be talking to the Dora Corbin of the coop about the whole-crab packs. But, are you going to doubt the wisdom of a Smith Islander when it comes to crabmeat?

Now, what are you going to do with that crabmeat mix?

Brad Schwartz, a reader from Olney, sent in his mixed-meat crab cake recipe. Here it is, reprinted with his permission.

Brad Schwartz's Crab Cake recipe


1 tbs fresh chopped parsley, cilantro, or basil

1-2 tsp Coleman's dry mustard depending on personal preference


1/4 cup Hellman's mayo (I prefer Olive Oil type, but any will do).

1 tbs Old Bay

3  slices white bread crust removed

1 extra large egg

1 tbs Worcestershire sauce

1/2 pound lump crab meat


1/2 pound backfin or special crab meat

1/2 pound claw crab meat

2 cups cracker meal for dredging

peanut (preferable) or canola oil for frying

sea salt



1.  Clean crab meat of any remaining shell and cartilage keeping each type separate.

2.  Whisk first 7 ingredients in a large mixing bowl together until smooth with a batter consistency.

3.  Gently fold backfin and claw meat into mixture with a wooden spoon.  Thoroughly mix together.

4.  Gently fold in lump meat carefully as not to break up lumps but evenly distribute throughout mixture.

5.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest in fridge for 1/2 hour.

6.  Remove from fridge and mold into six 4 ounce cakes, each about 2 inches thick.


7.  Dredge each cake in cracker crumbs until completely coated, place on tray or baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and return to fridge for 1/2 an hour.

8.  Remove cakes from fridge and let rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes.

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9.  Meanwhile fill cast iron skillet with 1 inch of oil and heat to 360 degrees.  (Deep fat fryer will work too, but pan frying is better)

10.  Fry in batches 3 cakes at a time.  Gently add cakes to oil one at a time, so as not to splatter and reduce oil temperature.  Use fry thermometer to maintain temperature.

Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown in color.

11.  Use a fry spider to remove cakes from pan being careful not to break them.


12.  Drain on a wire rack over a cookie sheet lined with paper towels.

13.  Season very lightly with sea salt and pepper to taste immediately after removing from oil and serve.

Makes six 4-ounce servings.