High Country Boil
A high country boil is exactly what it sounds like. Its a low country style boil, with invasive Signal crawfish, caught in the high country on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.
I won’t get too granular on the differences in crawfish, and there ARE differences. Of the many species of crawfish, there are Red Swamp Crayfish(common in a low country boil), Virile or Northern, Ringed, Rusty, Shasta, and Signal. And many more.
In our area, Signal crayfish are invasive, they are also the largest species of crayfish anywhere near us. Unlike other crayfish in North America, many Signal crayfish have claw meat, worth the effort.
I’ve noticed the “catch. clean. cook.” caption on a lot of things on youtube in the last year. I’m not sure what exactly the fantasization with the fishing, gathering, and hunting process is in the last year. Maybe its just folks getting antsy in quarantine. Regardless of why the process is interesting, it’s certainly important.
Catching is straight forward. I use traps, like these, baited with chicken parts. I occasionally catch by hand, but am careful not to get pinched. I’m not sure you’d get ‘badly’ injured, but also can’t imagine it would feel great to get pinched by a large Signal Crayfish.
I toss all my captured crayfish into a tote with a battery operated air bubbler, for transportation home.
Once home, I transfer the cray fish into a bigger tote with a larger volume of cool de-chlorinated water. I de-chlorinate with an aquarium water de-chlorinator.
I let the crawfish sit in the tote for at least 24 hours, without food. Nobody wants to eat a poop vein full of black crud. 24 hours is the minimum to let a crawfish purge itself of waste. 36 to 48 hours is even better.
Worth mentioning is salt. Adding epson salt, in short gives the mud bugs diarrhea, and can speed up the purging process. Some folks use table salt which may kill your crawfish. I’m sure some country bumpkin will tell you how to salt things and how his ‘granpappy’s granpappy done it’, but I couldn’t care less. Giving crawfish time to purge, and not losing them to salting, seems to work best for me.
I bring a solution of water, lemon and salt, up to a boil, then drop the crawfish in. As soon as the water starts to boil again, i set a timer for 12 to 15 minutes.
At the same time I start the boil… I start another pot of brine. It includes bay leaves, pepper, salt, seasonings, lemons, and whatever the hell sounds good on crawfish.
When the crawfish are done boiling, they get a quick rinse in cool water, and then get added to a hot soak in the brine. They get brined for a few minutes, then plated for consumption.
My process, right or wrong, purges the crawfish, cleans them of any parasites, and them brines them for a great flavor.