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    Snails definitely aren't fast food

    They've long been a prized delicacy, but putting escargot on the plate is fiddly, time-consuming – and not for the squeamish


    Snails definitely aren't fast food

    They've long been a prized delicacy, but putting escargot on the plate is fiddly, time-consuming – and not for the squeamish

    Phil Daoust

    Wed 29 Jun 2011 20.00 BST

    24 I

    magine sitting in your garden, perhaps sipping a beer as the sun goes down, and watching a tiny little steak pass by, so slowly you could just reach down and pick it up. You'd be a fool to ignore it. In fact, it would be a criminal waste.

    Snails, though? That's different. And yet they've been prized as a food since prehistoric times, and still are outside Britain. (They're not difficult to prepare, just fiddly and time-consuming. They have to be killed, of course – but if that's a problem you shouldn't be eating animals in the first place.)

    Which is why I ended up gathering gastropods on a French country lane. My quarry was the common garden snail, which the locals call the petis-gris, and the larger and rarer Roman snail, or escargot de Bourgogne. Both are edible and big enough for a decent mouthful, though it's illegal to hunt the Romans in England. How can you tell them apart? The Romans are bigger and their shells are a solid wash of light or medium brown. Garden snails are a bold mixture of dark and light browns.

    Having consulted dozens of authorities on snail farming, most of whom disagree about almost everything, I do know I will have to clean them, inside and out. What no one stresses enough is that snails crap incessantly. So they need to be sluiced down daily in the run-up to cooking them (I end up using a plastic scouring pad on the shells). More importantly, they have to be purged of anything unhealthy they may have eaten, even though you should only collect them from spots that are free from poisonous plants, slug pellets, toxic waste etc. You therefore need to keep them in an airy box for a week or two, feeding them on veg that's clean and fresh. I opt for a large terracotta flowerpot, topped with wire mesh. There's something heart-rending about the way they strain against the bars.

    It's a good idea to feed them something colourful, so you can see when it's worked its way through their system. Gordon Ramsay recommends carrots. The French also traditionally give them dill or thyme, for flavour. Or, cruelly, you can stop feeding them entirely for a week or so, and starve them clean. I follow rival advice to withdraw food two or three days before the snails go in the pot.

    On the day you cook them, the traditional French preliminary is to bury the snails in salt, to rid them of any remaining impurities in a torrent of froth. If you're unsure what those impurities might be, you're not the only one. Although it's rude to ignore local customs, I heed the counter-claim that this purging reduces the quality of the meat, mostly because it seems less heartless.

    They still have to be killed, and it usually comes down to death by boiling. If this makes you queasy, you'll hate the Greek recipe that involves frying them live on a bed of salt. Fortunately, a softy online suggests putting them in a screw-top jar in the fridge. The cold supposedly sends them to sleep before they suffocate. I try to ignore their pleading eye stalks as the fridge door shuts. Later, when I drop them into the pan, they're not moving – but I can't look too closely.

    Your snails need to be blanched for a few minutes. And then you have to hoik them out of their shells and remove the cloaca – the black part at the end of the guts. In case you're wondering, the inside of a snail is not a pretty sight.

    After all this work, I don't see the point of recreating the stodgy classic dish of escargots à la bourguignonne. The London restaurant St John does a lovely snail and oak leaf lettuce salad, while Heston Blumenthal notoriously adds them to porridge. I choose lumache alla romana, an Italian recipe with anchovies, tomatoes and mint.

    It doesn't go as smoothly as I hope. After 45 minutes I can understand why the Larousse Gastronomique raves about the snail's "liver and other organs", which are tender and tasty, with a texture like mussel – but it takes another two hours before the rest of the animal begins to lose its rubberiness and make friends with the hearty sauce. If fast food is what you're after, you probably shouldn't start with snails.

    Topics Food features Reuse this content

    Source : www.theguardian.com

    How to Harvest and Cook Snails From the Garden

    The snails in your garden are edible—harvesting, purging, and eating them may be easier than you think with these simple tips.

    MAY 18, 2019 BY MOLLY WATSON

    How to Harvest and Cook Snails From the Garden

    How to Harvest and Cook Snails From the Garden Turn garden pests into gourmet treats with this simple guide.

    It’s true: you can eat the snails in your garden, at least they are if your yard and nearby properties don’t use any products that are harmful to humans. You’ll also need snails that are at least 1 1/2 inches across to make the whole venture worth your while.

    How to harvest snails from your garden

    Snails are largely nocturnal and like things damp and dreary so they love to hang out on the underside of succulents and long-leafed plants during the day. If you know there are snails in your garden, make things easy on yourself: Instead of searching here and there for a snail or two under a random leaves, set yourself up for abundant snail success by setting up a board on some rocks or bricks or whatever will keep it a few inches off the ground over some soil in a shady part of your yard. Check it in the morning. Chances are there will be scads of snails clinging to the underside of the board.

    Pluck the snails you find from where they lay and plop them in a bucket or other container with high sides.

    How to contain and care for the snails

    Bring the bucket inside and fashion a cover for it. You need to keep the snails in (they move faster than one would think) and a free exchange of air. A few options:

    A screen set on top and weighed down with a brick works.

    A container with a plastic lid that snaps on and into which you have poked some holes is good.

    Depending on how many snails you have, a large glass jar with holes punched in the lid can work and lets you see just how much slime and poo they produce.

    A shockingly good “lid” can be made from an old pair of tights—cut off the legs of the tights and tie them close, stretch the waistband around the top of the bucket. The tights had the advantage of being something you can dampen each day to help keep the container slightly damp without having standing water in it.

    Whatever container you use, sprinkle the snails with a bit of misty water each day after you clean the container, but make sure there isn’t a bunch of standing water on the bottom.• Keep the container in a cool, dark place. That’s what snails like. Tempting as it may be, I don’t suggest keeping the container outside. Both raccoons and skunks love to eat snails and building a raccoon-proof snail bucket seems to me a Herculean task.

    How to purge snails

    Who knows what those snails have been eating? You want to purge it all out. Start by giving them food they’re happy to eat and you’re happy to have them eat, then giving them time to process that cleans them from the inside out. The whole process can easily be sped up to five days. The key points are:

    To purge the snails, start by feeding them greens and herbs for a day or two. This lets you know what you’re starting with.

    Then feed them cornmeal or oatmeal for a day or two. Since this diet turns their poo white, you’ll know when other stuff is out of their systems. (Note: Gordon Ramsay recommends giving them carrots for this stage since it turns their poo orange!)

    Then give them nothing for a day or two before cooking them. (Note: Some people skip the starving stage, finding it cruel. I saw how much poo these little things make; I didn’t want to eat snails full of it.)

    Throughout all of this, clean the container daily. You may be tempted to skip a day, thinking it won’t be that bad. It will be. It will be more than twice as gross. Part of the ick factor comes from the poo, of course, but just as much (if not more) comes from the slime snails leave all over everything. Two days worth of slime takes more than twice as long to clean and scrub out than does one day of slime. Trust me. Before you clean their container, transfer the snails to a large bowl or another container. You might want to keep the temporary container covered. A snail’s pace isn’t quite as slow as it’s made out to be.

    How to prepare snails for cooking

    Some people chill their snails before cooking them—sending them into a fake semi-hibernation. I found no difference in the taste or texture of the snails that I had chilled versus those I had not.

    To prepare the snails to eat and save the shells to eat them in is simple, although it takes a few steps:

    Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.

    Cook the snails for about 3 minutes.

    Drain the snails and rinse them with plenty of cool water.

    Use tweezers or pinchers to pull each snail from its shell.

    Bring a pot with 3 parts water to 1 part distilled white vinegar to a boil.

    Add the snails and cook until the slime is gone, about 3 minutes. You may think you can skip this step. You can, of course, since you are the boss of you, but you will end up with slimy specimens I doubt you’ll want to eat. When they re de-slimed, you will see what look like bits of curdled egg in the water: that’s the mucus you’ve cooked off from the snails.

    You know have snails ready to stuff into their shells with garlic butter for escargots or cooked with bacon for a simple fall salad.

    Source : www.ediblecommunities.com

    How to Clean and Prepare Fresh Snails for Cooking

    Snails are healthy, nutritious and delicious, but they must be properly prepared and cleaned before you cook them, and it's relatively easy to do it.

    How to Clean and Prepare Fresh Snails for Cooking

    By Nancy Gaifyllia Updated on 08/20/19

    skeez / pixabay

    From French escargot recipes to Greek favorites like bourbouristi (popping fried snails), all recipes involving fresh snails require the primary ingredient to be cleaned and prepared for cooking. Fortunately, cleaning fresh snails for cooking is a relatively simple process.

    Although snails are typically associated with France, Greece boasts about 700 different species of snails throughout the entire country and love eating them! In fact, on the first Saturday of every August, the town of Vlaheronitisa on the Greek island of Crete holds a Snail Festival where residents and visitors alike can eat as many of the local garden snails as they desire.


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    No matter what species of snails you're eating, though, there's a lot to like about them—they're healthy, nutritious, and delicious, low in both carbohydrates and fat, and are even considered by some to be an aphrodisiac and antidepressant.

    A Word About Newly Fresh Snails 

    Depending on where you purchased the snails, they might have been cultivated for sale or fed a special diet of grape leaves, which is good because their preferred diet in nature doesn't always agree with the human digestive system. If you bought a fresh catch rather than a batch from a seafood market, ask the seller when they were harvested so you have an idea of when the snails last ate.

    Snails that are at least a week from the water are usually safe, but otherwise, you'll effectively have to starve them for as long as seven to 10 days.

    Alternatively, you can feed them something that agrees with humans to move the toxic old food out of their systems, such as pieces of lettuce, apple, flour, bran, or grape leaves—your goal is to get all traces of their natural diets out of them before you cook and eat them.

    After sufficient time has passed, place the snails in a pot of cold water with some salt and a touch of vinegar where their waste will leave them and you can then proceed with the cleaning steps below.

    Admittedly, this isn't a task for someone with a delicate stomach or a fondness for all animals whether they wear shells or fur, but you can skip this step of preparation unless you've harvested your own snails or bought them right off the boat.

    The Spruce Eats / Chelsea Damraksa

    How to Properly Prepare Fresh Snails

    You'll need about 30 minutes to clean and prepare 50 snails for cooking, which should be enough to serve eight to 12 people depending on which snail recipe you make. All you'll need to get started though is a large pot or pan, a sharp knife, and 50 snails, then follow these simple steps:

    Use a sharp knife to remove the membrane covering the opening in the shell.

    Put the snails in a large pot or pan and fill it with plenty of fresh water.

    Discard any snails that float to the top.

    Take two to three snails in your hands at one time and rub them with your fingers. Set them aside and continue on with two or three more, working your way through the entire batch.

    Throw out the water after the snails have been cleaned once this way. Refill the pot with fresh clean water and repeat the process.

    Rinse the snails well.

    Enjoy them in your favorite recipe!

    Snails Meet Mushrooms With a Classic Escargot Recipe

    Source : www.thespruceeats.com

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