One of the first things you’ll notice about the culture here in South Louisiana is our appreciation of family, friends and good food. Meals aren’t just a way to satisfy our hunger. They’re a way for us to bond and share the Cajun way of life with others. Few gatherings satisfy this desire better than a good old fashioned crawfish boil.
Louisiana Backyard Culture
As soon as our brief winter season has passed and the weather turns mild again, those of us in Louisiana begin to make our way outdoors. It’s a good thing our winters are short because most of us would come down with a serious case of cabin fever if we couldn’t fire up the grill or crawfish pot in the backyard.
Backyard gatherings are a part of our DNA. When our ancestors came to Louisiana, they had precious little to their name. Coming together outdoors to cook, play music and, yes, even partake in the occasional beverage, was a time for celebration. We learned to appreciate the bounty of the land and what it provided for our nourishment by gathering around the cooking fire.
Backyard culture in Louisiana is one reason why our Cajun communities remain tightly knit. In a busy world where many families no longer find the time to take a break and enjoy a sit down meal, there is something to be said for Cajun cookouts in the backyard. We are reminded of how all of us are connected and dependent on one another to some extent.
Our day-to-day life in Louisiana is not dictated by a daily grind. We believe in working hard, but we also know the merits of enjoying what we have earned. Every crawfish season we take turns hosting boils to share our good fortune with those we love. Outdoor living was good enough for our ancestors, and it’s good enough for us.
Crawfish in Louisiana
Back in 1983, Governor David Treen approved a law that made the crawfish Louisiana’s official state crustacean. Louisiana was the first state to make such a designation, and we celebrate it proudly. Each time we boil up some Crawfish, we’re honoring our heritage and our way of life.
Crawfish are a freshwater shellfish that resemble a miniature lobster. They have a unique flavor and are exceptionally tender. Crawfish have been a staple of our culinary culture for hundreds of years. Some even claim the Native Americans discovered and consumed them long before the Cajuns arrived, but we prefer our own legend.
Around these parts, the old Cajuns like to say that when our ancestors were forced to leave their homes in Nova Scotia in the 1700’s, the lobsters longed for them so much they decided to follow. The journey was long and hard and carried the lobsters over land and sea, and by the time they arrived in our new home they had shrunk from the effort. We renamed them crawfish and celebrated with a big fais do-do.
Did that story make you smile? Well, then, we’re on the right track! You see, crawfish boils are something we associate with laughter, joy and good times.
A Louisiana Crawfish Boil
Starting in late February, right around the time of Mardi Gras, crawfish season in South Louisiana begins. Until early June we seize every opportunity to gather our friends and family together in the backyard for a crawfish boil. Today, most crawfish sold here are commercially grown and harvested, but it is not uncommon for Cajuns to set and run their own traps.
We start with a big pot and fill it with water. Most folks here use a propane stove today for outdoor cooking. While the water comes to a boil, we rinse the fresh crawfish in cool water until the water runs clear. Once the water boils we add in our preferred seasonings. These can be conveniently purchased these days in a premixed form. All that’s necessary is to dump the packet contents into the pot. The rolling boil of the water will mix it well.
The next step is to add in some onions, garlic and small, whole red potatoes. These are allowed to cook until they are just tender enough that a fork will pass through them with ease. They don’t have to be cooked all the way because they will actually continue to cook after everything has been removed from the pot. The last vegetable to be added is corn on the cob. We like to use big ears and cut them into four or five inch sections. Some folks like to add mushrooms to the mix when they add the corn. We let all of these cook and then remove the vegetables from the cooking basket where they are set aside in an empty cooler or ice chest.
The last step is to actually boil the crawfish. They cook quickly, so only a few minutes is required for boiling. Once they are done, everything is mixed together and it’s time to eat. Something you will notice at most of our crawfish boils is that the mixture of crawfish and vegetables will be dumped out on tables covered with newspaper. Everyone sits around the tables and helps themselves, peeling and eating the crawfish right on the spot.
If you come to see us from February through June, just ask around and you’re sure to find a crawfish boil where you’ll be welcome to join in our festive celebration—no one gets turned away from the table in Cajun Country! Can’t make it down South for crawfish season? Cajun Grocer has you covered —we ship fresh boiled and live crawfish right to your door!