3/27/2010

Eat Local - Snails

 Aren't they lovely?
This is my encouragement for you all to eat these pests.  I can't, because they're a bit of trouble to prepare and I would be the only one in our family eating them.  Therefore, since my plan is to sell them, it is important that YOU EAT THEM!  Now the only problem is finding escargot lovers who would like a fairly regular supply.  BTW, the ones in my photos are young, they get much bigger. I found some interesting information about our local (invading) variety on this site, as cited below:
West Africa giant snails. archachatina marginata and achatina achatina
Snail meat is high in protein (37-51%) compared to that of guinea pig (20.3%), Poultry (18.3%), Fish (18%), Cattle (17.5%), Sheep (16.4%) and Swine (14.5%). Iron content (45-59mg/kg), low in fat (0.05-0.08%) and contains almost all the amino acids needed for human nutrition. In addition to the nutritional value of snail meat, recent studies indicated that the glandular substances from edible snails cause agglutination of certain bacteria, which could be of value against a variety of ailments including whooping cough. In folk medicine, the bluish liquid obtained when the meat has been removed from the shell is believed to be good for infant's development. It is believed in some quarters that snail meat contains pharmacological properties of value in counteracting high blood pressure.
At the imperial Court in Rome, snail meat was thought to contain aphrodisiac properties and was often served to visiting dignitaries in the late evening. The high Iron content of snail meat is considered important in the treatment of anemia and in the past the meat was recommended as a means of combating ulcers and asthma.
There is a flourishing international trade of snails in Europe and North America. In France the annual requirement is about 5 million kg, over 60% of which is imported. The estimated annual consumption in Italy is 306 million snails. In West Africa, snail meat has traditionally been a major ingredient in the diet of people living in the high forest belt. In the Cote d'Ivoire, for example, an estimated 7.9 million kg is eaten annually. In Nigeria, although the consumption figures are not available, it is clear that demand outstrips supply.
Achatina achatina on banana stalk.
By far the most exhaustive and informative source on snail farming (heliciculture) I located was this one from the USDA, covering all the various species, how to farm them, and etc. etc.  More than you ever wanted to know about snails.  Furthermore, the achatina achatina (cute when you say it fast), and which is the species we have here, are very highly prolific, laying 200-400 eggs per batch, 2-3 times a year.  Which is why they are considered an invasive species in Hawaii, as well as other places, and forbidden to be brought in now.  Or raised.  FYI I am not raising them.  Just trying to get rid of them without using poison.  It is a matter of us (my vegetables) or them.  So, they have to go.

I would love to prepare and eat escargot, but I don't want to gross out my family.  They are especially against these mollusks due to a strain of parasite called Angiostrongylus, carried on fresh water fish, shrimps, snails and slugs (and in the slime trails they leave on vegetables - especially lettuce). I can tell them the parasite does not survive cooking until I'm blue in the face. Really.  They do not care, as both my daughter and grandson went through the infection.  Apparently it isn't something you forget easily.  In fact, my daughter has informed me she will not even eat in my house if I have prepared snails in my kitchen.  At all.

So, I'm passing on their warning. Be careful to wash your produce well, use lemon juice or a veggie cleaner in the wash if you have snails in your garden, or are unsure at all of where the vegetables were grown. The symptoms vary and I know that at one point last year there were four people in comas at Hilo Hospital, only one of whom came out, but with very restricted ability to walk.  This is not something our Health Dept. is properly warning the public about.  I think they are afraid to discourage tourists.

At any rate, proper cleaning and cooking is vital with these creatures, as well as with chicken and pork, and so on.  Though, even more so in this case (angiostrongylus), due to its severe outcomes, which can include paralysis, blindness or death.
bad boy, bad boy
On a lighter, and more productive note, we (meaning you) might consider cooking them.  I checked with various of my cookbooks and discovered, to my amazement, the following advice from Gourmet Today, Ruth Reichl's exhaustive new tome:  "Snails come in 7-ounce cans..."  and the recipe calls for "1/3 cup chopped rinsed canned snails."  I don't think this guy knows about that.  On the other hand, I discovered that the recently maligned Joy of Cooking had quite good instructions for preparing  live ones captured direct from your garden or bought in a local market.  My favorite go to Italian cookbook, Great Italian Cooking, a fantastic book by Luigi Carnacina, had easy to follow directions.

What you do is purge the critters in a wicker basket for 3 days.  I'm using a big white bucket, because I don't have any wicker baskets I want to clean snail poop and slime out of.  Don't worry, the lid has holes in it, so they can breathe.  You put loose leaves of lettuce in with them and some bread (say a few sources) or cornmeal.  After their little fasting period, you "wash them under running water, then soak them for 2 hours in a large pot of cold water, acidulated with one cup of vinegar and a handful of coarse salt.  Drain and put them through several changes of cold water until the water is absolutely clear.  Drain again and discard any snails whose heads are not out of the shell."  All that  would certainly get me out of my shell.

Then, "place them in a pot, cover with cold water and bring slowly to a boil over moderate heat.  Simmer for 5 minutes and then drain them in a colander.  Remove the snails from the shells and reserve the shells.  Cut off the tips of the heads and the black part on their tail ends.  Return them to the pot and cover with a nice Court Bouillon (a good stock of vegetables and herbs).  Season very lightly with salt, add 2 sliced cloves of garlic, bring very slowly to a boil, and simmer for 3 to 4 hours.  Drain and dry them on a cloth."

So, you see what I mean about the process.  I'm sure nothing viral would survive it.  I thought someone out there might be interested.  And then you can make Snails Bourguignonne or Lumache alla bourguignonne.  I like the sound of the Italian myself.  For another recipe, Maria in Crete at Organically Cooked, has posted one that sounds very good.

6 comments:

Mediterranean kiwi said...

Admittedly, they look different to the snails we have in Crete, but I am sure that you will not find a paucity of takers here, as long as they can get used to the different appearance - Cretans absolutely love snails

Mediterranean kiwi said...

snails can also be used in various meals, but the most popular ways to serve them in crete are boiled with vinegar, or stewed in tomato sauce with potatoes and zucchini

Claudia said...

Maybe one day I'll try them (eating out somewhere), but for now can't fix snails at home.

Debinhawaii said...

I have only had snails once--not bad although I think I tasted mostly butter and garlic. ;-) Not sure if I could manage to cook them myself but fascinating post.

j said...

can i have a question? do you cut off guts which are in shell??

Ps: sorry for my poor english i´m from czech republic :)

Claudia said...

Dear j, yes you do, after the water and vinegar rinsing, when water is running clear, discard any snails whose heads have not come out. Drain, then cover with boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Drain, cool and remove the snails from shells with an oyster fork. Hold the upper part of the snail with the thumb and forefinger and score the lower part of the body to pull out the swollen intestinal tube (guts). Discard it.

Hope this helps. You can probably find an instructional video online also.