WAMU 88.5 : The Kojo Nnamdi Show

Old Bay & the Chesapeake's Identity

It's one of the flavors that defines life in the Chesapeake region: Old Bay Seasoning, the blend of herbs and spices that's been made in Maryland for nearly a century. In some ways, Old Bay is enjoying a renaissance; a Maryland brewery even recently released an ale brewed with the seasoning. But the company behind Old Bay itself, McCormick, is contemplating a move out of Maryland. Kojo explores the link between spice and regional identity - and what Old Bay has contributed to the culinary DNA of the Chesapeake region.

Featured Recipe: Steamed Crabs for 8

by Spike Gjerde/Woodberry Kitchen/Baltimore MD

This recipe calls for Old Bay or a housemade spice equivalent; Spike's spice recipe is also below.

Steamed crabs:
4 dozen large blue crabs from the Chesapeake Bay
4 bottles of beer + water
Old Bay or your secret recipe to taste

  1. Pour beer into a crab steamer/large pot with insert.
  2. Pour enough water in to fill up to right below insert.
  3. Bring beer and water to a boil.
  4. Layer in feisty (i.e. live) crabs with Old Bay and crab seasoning.
  5. Cover, and once steam builds up, cook for 20 minutes. Dump out on a newspaper covered table.

Spike's crab seasoning:
½ cup sea salt
3 tbsp black pepper corns
2 dried fish peppers
2 tsp mustard seed
2 tbsp dried lovage
Grind everything together in a blender.

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