Bristol Bay is one of my favorite places, not just for its amazing run of sockeye salmon each summer. It’s also where we source our Alaskan Red King Crab, in season now.
Bristol Bay is the shallowest part of the Bering Sea, where crab fishermen have been operating since the 1920s. Before World War II, Russian and Japanese crabbers used tangle nets in these productive waters. The U.S. began exploring the idea of a king crab industry when President Roosevelt saw an example of an Alaskan Red King Crab, which can have a 5-foot leg span. Who wouldn’t be impressed? Federal funds were immediately promised to help develop the industry. During explorations to find the best location for Red King Crab, the Bristol Bay fishery was identified.
The technology behind the taste
Over the years, the U.S. began producing much of its own crab, rather than relying on Japanese imports of canned crab. As the industry grew, new technologies improved the taste and delivery. Tangle net fishing went on until about the 1950s, when pots were introduced as a way to harvest crabs without damaging them in any way. Another innovation – freezing instead of canning the crabmeat – forever changed the way Red King Crab is optimally prepared and served. Shore processing (which includes cooking and brine freezing), along with careful handling, packaging and overnight delivery gets this Alaskan delicacy from Bristol Bay right to your doorstep. To get it any fresher, you’d have to sign on to a crab boat for a season.
Here’s a weird fact that we don’t really consider these days: what to do with the crab shells? Before Red King Crab was sold as whole legs or clusters, it was canned, leaving millions of pounds of shells. At one time, the by-product was considered as an additive for rubber tires and as a surface for wood paneling (yes, it was the 60s!). At home, you can toss them, or – if you’re inspired – cook up some homemade crab shell stock to use in seafood stews or chowders.
There’s a limit to how much Red King Crab can be caught, to ensure its sustainability year after year. This season the magic number is no more than 4.3 million pounds from Bristol Bay. That’s down from previous years, so be sure and order your own supply of Alaska Red King Crab early. It’s one sought-after product that we might have a hard time keeping in stock.
Order Alaskan King Crab Legs today.