Tuesday, 27 January 2009
Bush Tucker: Yabby
I mentioned our feed of Yabbies in yesterday's blog post. They are one of my favourite foods. Here's some bits and pieces of information and observations.
We tend to use about 1.5 - 2 m of cotton. On one end is a stick in the mud on the bank and on the other end is tied a piece of raw meat. It's best not to have any fat on the meat otherwise it floats. Mum's preferred type of meat is lambs heart! Once noticing the string being pulled out in the dam (by the Yabby) it's then on to using a very light touch to gradually pull the Yabby to near the edge and then swoop it out of the water with a hand-held net. The nets we use have frames of fencing wire and fill of bird netting.
We tend to only eat medium to large Yabbies, and throw back those that are small or have eggs or young under their tails.
Time of Year to Catch them
There's a syaing that the best months to catch Yabbies are "any with the letter 'r' in them". This means September through April. The reality, though is that you should avoid the winter months as they do tend to hibernate in mud holes.
Factors that seem to reduce Yabby numbers
Here's a list of things that seem to reduce numbers in a dam:
1. Clear water. Water with high clay content seems to be a good thing i.e. water that is not clear or translucent. They do live in clear water but the density seems to be lower.
2. Areas that use inorganic fertilisers. These substances are water soluble and by default qualify as 'salts'.
3. Areas that have been sprayed with chemicals. Like frogs, Yabbies seem to be very sensitive to chemicals.
4. Dams that cattle can access. The reason, it seems, is that cattle do tend to like walking into the dams during hot spells; and when they do this they crush the mud holes that the Yabbies occupy.
All of the dams on our place have Yabbies in them, with the highest density being the one that has milky-grey coloured water.
According to the Bush Tucker Field Guide ISBN 1-74117-028-1 Page 175, Yabby numbers can be as many as 20 per square metre.
Preparing the Yabbies for cooking
Most people seem to just pour the Yabbies straight into hot water and bring them to the boil. Our own family 'clean' the Yabbies prior to cooking. The process is:
1. Very Large Yabbies: Remove and retain the front main claws for cooking.
2. Separate the tail from the body, discard the front section
3. Remove the bowel from the tail. Yabbies have 5 fins at the end of the tail. Twist and pull on the central one, and the bowel is removed.
Cooking the Yabbies
Place the tails and large claws in a saucepan with freshwater in it. Add salt to taste. Bring to a boil and wait until contents are orange - usually takes about 8 minutes.
The easiest way to shell the tails is the same as for prawns. Remove the first 2 or 3 shell sections, apply pressure near the end of the tail, and the white meat should come out easily. With claws it's best to crack the shell using a nut cracker or similar. I use my back teeth, but advise against it as it's probable that at some point I'll crack my teeth!
I prefer to soak the flesh in a bowl with some Malt Vinegar in it. After that, I make a sandwich out of fresh either bread rolls or bread and butter (NOT margarine). Superb!
Tips for Picking them up
Start with a small one first!
Approach from behind, be fast, and grap the Yabby around the body at the base of the main claws i.e. in effect gain control of the main claws and force them to be pointing away from your hand.
Care MUST be exercised when handling the live Yabbies. The claws are extremely strong and will inflict serious pain plus a bit of blood loss to boot. I think everyone finds this out the hard way at least once! Oh, and this is stating the obvious I know, but Yabbies fresh out of the cooking pot are very hot to handle as well.