0430LowCountryAUDStephen Minvielle, director of the Louisiana Crawfish Farmers Association, talks about the atmopshere at a Low Country boil.
Whether you call it a Low Country, shrimp or crawfish boil, it's time to get those big pots ready for a warm afternoon Southern tradition filled with seafood, sweet corn on the cob, potatoes and some sausage.
In the South, the ingredients and some flavors may vary from region to region. But the tasty fun is all the same.
"To me, the smell just reminds me of the ocean," said Slade "Butch" Exley, chef at the Elks Lodge No. 1126 in Gainesville.
For Stephen Minvielle, the director of the Louisiana Crawfish Farmers Association, a crawfish boil means one thing - a party.
"Crawfish is more like a party food," he said. "(In) South Louisiana, customarily you invite a bunch of friends and family over, get a couple sacks and a big ol' pot in your backyard, turn on the music, get out the liquid refreshments, preferably of the alcoholic type, and really enjoy each other's company."
In Louisiana, crawfish is king. But in Georgia, shrimp is the seafood of choice for traditional boils.
"Every year at Epiphany, which is usually in January about two weeks after Christmas, we always have a big church party and we do Low Country boil every year for that," said the Rev. Jay Weldon, pastoral resident of King of Peace Episcopal Church in Kingsland, on the Georgia coast. "It's probably the shrimp (that makes it distinct to the Georgia coast). It is definitely typical for this area on the Georgia and South Carolina coast."
Weldon said each year about 100 parish members show up to the event, and they also have a bonfire where they burn Christmas trees.
The church's recipe is made in mass quantity for a large group, which makes this main course perfect for a party.
The King of Peace Low Country Boil calls for 5 pounds of whole new potatoes cut into quarters, 3 pounds of corn on the cob cut in 3- to 4-inch pieces, 3 pounds Polska kielbasa cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces, 5 pounds of unpeeled shrimp and Old Bay seasoning.
The recipe, found on the church's Web site, suggests using equal proportions of the ingredients for a smaller group of guests.
Fill the pot half full of water and add Old Bay to your taste. About 2 ounces of the Old Bay, which is a third of a large can, seems flavorful without being too hot, according to the church's Web site.
Bring the water to a boil and add potatoes, cook for 15 minutes and add sausage. Cook sausage for five minutes and add corn on the cob.
Cook for another three minutes, add shrimp then cook for a final two minutes or until shrimp is pink.
Exley, who will be offering a shrimp boil to members of the Elks Lodge in June, suggested keeping the seasonings and ingredients simple for a perfect shrimp boil.
"That is where people go wrong," he said. "Use some lemon, salt, pepper, Old Bay. It's the shrimp, sausage and corn coming together. It's simple, simple comfort food.
"One of the members, Charles Lindsey, taught me everything I know about shrimp boils. I have to give him the credit."
Exley also said typically the Georgia and South Carolina seafood boils would always include shrimp with the shells kept on during cooking.
In the bayou, Minvielle said you can't forget one key ingredient: cayenne pepper.
"Definitely salt, and personally I put onions, garlic, artichokes, everything in my crawfish boil," he said.
"Usually crawfish are not usually peppered to the point of peppered but are well seasoned. In South Louisiana everything is cooked that way ... that's why we are getting so popular all over the nation."
Minvielle also said shrimp are tasty but that crawfish win for taste.
"Shrimp is a very good flavor," he said. "I really like them myself and most of my family and friends but crawfish has a much richer flavor. It has to do with the fat content of the meat."
But if a crawfish boil is something you would like to try this spring, you better hurry.
"Actually the peak season is going right now and we are past the peak a little bit," Minvielle said. "Right now we are on the downslide ... but there still is a lot of heavy production."