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Croatian Coking: Snails
Do you like rainy days? Up until recently rain just meant staying indoors, occupying the time by cooking or playing with the baby donkey. Waiting for the sun to come out of hiding and once again shine.
Not now, now there is a silver lining to the heavens opening up. Sometimes we even pray for rain, because that’s when the snails come out of hiding! You’re wondering why we’d care about the snails? It’s to eat them, snails are a delicious meal here in Croatia….
Once the rain has been tumbling for a few hours or a day, its time to don the wet weather gear and begin the search. It’s always best to wear a pair of gumboots and a raincoat as the fields are muddy and it often starts raining again.
Once adequately dressed, it’s time to get out into the fields and start searching for the slippery suckers. If you want to eat snails where we live you have to collect them yourself, and you have to act fast as often there are many people out hunting for them.
The hunting process isn’t for everyone, you have to bend down and rummage through the long, itchy grass and look for just one particular kind of species. There are a number of species around, so you need a keen eye and a strong back. On average it takes about 3 hours to collect enough of the right kind of snail to feed our family of 6-10 people.
Once you have your bag of snails, it’s time to hang them. You can’t eat freshly caught snail straight away, which is a little torturous in some ways. Instead, you need to place all of the snails into a mesh bag and hang them in a protected area such as from the fig tree or in your garage. It’s important to let them hang for at least 10 days and no more than 3 weeks, this is to allow enough time for the snails to excrete the gunk from their insides, out.
Just about the time you had forget about your snail collection, it’s time to eat them. Firstly you must give the snails a good wash in cold running water. It’s best to do this a few times, you really need to be sure that the snail gunk is washed away. Once washed, the snails bounce back to life and try to escape your clutches – fortunately, they are so slow you always have time to pick them back up and plonk them back into your bucket.
Now it’s time to throw your snails into a large pot with plenty of sea salt & fresh cold water and bring them to the boil. The snails need to boil for a good 20-30 minutes, and then they are ready to devour.
We serve the snails on individual plates, with a few toothpicks. These toothpicks are the perfect tool to remove the flesh from the shell. Once the fleshy goodness is removed from the shell, we dip them onto a mix of homemade vinegar & extra virgin olive oil. Sometimes with a little pepper. An asparagus and egg salad and a chunk of freshly baked bread makes this the perfect accompanying side dish.