Snails

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Snails

Postby grisell » Sun May 29, 2011 8:35 pm

NOTE: The Roman Snail may be protected in certain areas and/or during certain periods of the year. Check with local regulations before hunting!


The Roman or Burgundy snail, Helix pomatia. First introduced in Sweden by foreign monks during medieval times to serve as food during lent. In the francophilic late 18th century, consuming snails became popular among the nobility, and several more were imported to manors and mansions where they still can be found in quite large numbers. There are other edible snail species, but the Roman snail is considered the snail par préference.

Because of the snail's low reproductivity rate, special care has to be observed when picking. Pick only the largest specimens and never drain a local stock. The main threat to the Roman snail is not hunting, though, but the transformation of the agricultural landscape.

NOTE: Some texts recommend a starvation period of one week before the snails are consumed. This should be for safety reasons if they should have eaten poisonous plants. According to an expert I consulted, the starvation isn't necessary. I don't take personal responsibility for anyone consuming snails without one week's starvation period.

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Wash the snails gently to remove most of the dirt.

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Mix the snails with a handful of salt and let stand for 15 minutes to make them excrete their mucus (that's a lot!).

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Rinse again.

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Put them in a pot with slightly salted water and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes while skimming off mucus and dirt. This is a humane way of killing them; they are anaesthetized at 45 C. Drain and rinse again. Let cool.

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Extract the snails from the shells and remove the helicoidal colon. The rest is edible.

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Save the shells. If they aren't used immediately, they should be dried for one hour in an oven.

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Make a stock: For 50 snails: One onion, one carrot, three cloves of garlic, a piece of pork rind, some parsley stalks, three bay leaves, one teaspoon thyme and a few peppercorns. Add one litre water, one teaspoon salt and 50 ml of good wine vinegar (the original recipe calls for white wine which I think is unnecessary).

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Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes. Then add the snails. Let simmer until tender (circa two hours).

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Strain. Pick out the snails. Discard the stock and vegetables. The snails are now ready for consumption or freezing for later use.

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The classic way to serve them is baked in their shells with an aromatic butter consisting of butter, shallot, garlic, parsley and lemon (à la Bourgignonne), on the right. On the left is another variety, with butter and Roquefort cheese; also delicious. They are baked for circa 10 minutes in 250 C oven, or until the butter boils vigorously and starts to brown.

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Serve hot with fresh white bread. There is an argument among conoisseurs regarding the wine: red or white. In my opinion, any is good.

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There are also canned Roman snails from France. These are farmed or imported from Eastern Europe. They smell like a sewer in my opinion. Farmed snails are fed cornmeal and a commercial snail farm can have one million snails on 200 square meters! In any case, they are much smaller since they are picked at a young age. A Roman snail takes 3-5 years to reach full size and can live for up to 35 years. It is obvious that fullgrown, free-grazing snails are something completely different when it comes to taste!

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This picture shows the difference in size. To the left are 30 wild snails, picked in an old mansion garden near my house. Average weight 9 grams. To the right 30 canned French snails, average weight 4 grams.

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Last edited by grisell on Mon May 30, 2011 3:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
André

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Postby Ryan C » Sun May 29, 2011 9:48 pm

Brilliant Andre! Very interesting. Not sure if they are common in Scotland and I see they are protected in England and Wales.
Snails are one thing I've never foraged but I might have a go next time I'm out. I'd rather avoid the roman snails as they seem to be quite rare here but I'll check if there are any other native edible species. Do you have any suggestions? :D

Cheers

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Postby wheels » Sun May 29, 2011 10:32 pm

I agree with Ryan, a superb post Grisell.

I don't know whether there's any truth in it, but I was told that all UK snails are edible, being introduced for that purpose at a time when there were no indigenous varieties. Does anyone know whether this is true?

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Postby grisell » Sun May 29, 2011 10:35 pm

Ryan C wrote:Brilliant Andre! Very interesting. Not sure if they are common in Scotland and I see they are protected in England and Wales.


Oh. Is that so? I'm sorry to hear that, but I'm sure it's for a good reason.

Ryan C wrote:Snails are one thing I've never foraged but I might have a go next time I'm out. I'd rather avoid the roman snails as they seem to be quite rare here but I'll check if there are any other native edible species. Do you have any suggestions? :D

Cheers

Ryan


This one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helix_aspersa is edible, but I don't know if you can find it in your area.

Even the Spanish slug http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_slug (in Swedish we call it killer slug because of its invasive behaviour) is supposed to be edible. I saw a TV show when a cook made a stew out of them. Of course, there is a difference between edible and delicious...

But I'm afraid to give any advice that might be wrong. See if you can contact a snail expert at a museum of natural science. That's what I did and he gave me a load of good advice, like for example that the starvation period the snails should go through according to cookbooks is completely unnecessary.
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Postby Massimo Maddaloni » Mon May 30, 2011 1:48 pm

My mother taught me that snails should be "purged" 7-10 days on a diet of polenta cornmeal and chicory.
A word of caution, guys. Take these Habanero Gulpers' recipes with caution. If you have never eaten snails, you may wanna try 3-5 snails first. If you make it through, eat the whole dish :) Marbles are easier to digest than snails.
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Postby grisell » Mon May 30, 2011 2:09 pm

Massimo Maddaloni wrote:My mother taught me that snails should be "purged" 7-10 days on a diet of polenta cornmeal and chicory.
A word of caution, guys. Take these Habanero Gulpers' recipes with caution. If you have never eaten snails, eat 3-5 snails first. If you make it through, eat the whole dish :) Marbles are easier to digest than snails.
Regards
Massimo


The purging is totally unnecessary. This according to one of Sweden's leading experts on snails. It also dilutes the taste. Besides, 100 snails easily eat one kilo lettuce a day, which can get rather expensive. The snail's taste is highly dependent on its food. It's quite surprising that snails from different biotopes taste differently. One can actually discern the "taste" of the particular garden they were picked in. The way it smells on a rainy day in that garden, that's how the snails will taste.

I've never noticed that snails are hard to digest, but then my stomach is stainless steel... :lol: Anyway, for you who haven't eaten snails but are eager to try: If you like squid and mussels, you will certainly like snails. If you detest squid and mussels, you will probably not like snails. But, then, I've had many sceptical guests at home that changed their mind after tasting.
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Postby wheels » Mon May 30, 2011 2:21 pm

I'd have thought that there was a risk that they've eaten something that you can't?

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Postby Massimo Maddaloni » Mon May 30, 2011 2:55 pm

My mother grew up in a farm in the middle of nowhere when farming was not subsidized and life was hard. When she tells me about the duress they had to endure, it's hard for me to believe that she is only ONE generation before mine. And they were the landlords: their farmers had harder times yet. Snails were welcome protein when the weather was cold. Kids were sent to harvest wild edible grasses to shred and feed to the snails. Polenta, however, had to be spared from their own reserve in a carbs-for-protein-trade. While I cannot prove that purging is necessary, I would be cautious dismissing the need to do it.
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Postby grisell » Mon May 30, 2011 2:59 pm

wheels wrote:I'd have thought that there was a risk that they've eaten something that you can't?

Phil


I actually did some research on this a few years ago.

According to the expert I talked to, that risk is negligible. Firstly, there are hardly any toxic plants in gardens (except for the rarely cultivated belladonna or deadly nightshade that would kill the snail, too). Second, the digested plant stays in the colon which isn't consumed. What if the poison is absorbed in the snail's body, I asked him. He replied that in that case we know nothing about the snail's metabolism and so we can't be sure how long we should wait anyway. The poison could be there for months, and then a week's starvation period wouldn't matter.

All according to the snail expert on Sweden's Museum of Natural Science that I talked to.
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Postby grisell » Mon May 30, 2011 3:14 pm

Massimo Maddaloni wrote:[---]
While I cannot prove that purging is necessary, I would be cautious dismissing the need to do it.
Regards
Massimo


You may be right there. It's obviously depending on the biotope. Although Swedish gardens are safe, it may be another situation abroad. I added a note in my original post.
André

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Postby mitchamus » Mon May 30, 2011 11:08 pm

Hi guys,

great post Grisell

just though you guys should just be aware of this:

http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-na ... -v0lz.html

although - yes he ate a raw slug - but please don't dismiss this:

NSW Health says animals including slugs and snails can carry a range of infections, including bacteria, viruses and parasites that may infect people.


please make sure you cook them properly!!!

as far as the taste.. I like squid.. but hate mussels...
I tried snails on a trip to french Polynesia, in garlic butter...

All I can say is rubbery boogies do not agree with my palette!

Int he interest of keeping and open mind....I would try them again though. (maybe)

:wink:
Last edited by mitchamus on Mon May 30, 2011 11:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Big Guy » Mon May 30, 2011 11:28 pm

those are midget snails check these out

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Postby grisell » Mon May 30, 2011 11:36 pm

mitchamus wrote:All I can say is rubbery boogies do not agree with my palette!

In he interest of keeping and open mind....I would try them again though. (maybe)

:wink:


Canned snails are often rubbery because they are overcooked and pasteurised. It's like overcooked squid = rubber. Snails cooked the right way are tender and taste of forest or like one would imagine the taste corresponding to the scent of wet grass. Sort of.
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Postby grisell » Tue May 31, 2011 9:54 am

Big Guy: Wow! But do you eat those?
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Postby Big Guy » Tue May 31, 2011 1:18 pm

Yes , they are Apple snailsI pick then out of the canal behind my house in Fl. I just clean them remove the snail from the shell, cut off the intestine part, fry them up in oil and garlic( lots), serve on toast points.
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