Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mud Bugs

   There is one thing you can almost always find to eat down home and that is mud bugs, better known as crawdads or crayfish to you city folks. I always thought the best thing about mud bugs was the catching part, unless you happen to be out in the Arizona desert and you haven't had anything to eat in three or four days. I have been in that situation and the feeling of your backbone chewing on your navel kind takes the fun out of spending a lazy day on a creek bank trying to catch a few.

   When I was a kid back in Oklahoma the main thing we caught them for was fish bait and the main way we caught them was by seining the farm ponds. I always loved dragging a seine through those ponds. You never knew what you were going to pull out. It could be perch which we would use for bait when we set trotlines for catfish, crawdads, which were good bait for most all kinds of fish from bass to crappie and more than a few snakes,  which for some reason, no one else seemed as happy to catch as I was.

   You could also fish for them . All you needed was a piece of string and something for bait. This was a good way to keep the little kids busy and out of your way while you were fishing. My uncles would tie a piece of bacon on a string and set us on the bank. If you drew the string out of the water slow enough the crawdads would hang onto the bait long enough to get them up on the bank where you could grab them. Of course if we did catch any the older folks would take them to use for their bait.

   There are lots of folks down south who know hundreds of better ways to cook mud bugs but since I grew up around people that didn't eat them I pretty well had to learn on my own. As I got older and had the chance to taste some of the other meals using them I quickly discovered how bad most of mine were. My first attempt was just to pull some hot coals off to one side of my fire and toss a few of them directly on the coals. I was really hungry that day and a little desperate. It surprised me how good they tasted even allowing for the hunger herbs.

   This is one that turned out to be my favorite woods food. It's gonna be hard to do a recipe because you just add what you got or can find.  Crawdads, as many as you can catch, leave the shells on. Fish, I have used perch, bass, crappie and catfish so again it's whatever is biting that day. Fillet them and cut into chunks about one inch by one inch. Cat tail stalks, two good size ones, peel the outer leaves and cut the inner core into one inch pieces. Sheep Showers, about a tablespoon full of the leaves (can't help you much here, we never knew the real name for them but they are a clover, mostly three leaves, with a real bitter taste). A handful of wild onions and if it's in season and handful of dock. Mix em all together and and set the pot on a bed of coals from the campfire. Add more wood t the fire as needed to get it boiling and keep it there for at least twenty minutes. Separate the mud bugs and eat the rest as a stew.

   You can also use a boiling bag if you don't have a pot. My bag was a large piece of deer hid (hair off). I cut a row of small slits around the edge so I could hang it over the fire or use it to line a small hole and use hot stones to get the contents boiling. As long as you don't let  it boil dry the hide won't burn.