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Old Bay seasoning (Recipe: Florida crab cakes)


As the crow flies, it is 430 miles from my house to Crisfield, Maryland, epicenter of the Chesapeake Bay crab world.

In 2007, Crisfield will host the 16th annual Soft Shell Spring Fair (May), the 31st annual Crab and Clam Bake (July), and the 60th annual National Hard Crab Derby (September). In fact, nearly every weekend from May through October, there's a crab festival (with or without jazz, with or without oysters, with or without crab racing) somewhere along the bay coast.

Nothing says "regional American cooking" more than Old Bay seasoning, born of the Bay area in the 1940s, popular from the Chesapeake to the Gulf Coast in crab and shrimp boils. Developed by a German immigrant, Gustav Brunn, it's now marketed by McCormick & Company, but the formula hasn't changed a bit.

Old Bay contains celery salt, mustard, red pepper, black pepper, bay leaves, cloves, allspice, ginger, mace, cardamom, cinnamon and paprika. Of course it's great in crab dip and crab cakes, but it also gives a flavor boost to meatloaf, gumbo, steak fries, rice, and bloody marys.

As is true for all spice blends, you can make your own, but you'll miss seeing the famous yellow, blue and red tin on your spice rack.

Florida crab cakes

Chef Eve Ornstedt adapted a recipe from Miami Spice, by Steven Raichlen, for a Ninecooks class last year, and I've adapted Eve's recipe. Of course, these crab cakes taste just as good outside Florida! We tried them with turkey bacon, but I didn't like the off-taste, so please use the real thing. Makes 4 large or 8 small crab cakes.


1 lb lump crab meat
2 strips of bacon, finely chopped
2 Tbsp minced shallots
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced parsley
3-4 Tbsp fine cracker or bread crumbs (low salt)
1-1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Pinch of cayenne
1 egg, beaten
1-2 Tbsp heavy cream
2 Tbsp melted butter plus 1 Tbsp vegetable oil


Check through crabmeat, removing any bits of shell (and any extra moisture, while being careful not to break it up too much). Fry bacon in a frying pan until lightly browned. Add shallots, celery and garlic and cook until soft but not brown, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a mixing bowl and let cool.

Stir in crab, herbs, cracker crumbs, Old Bay, salt, pepper and cayenne. Fold in the egg and enough cream to obtain a moist but firm consistency. If it is too wet, add a few more crumbs. Wet your hands with water and form the crab mixture into 4 large or 8 small cakes, and place on a plate. Wrap the plate wax paper and refrigerate for 30+ minutes.

Just before serving, heat the butter and oil in a nonstick pan. Pan-fry the cakes until crusty and golden, about 3 minutes per side (longer for larger cakes). OR, cook under the broiler for 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and serve with tartar sauce.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

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Wow...bacon in crab cakes? That's one I've never heard of...interesting.

I agree with you, though -- you could make your own, I suppose, but Old Bay really has no substitute.

Its hard to not love crabcakes (and I know what you mean about turkey bacon- I've had very disappointing results with it too). I wonder what those Marylanders would say about a Floridian version?

Thanks for the ingredients - I can't buy Old Bay here but love crab cakes annd can occasionally find crab.
And thanks the the Crab Cake recipe.
BTW, I'm a firm believer in pantry cooking - having never lived near a store....

I'll paint myself a spice tin and then fill it with my homemade Old bay mix, will that count? You can't find it where I live.

Old Bay was always in my mom's kitchen and my Dad has a huge tin of it today! Tasty stuff.
Crab cakes with bacon, how could it not be good!!

Genie, I'd never heard of bacon in crabcakes either, until Eve taught us this recipe. It's darned good, I must say....

Callipygia, I'm hiding my head, waiting for the Maryland folks to weigh in on this recipe -- it's nothing like the crabcakes I enjoy when I visit the Bay area.

Katie and Brilynn, here's an online source for Old Bay:

Tanna, my mom always had a tin of Old Bay, a tin of paprika, and a tin of Colman's English mustard, all lined up on her spice rack.

I got acquainted with Old Bay after meeting my husband who is from Maryland. It's a fun to add to roasted potatoes and popcorn. My husband is still mystified by eating steamed lobster with butter rather than Old Bay... but I'm not ready to make that culinary leap!

Bacon in crab cakes is new to me as well! Everything's better with bacon, I should have guessed!

I have fond memories of living in DC during low income student days when a "dinner pary" was a bushel of blue crabs (with Old Bay of course ) lots of beer and bread to help fill us up and keep us somewhat sober. There was newspaper on the table, maybe a salad and never dessert -- we were too full !

I'm totally crazy for soft shelled crabs! Most of them I ate in Asia where although Old Bay wasn't seem popular.
Me too, just love this tin!

Hmph!!!! Propriety demand that I temper my remarks about putting bacon in crab cakes--well that they should be labled Florida and not Maryland!! No self-respecting Murrlander would ever treat crabcakes to such abuse! And where is the mayo? and the pinch of mustard? Actually, the recipe on the Old Bay can is pretty good and pretty close to classic Maryland Crab Cakes; or one could hop over to G&M Restaurant near BWI Airport on your next layover and sample a crabcake to die for--95% crab meat and 100% great.

Ever since it became available in CA, I've had a tin of Old Bay in the pantry. It's a staple in our house. Now that we're in Maryland, it's much easier to come by. My daughter loves it on fries. The Utz potato chip folks put it on their "crab chips".

First time to your blog. Came here from Kalyn's because your comment on "Indian food" intrigued me :)
Like the way you highlight the ingredients.

My husband always puts this in mashed potato for me - its delicious!

Jessica, Old Bay and potatoes is a great combination. And don't give up on your Maryland husband -- he's getting better about eating spicy food, so maybe lobstah with buttah will be next!

Tom, it was a first for me, too!

Mary, my cousin Martin (see comment below) introduced me to crab houses years ago. Nothing better than whacking away at those crabs and picking out the crab meat -- and licking your fingers afterwards.

Gattina, the chilli crab we had in Singapore was to-die-for!

Cousin Martin, I knew this recipe would get a response from you! And do you know, I have never actually tried the recipe on the can -- an oversight I plan to rectify as soon as possible!

Charles, I didn't know about the Utz chips -- what a great idea. Old Bay and potatoes is an unexpected pleasure.

Sandeepa, welcome! I have much to learn about Indian ingredients from your blog, too.

Freya, yep, potatoes and Old Bay -- a winning combination.

I've got some of this in my cupboard — never thought of putting it on popcorn, but that sounds good!

As a DCite, I have to agree that it's not at all traditional... but who doesn't love bacon with seafood?

Mimi, popcorn with Old Bay is new to me, too.

Tanya, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. I grew up with Maryland crab cakes, but I have to say I really love these Florida ones.

Being from the South, I've had some wonderful crab cakes made with bacon. I don't know that bacon would taste good in a chocolate cake...but it sure is good in most things!

I, too, had never had Old Bay until I met my Maryland-husband. Now I always have a tin. Popcorn is good, also I sprinkle some on shrimp for shrimp cocktail, gives it a little extra something.

Sher, I'm not sure about bacon and chocolate cake in the same dish, but in the same meal? Absolutely!

Lisa, Old Bay in cocktail sauce is a great idea. Maryland must be a great place to find husbands (see Jessica's comment above, too)!

Link, I've not seen Old Bay used as a crab cake sprinkle -- I've always had it in the mix. Interesting. Maybe some people find it too spicy? To me, it's not spicy at all.

From my grandma's cuboard to my mama's spice rack to my crowded kitchen cabinet...Old Bay is a multi-generational favorite!

I´d always fall for that tin, even if it contained sawdust. beautiful!

I, too, learned of Old Bay from my Marylander (?) husband. I always have a tin around. I love it on popcorn, but will also steam shrimp in it like they do crabs. Also, if the shrimp is already cooked, I will sprinkle it on for a little kick to shrimp cocktail.

Sarah, it's always been a fixture in our family kitchens, too.

Ximena, the tin is half the fun! It's a design classic, isn't it?

Lisa, I really have to try this popcorn thing -- seems like I'm really behind the trend on that one!

I've so gotta try this for crabcakes!

I too have never seen bacon in a crabcake recipe but how can anything with bacon in it not be good. Thanks for this recipe! It's a keeper. :)

Jeff, I hope you do!

Amy, thanks for visiting. Enjoy the recipe.

I blend Old Bay with salt to rim Bloody Mary glasses. Garnish with a dill pickle spear (and make sure you add horseradish, Cholula and pickle juice to your bloody mix). Serve w/ a sidecar of ice cold cheap american beer (e.g. PBR or Schlitz). Yum.

Flynn, thanks for stopping by. Great use of Old Bay!

I´ve been given a tin!!! I´m so excited, and can´t wait to start on all the recipes you link to.

Lobstersquad, that's great -- will be watching for some Spanish recipes with Old Bay on your wonderful blog!

Baltimore crab cakes are the best. I can't wait to try this recipe, Hon.

I have been featuring a few alternative recipes on www.crabcakeguy.com I will be sure to offer up a review of your cakes, when I prepare them. Thanks
-The Crab Cake Guy

Crab Cake Guy, I'm so lucky to have one "arm" of my family that lives in Maryland, the place that makes the best crab cakes on the planet!

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