Shedders vs. hard-shelled and the Portland-style of eating lobster

What do you prefer: a ‘shedder’ or a hard-shelled?

Or do you know the difference? We didn’t, before our recent glamping trip to Maine.

It’s lobsters we’re referring too.

We learnt from the best, while many restaurants serve the larger, harder lobster, they’re bigger and require the crackers, it’s really the younger, smaller, softer-shelled lobsters, often referred to as ‘shedders’, that are the sweetest.  The ones we taste-tested were caught off Casco Bay near Portland.

Hold the butter.  Hold the crackers.  And serve-up the shedders.

Our buddy Dale comes from a long line of lobster fishermen and sea Captains dating back a century or more, according to folklore.  He’s definitely the saltiest guy we know (next to his Dad) and probably the nicest.

He’s worked the islands, wharfs and seafront of Portland, Cliff Island and beyond, for most of his life and he knows a thing or two about lobster (and just about everything else).

The union of Portland dockyards, founded in 1793, is home to Custom Docks and Floats, lobster boats, water emergency response boats, a Nova Star office and plenty old brick buildings and warehouses.

Dale and Karen took us down to his friend Dickie’s boat in Portland harbour where he hauled up a cage of freshly caught lobsters that Dickie had left waiting for us to weigh and take back to Dale and Karen’s to steam.  Twelve shedder lobsters weighing-in at about 20 lbs. and they looked feisty.IMG_8173

Steamed to perfection, the New England couple and longtime friends served up an east coast specialty, alongside corn on the cob and ramen salad, and gave the girls that added ‘wow-factor’ having helped heave the cage directly from the ocean.

Tips to eating a shedder:
1. To access tail meat, twist off tail, then hold the five little tail fins, bend them back to snap them off and then simply push the meat through.  No crackers necessary, just plenty of napkins.

2. Keep a bucket nearby for the shells and as you twist apart the knuckle from the claw, hold it over the bucket to drain access water (and keep your own plate of corn and salad dry). I learned this the hard way.

3.  Fun lobster starter tip: Dale says often the little legs on the underside of the lobster get wasted, as eager diners focus on the claws and tail.  He removes all the little legs first and serves them in a bowl to snack on before the lobster dinner.  It reminds me of eating edamame, bite along one piece and push the meat out with your teeth, then break it off at the knuckle and work the next section of the leg.

Like eating a freshly steamed artichoke, the food that takes a little extra time is always superior.

Happy glamping…and eating!