Maine Lobster Bake

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Maine 'Lobsta' Bake!
by Jennifer Wojenski

One might think that
Mainers eat
lobster as much as New Yorkers eat hoagies. Not true!

As a child growing up in
Maine my family and most families I knew did not
have lobster very often. It was a huge treat to have lobsters and they usually
were reserved for the adults. Kids always seemed just as happy with the
hamburger/hotdog fare; myself included.

It was not until I was in college that I began liking lobster, before that I didn’t
like the mess and work that went along with eating a lobster. Now I’ve
figured out that the only way around that is to eat them outside on a picnic
table with lots of napkins.

It seems as though lobsters still have that “treat” or special occasion status
either because of their price or their rich flavor. But historically lobsters were
so plentiful in Maine that they were considered “poverty food” during
colonial times. And the Native Americans even used them as fertilizer for
their fields. Massachusetts servants eventually rebelled against being served
lobster so frequently and had it put in their contracts that they would not be
served lobster more than three times per week. It was at the time of World
War II that lobster finally gained in popularity and became more of a

Early on lobsters were actually caught by hand along the shore. During the
1820s Lobstermen were called “smackmen” because the boats they used
were called “smacks”.   These boats were small sailing vessels with a tank
inside the boat that had holes drilled into it to allow sea water to circulate.
Smacks were used to transport live lobsters over long distances - specifically
between the New York and Boston markets.  Around 1850 lobsters were
caught by trapping as they are today.

For the past several years my family has gathered at a cottage in York, ME
for Labor Day weekend. This began as a celebration for my father’s birthday
and turned into a huge lobster fest that has continued for several years now.  
A week before the event each family puts in their order for number of
lobsters and my sister who lives in ME gets the bundle of lobsters from one
of her fishermen friends. She brings them to the gathering in a marine cooler
and we keep them chilled until the preparations have been made and it is
time for the feast!

The picnic tables are coated with plastic table clothes, crackers and picks are
dispersed around the table, empty bowls are set around for shells, the butter
is melted and napkins are plentiful. We do not cook everything together in
the same pot like a traditional Lobster Bake but we do have all of the
fixings… steamers to start, potato salad, corn on the cob, and the red clawed
creatures. In the end there are always a few lobsters left over. One thing
about lobsters is in your mind you could eat two or three for sure but the
richness takes over and the reality is usually one is all you could possibly
eat depending on their size and your appetite.

My mother who never wastes a morsel of food (a true New England trait!)
gathers up all of the leftover lobsters and all of the legs and bodies of the
lobsters and spends possibly hours picking at them to get all of the meat
out.  Later that week you could speak to my mother and hear reviews of
their weeks meals…. lobster omelet, lobster bisque, lobster rolls, lobster
sauce over chicken and your mouth still waters.

Our lobsters and steamers are cooked in huge outdoor pots that are heated
by small propane burners. You only need a few inches of seawater in the
bottom of the kettle to steam the clams and the lobsters.  Lobsters need to
cook for 9-12 minutes depending on their size. But the best way to tell if they
are done is to wait for them to turn bright red. Steamers are cooked the same
way and you want to make sure they are steamed until they open up which
is approximately 7-10 minutes.

If you are planning on cooking everything together you would put just a few
inches of seawater in your pot and let it boil and then add the lobsters,
steamers, potatoes, seaweed,  and then the corn (with husks on or off). Cover
the top with a piece of foil or canvas and lots of seaweed. Seal up the pot and
let it boil again. Let it steam for 20 minutes and enjoy your lobster bake.

Besides cooking the lobsters in a real Maine fashion eating them can
sometimes be a trick. I will leave you with a step by step instruction to
enjoying your Maine Lobsta!

1.        Twist off the claws from the body.

2.        Crack the claws with a cracker or pull apart small claw from large claw
and pull meat out with hands or pick.

3.        Separate the tail from the body by twisting.

4.        Push tail meat up and out the other end with fingers. You will find a
strip of meat on the outer part – pull this off – you can eat it. Underneath it is
the lobster’s digestive tract – you don’t want to eat this part.

5.        Pull the shell off the body of the lobster and underneath you will find
the green “tomalley” (the liver) – you probably don’t want to eat this part
although, I know some people do. Pull the small claws off the body and
suck out the meat.  

Eating lobsters is really an art that needs to be practiced often to perfect!

About the author: Jennifer Wojenski, a freelance  writer, is owner of Hors D’Oeuvres
Unlimited, a catering service based in Keene, New Hampshire.  To contact her, drop
her a line at

See our other Lobster Recipes:
Lobster & Corn Chowder Recipe
Lobster Tarragon
Maine 'Lobstas'
The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
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