What great writers have come from Maine

Erwin Seitz

Commodity Science, March 2015

Rich aroma, firm meat, delicate sweetness

Most of the lobsters come from the east coast of the United States and Canada

The home of the lobster is the North Atlantic. The glamorous crustacean feels at home on both the east coast of North America and the west coast of Europe, preferably in cool waters that do not get more than fifteen degrees Celsius. By far the largest fishing grounds are on the border between the United States and Canada: where the Gulf of Maine meets Fundy Bay. The American lobster district of Maine stretches to the southwest, while the Canadian lobster sanctuary of the Nova Scotia peninsula, Nova Scotia in German, lies to the northeast.

There, as there, there is a rugged, rocky coastal landscape that continues in the shallow water. Here the lobster finds ideal protection in small rock caves during the day, while at night it searches for prey. He mainly eats other crustaceans and shellfish, which he breaks open with his powerful claws. The Gulf of Maine and Fundy Bay are full of such animals thanks to the high tide range. The lobster lives here like in paradise: The water is pleasantly cool for him; the rocky seabed offers the best hiding places during the day and rich prey at night.

Marked in red: Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada, southwest of it the Gulf of Maine and the US state of Maine
© Author, source, license

Around one hundred thousand tons of lobsters are caught annually in Maine and Nova Scotia, many millions of them. Most Maine lobsters, such as Nova Scotia lobsters, are consumed in the United States, but Canadian Nova Scotia lobsters in particular make their way to other parts of the world. The local menu simply says “Canadian lobster”, which doesn't sound very individual and regional. Honor where honor is due: You should write “Nova Scotia Lobster” or “Canadian Nova Scotia Lobster”, provided that this origin is guaranteed.

The catch of European lobster is no more than one twentieth of the American-Canadian lobster amount. The French are convinced that the Breton lobster is the best there is. But Alfred Walterspiel, the most important German cook in the first half of the twentieth century, wrote in his book “My Art in Kitchen and Restaurant” around 1950 that the water on the Breton coast was already too warm, and said: “The Helgoländer, The southern Swedish or Norwegian lobster is therefore much more valued and is twice as expensive as the French or Belgian lobster. ”The delicate Heligoland lobster is very rare today, but connoisseurs have long valued the Irish and Scottish lobster.

The two types of lobster, the American and the European: the "Homarus americanus" and the "Homarus gammarus", hardly differ from one another. Both show an almost black tank alive, the American one having a reddish-brown tinge, the European a bluish one. The claws in the American lobster are slightly larger than in the European lobster in relation to the overall size of the animal. Ideally, every lobster should offer wonderfully elastic meat after cooking, by no means too soft or too hard; a rich aroma should be perceptible: with a slight sweetness and a hint of sea breeze and freshness - holiday mood. Maybe the European lobster tastes a bit spicier.

American lobster
(Homarus americanus)
© Roberto Rodríguez, source, license

European lobster
(Homarus gammarus)
© Roberto Rodríguez, source, license












The decisive factor for the quality of the lobster is how quickly it arrives in the kitchen alive and how it is processed. In many places, the fluctuating seasonal catch is balanced out by temporarily storing the lobster in cages where it lives on its own substance without eating anything. In the trade, lobsters that come into the kitchen immediately after being caught are called “Premium Lobster”, followed by “Market A Lobster” and “Market B Lobster”.

May, June, and July are the main lobster season; the animals are particularly well fed and full-fleshed at this time; then they renew their armor and thin out slightly before they recover a little in October, November, December. In general, lobsters weighing about a pound and a half are well developed and full of flavor: with a meat content of twenty to twenty-five percent. If the live lobster is still ready to fight when it is delivered, if it holds up its scissors and twitches its tail, then the lobster was probably caught not long ago.

The only permitted method in Germany to kill the lobster is to put the lobster one at a time in bubbly boiling water, lightly salted, and wait for the water to boil again. Usually the cook then takes the pan off the stove and lets the lobster sit in the hot broth for a few minutes; three to four minutes, then toast the loosened meat in the pan with butter or to finish cooking it with gentle top heat. If you want to make lobster salad, let the lobster sit in the broth for ten minutes. In addition, roasted lobster carcasses form the basis for making a lobster stock that is transformed into soups or sauces. One might even be of the opinion that ideally a lobster soup tastes the best of lobster: an incredibly fine, spicy essence. What a shame that tweezers and gallery cooks no longer really care about soup or sauce.

Classic ingredients and spices for lobster and stock are lemon, garlic, shallot, fennel and anise seeds, tarragon, parsley, white wine, sherry, cognac, cream, butter, olive oil - or an Asian seasoning with coconut milk, curry, lemongrass and ginger. Hand-scraped spaetzle go surprisingly well with the lobster ragout, as do green vegetables, green asparagus, broad beans, spinach, Brussels sprouts. The hand-stirred mayonnaise with lemon juice and a little garlic is ideal for the lukewarm lobster salad; less the cocktail sauce that whitewashes its own taste.

High pressure lobster

In order to avoid quality losses in lobsters due to long periods of storage or to spare the living lobster from uncomfortable long journeys, "high pressure lobsters" have been on the market for a few years. The Canadian company "Clearwater" on Nova Scotia is probably leading. The following observation is made on a tour of the farm: After they have been caught, the lobsters come into a hall, are distributed in pools with very cold water for a few days and so put into hibernation. The animals are then transported into lockable containers with ice water, where they are completely euthanized and killed under increased pressure, presumably without noticing anything. At the same time, the meat separates from the shell in the high-pressure vessel. Then you release the raw lobster pieces: tail, scissors, joints, leg meat, weld the pieces, often in different combinations, in foil and let them run through a shock freezing system. Halved "high pressure lobsters" with a tail in the shell and a cleaned head with scissors and joints are popular.

The cook saves time; he only needs to thaw the raw pieces in the foil overnight and can easily prepare them: heat them in the oven at 190 degrees Celsius for ten minutes or cook sous-vide or brown them in a pan with butter. The best thing is, of course, when a live lobster comes into the kitchen straight away, but a flash frozen raw “High Pressure Lobster” can taste superior to a live “Market A Lobster” or “Market B Lobster”, especially a pre-cooked one Lobster delivered frozen.

Lobster is an exquisite, expensive animal. It's worth looking for the right product. Since the North American lobsters are available in larger quantities than the European ones, they are usually around 20 percent cheaper. That doesn't have to say anything about the quality. The logistics of the Canadian lobster industry in particular are well developed and geared towards sustainability. Frischeparadies (www.frischeparadies.de) offers live Canadian Nova Scotia lobsters, seasonal Breton lobsters as well as “High Pressure Lobster” from Nova Scotia from Clearwater. Rungis Express (www.rungisexpress.com) also offers live Canadian Nova Scotia lobsters, as well as live European, Breton and Scottish lobsters, others on pre-order, as well as “high pressure lobsters”. Deutsche See (www.deutschesee.de) has specialized entirely in Canadian "High Pressure Lobster", but calls it "Hyperbaric Lobster", which comes from Prince Edward Island, just north of Nova Scotia.


Further product information of this kind can be found in my book:

Erwin Seitz: Cooking close to nature - simple, good, healthy. Recipes and product knowledge. Insel, Berlin 2018

"Erwin Seitz recommends simple recipes made from the best ingredients in this refreshingly diet-free book." Claire Beermann, ZEIT magazine

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