The idea of living off of the land tends to bring about romantic images of farming and big game hunting. While circumstances, planning and seasonal blessings can definitely produce the optimum harvest of meat and veggies for legit homesteaders, often times those who live beyond the confines of cities need to get creative. That means, foraging food sources from the wild.
The average snail provides protein in strong, tiny doses. Simply put, it’s a lot of bang for your buck. A 100-gram serving of snail (that’s about 3.5 ounces of snail), provides 90 calories. Most of those calories come from protein. About 60% of a snail is pure protein. This means that the woods have a primary protein source that is just crawling around out there waiting to be harvested. Sure, the visual appearance and slimy nature of snails don’t necessarily scream “let’s eat,” but if you can push beyond your initial response, you may find that foraging for these critters is a great way to put some extra protein on your plate.
Early morning is the best time to search for snails. Take a short stroll down a grassy road and keep your eyes open. Where there is one snail, you will find more. At the risk of sounding cliché, to find the snail you must become the snail, so move slowly. A small bucket will suffice as a place to keep your haul of snails while out and about. A cloth sack works well also. Take care not to crack their shells while you move about.
Much like clams or mussels, snails need to be purged for 24 hours before they can be cooked. The easiest way to do this is to put your snails in a dish with a little bit of water. Let them craw around in there for 24 hours and expel whatever it is they have been ingesting. You may need to use a lid to make sure your snails don’t disappear on you.
- Boil a pot of water with salt in it. Place your snails into a strainer that can fit into the pot. Use the kind of strainer one would need if steaming broccoli. Make sure there is enough water in the pot to cover the snails. Keep them under the boiling water for about 2 minutes. Then, move the snails into a small bowl of ice water. Some of the smaller snail shells may crack at this point. Be careful. Use a small fork to reach in and pull the snails out of their shells. Rinse them so that pieces of shell don’t come along for the ride.
- Melt ½ stick of butter in a sauté pan. Then, add minced garlic. This is the part where you can add white wine, thyme, pepper and sea salt. Add water, enough to cover the snails completely, bring it all to a boil and then add your snails. Cover and let it all cook for an hour, at a low simmer. Take care to make sure that not too much water evaporates.
Okay, now you have legit escargots. From here you can choose to eat them with fork and dipping sauce, or to stuff them into mushrooms with shallots or other veggies and make friendlier looking appetizers.