Cream of Crab Soup

English: Blue crab on market in Piraeus - Call...

Cream of crab soup finds its origins in classic French cuisineEnglish cuisine was the foundation of Mid – Atlantic cuisine, but the French influence became more pronounced after the successful establishment of the colonies.   Cream of crab soup is viewed in the Mid – Atlantic region as a refined dish as opposed to the classic Maryland crab soup which was influenced by local products and Native American cuisine.

Cream of crab soup was the establishment of European traditions using new world ingredients.  In a historical sense it is younger then it’s tomato based crab soup, but has still seen many influences and changes over time.  It has been modified from an outgrowth of a milk based oyster stew to the modern canned processed food world.

Its European roots can be traced back due to the thickening component which binds the soup together:  The roux.  The flour and fat combination is synonymous with French sauces and soups.  Being a cream based soup; the roux used is a white roux or a quickly cooked roux, which may have been due to early settlers need to conserve fuel.  It also does not compromise the color of the soup, allowing it to maintain its pure white characteristics.  This was a much favored fashion of the time.   White flour, before the age of bleaching was achieved by aging the flour, which not only improved its flavor, but was something that was only done by well to do people who had the resources with which to permit time for the aging to occur.  In early settlement times this was a side effect of flour being transported from Europe.  It gave the settlers a sense of luxury which is an aspect that has clung to this soup throughout its history.  The earliest forms of this dish come from simple steamed whole crabs.  The crabs are put into a pot and seasonings such as vinegar, cayenne, mace and salt and pepper are added.  The hard crabs are allowed to steam and when they are about three quarters done, milk or cream is added to the water, vinegar mixture and allowed to reduce.  This produces a gravy that is served with the crabs and may be the origin of the soup.  It was simply a matter of picking the crabs and adding them to the sauce.

An early version of this dish discovered in an old receipt book from St. Mary’s not only describes the classic basis for the dish, but also the simplicity of its original design.

Creamed Crab Soup[1]

1634 – 1959


24 Crabs Cleaned & Steamed                                                                                     

1 Gallon Water

Parsley                                                                                                                                 Thyme


Salt & Pepper


                Boil down to 2 Quarts.


Or add:

1 lb. Crab Meat                                                                                                                

2 Quarts water


½ Pint Cream


Add cream Just before serving.

This recipe is based on reduction as the main thickening agent and shows the soups original foundation of preparation may have originated with the classic waterman’s oyster stew.  By concentrating the flavors of the crabs cooking liquid, it reduced the dependency of certain expensive seasonings in the preparation of the dish.  Salt and spices were a product of Mid Atlantic regions success as an exporting community.  The vagueness of this recipe allows for significant variance and the maximization of the seasonings and aromatics being used.  This recipe shows the concentration of flavorings that would be typical of a self sufficient philosophy, which would try to use everything.

The cream of crab soup was probably one of the first truly American dishes.  It is a hybrid of Old World technique applied to New World ingredients.  The dish has become synonymous with Maryland fine dining.

Over time the dish has seen many influential changes.   By the time of Civil War it had seen the introduction of many different spices.

Crab Soup[2]



4 Crabs, boiled, cleaned and all meat removed                  

¼ Nutmeg Grated

2 Quarts milk                                                                                     

1 – 2 Mace Berries

(Or 1 ½ quarts milk and 1 pint top milk,                                  

1 Teaspoon Butter

Or light cream)                                                                                 

Cayenne Pepper

Black Pepper (freshly Ground)


                In an agate or enamel kettle simmer the cooked crabmeat one half hour with the spices, butter and salt and pepper with a little of the milk.  Gradually stir in the rest of the milk, a little at a time, the cream last, just before serving.  Eight to ten servings

The author gives three additional recipes for crab soup, the variations being to use more crabmeat (6 crabs); to add parsley; or one onion; or 1 beaten egg; to use more butter (up to ¼ pound)

Celery salt added to the soup, or freshly minced celery leaves spooned on top of each serving contributes good flavor.

Due to the Chesapeake regions success as a harbor and port in the exportation of tobacco, spices and many other luxuries of the old world began to flow into its maritime ports.  The recipe had not yet seen its final transformation, but the compounding of seasoning and the more exacting descriptions show the growing prosperity of households of the bay region.

This recipe still calls for the long simmering to utilize the flavoring of the seasonings and crabmeat.  The crabs are still referred to in a whole sense as opposed to later when the crab came under the influence of industrialization and was divided into various subsections.  Still at this point, the glory days of colonial living, food products were still used in whole portions and large staffs of slaves or hired help were employed to transform food product into meals.  Recipes from this time are still very sketchy since they were transcribed mainly by the Mistress of the household from her cooks, who had little education and could not read or write and in some cases could not speak directly due to cultural standards and a lack of any universally consistent measuring system.

This was a great time for the evolution of dishes to occur since there were no defined rules or standards to regulate it, but most of these innovations were lost to time, since there was no effective way of transcribing them.

Crab Stew[3]



One peck live crabs, steam 20 minutes, bone and pick the claws and bodies.  Stew with one pint of milk or cream, the flesh and eggs of the crabs 15 minutes.  Flavor with salt and cayenne pepper.

This book is a compilation of recipes written originally in 1879 during the height of the first wave of cookbooks to be published in the United States.  It is comprised of recipes from over 250 contributors and many of them are plagiarized from other cookbooks that came before it.   It does have a very distinctive Virginia focus and is definitely regional to early Mid – Atlantic cuisine.  It is a great resource for early descriptive recipes and one of the first “community” cookbooks of its type.  The focus of the book is still on upper middle class or wealthy households and all the contributors are of sound standing in the community, even the introduction is written with the subtly humble tone of self deprecation on part of the “editor.”

A boom of household manuals followed in the years after the publication of this book.  These books were an early way in which women asserted themselves and their housework as valuable and vital to the community at large.  There is even a warning to current and future housewives of the need to master the basic skills of the kitchen or else their husbands would frequent Taverns and hotels of a disreputable sort in order to satisfy their needs.  This body of work, while asserting women’s role in society, still held firm the middle class and upper class belief of the social standing of a woman as homemaker and wife.

The manuals also followed due to the loss of slave labor in the United States and most middle class people had to relearn how to produce food for a large family or function.  Only the wealthy could afford the hired help of recent immigrants and in these cases the manuals helped to define what the homeowner’s wanted in their cuisine.  It is also the beginning of setting up national movements in food.  Trends began to appear and different types of food began to fall in and out of fashion.  This would later be the foundation of the nutritionist movement and what would become the diet cookbook industry.

Ratcliffe Crab Soup[4]



One quart of picked crab, discarding all fat.  Take one pint of water, add four pieces of mace, one onion cut in half, so it can be taken out (not served in the soup), three blades of parsley, a little red pepper and salt.  When it boils, add the crab, with one large iron spoonful of butter mixed with two tablespoons of flour.  Stir in the crab, then add one quart of cream or rich milk.  Let it come to a good boil; serve hot.  Milk must be very fresh and sweet.

This recipe is unusual in that it calls for the discarding of the fat from the crab which would go a long way to improving the flavor of the soup.  It also calls for a boiling of the milk or cream which will change the flavor of the milk and should be avoided at all costs.  Bring the soup up just to a boil and let it simmer lightly. Milk should never exceed the temperature of 160° F.  This will alter the flavor of the milk.  The additional fat in cream will allow it to come to a higher temperature, so if a reduction is called for use heavy cream.

Crab Soup[5]



Take one pint of water; add a little onion, three or four blades of mace, a little parsley, cayenne pepper and salt.  Let them come to a boil.  Then add one quart picked crabs, one quart rich milk and cream half and half.  One quarter pound butter rubbed into two tablespoons of flour.  Stir all into crab.  Let it come to a good boil and send it hot to the table. 

At this point in history the science of nutrition lowered the expectations of the middle class kitchens and this dish fell out of fashion due to the misinformation presented as the scientific fact of its day.  It still retained favor with the more well to do.  This is where the class distinction of the dish was created and cream of crab became synonymous with fine dining and luxury.  It was also a French style soup which was much in favor with the well to do class.

This brief recipe shows that in utility came the invention of a spin off on this dish which is more commonly associated with cooking further down the southern seaboard.  As prosperity and better living became more universal, so too did the discerning palette of the Mid – Atlantic region.  The distinction was made between the male crabs and the female crabs and the eggs, or roe of the crab was introduced into the basic cream of crab recipe and a new dish was born.

She Crab Soup[6]

Michael's She-Crab Soup at Croakers, Inc. at V...

Michael’s She-Crab Soup at Croakers, Inc. at Virginia Beach. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



1 lb.  Sook Lump Crab Meat                                                                                        

¼ Cup Grated Onion

1 Medium Carrot, grated                                                                                             

2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter

2 Tbsp. Flour                                                                                                                     

2 Cups Chicken Broth

2 Cups half & Half                                                                                                            

1 Tbsp. Dry Sherry

2 Dashes Tabasco sauce                                                                                               


Chopped Parsley, to Garnish


                Remove any shell from the crab meat and set aside.  In a soup pot, soften the onion and carrot in butter over low heat.  After the vegetables have cooked for about 10 minutes, sprinkle them with the flour and cook for 5 minutes, being careful the flour dose not brown.

                Stir in the chicken broth and the half and half.  Add the sherry and Tabasco.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.  Add crab meat and heat thoroughly for about 5 minutes.  Adjust the seasoning.

                Serve the soup garnished with chopped parsley and pass sherry for additional flavor.

                Note: Authentic she crab soup is made with female blue crabs because of the fat and orange egg paste used as a flavor base.  When female crabs are not available, regular crab meat is used and diced carrots added in place of the fat and egg paste. 

This version of the soup is more traditionally associated with the southern Atlantic costal region, in particular, North and South Carolina, but it draws it roots from the classic cream soups of the Mediterranean and more recently from the cream of crab soup of the Mid Atlantic.

The variation is to separate the female crabs from the male and to include the roe into the soup as a flavoring base as well as a color.  This particular example shows the more modern evolution of the dish including chicken broth and sherry as well as some prepared ingredients like Tabasco sauce.  This recipe also shows the distinction between the types of crab meat.  In this case it calls for lump crab meat, more commonly referred to now as backfin.  This is separated and pasteurized or canned, unlike the earlier recipes that involve cooking and cleaning the crabs themselves.  This recipe shows the more modern convenience oriented ingredients, which were unavailable before the 1940’s.

She – Crab Soup

A Soup to remember!

The female gender

Of crabs is expedient –

The secret ingredient.

The flavor essential

Makes men reverential

Who tastes this collection

And cry acclamation.

Crab Bisque[7]



1 Cup Crab Meat                                                                              1 Quart Cold Milk

2 Tablespoons Margarine                                                             Salt, Pepper and Cayenne

2 Tablespoons Flour                                                                        Crackers


                Cut crab meat into small cubes.  Melt margarine and flour gradually.  Cook until it begins to bubble, and then add cold milk stirring constantly.  Cook until thick, add crab meat and cook in a double boiler 15 minutes.  Season highly with salt pepper and cayenne.  Serve very hot with hot buttered crackers.  Serves 6. 

This is a classic example of bisque with the thickening of the soup coming from the addition of crackers into the soup.  Mace and cayenne pepper were common spices used in seasoning from the time of the first colonists up until about 1940.  At this time dishes became more reserved in their seasonings as the national food movement homogenized the culinary standards of the nation.  The Mid – Atlantic region and the United States in general lost our tendency to highly season our food. This trend was further cemented with the advent of Nouvelle cuisine which highlighted the use of pure flavors and uncomplicated preparations.  The freshness and availability of products reduced the need to disguise the quality of ingredients with high seasoning.

White Crab Soup[8]



Steam six crabs, crack the legs and fins and put them in a gallon of water with the fat from the backs.  Season to taste.  While the above is boiling about one and a half hours, pick the crabs and after draining off the water from the legs and fins put the liquid in a pot with prepared crabmeat and boil one half hour.  Pour one half pint of cream in a tureen and serve.

Seasoning:  A slice of fresh middling, pepper and if you like a little onion, and one quarter pound butter rubbed into a tablespoon of flour.

Mrs. T. Rowland Thomas

This example from the popular book in the 1930’s shows that this soup was still made in more of the traditional fashion up until this point.  Again, it shows the inconsistencies that would later be eliminated by the standardization of the recipe format and the common usage of culinary terms.  Middling refers to a slice of bacon and to mount the butter is a French technique of incorporating butter and flour and adding it at the last minute to thicken a soup or sauce and add a glossy sheen to the dish as well as adding fat, amounting to additional flavor and richness.

From the forties to the eighties shows the golden age of the industrial food chain and the more clinical and scientific approach to cooking.  Recipes and cookbooks can be found in profusion at this point.  This is the time when it became fashionable to argue over who made the best cream of crab or who made the more traditional or “true” dish.  As we began to categorize and subdivide the cuisines of the world, the Mid – Atlantic was not immune to the systematic and exacting standards of the new industrial food movement.  This movement also was an exciting time in the evolution of this dish.  New food products from all over the globe were becoming readily available and the influx of immigrants into the Mid – Atlantic region allowed people to sample cuisines from all over the globe.  New products tend to lead to new dishes and people were altering these dishes in order to suit them to a specific taste.  You could see crab being paired with coconut milk as opposed to cream and even newer items such as nut and rice milks were becoming available on the market.  Other innovations were reduced fat variations of certain ingredients such as milk and butter.  These allowed people to reduce the richness of the dish to suit their caloric needs.  Time and economics had played a role in establishing this dish in the new world, but it would be the latter half of the twentieth century that would be the spark that would both innovate and change this recipe the most.  The proceeding pages demonstrate but a small fraction of these changes.

Maryland Cream of Crab Soup[9]



1 Tablespoon Flour                                                                          2 Tablespoons Butter

2 Quarts Milk                                                                                     1 Pint Crab Meat

½ Onion, Sliced                                                                                 ½ Pint Heavy Cream

Chopped Parsley, Celery, Salt and Pepper


                Melt butter in top of double boiler, add flour and blend.  Gradually add the milk and onion, parsley and celery, and season to taste.  Cook slowly until the soup thickens a little, and then add the crab meat.  Serve the individual dishes with a spoonful of whipped cream on top.

This is a pamphlet cookbook written in the mid thirties collecting recipes from all over the Southern United States.  It is unclear the motive behind the collection on the part of the editor’s.  There does not seem to be any community connection or fundraising effort put forward into the work.

The pamphlet is like most books from the era on southern cooking in that it romanticizes the south as the home of genteel men and ladies who suffer through the savagery of the modern world.  The book is littered with racially insensitive cartoons depicting African Americans as lazy and selfish simpletons incapable of living for themselves.  The idea of minority contributions to southern cooking is quickly dismissed in the introduction:

“The Creole Dish of New Orleans has nothing to do with racial origin but rather indicates the use of red and green bell peppers, onions and garlic.”

The pamphlet is a fine example of classic southern cooking during the time, despite its short coming on cultural honesty, it is included many times in future chapters as a source for distinctive Mid – Atlantic cooking.

Baltimore Crab Soup[10]



2 Tablespoons Butter                                                                    

1 Onion, Finely Chopped

1 Tablespoon Flour                                                                         

2 Cups Warm Water

1 Cup Crab Meat                                                                             

¼ Cup Chopped Celery

Chopped Parsley                                                                             

Salt and Pepper

Dash Tabasco Sauce                                                                       

3 Cups Scalded Milk


                Melt the butter, add the onion and brown.  Blend in the flour and slowly add the warm water; allow to cook until slightly thickened.  Add the crab meat, celery, parsley and seasonings.  Allow to simmer for 30 minutes.  Just before serving, add the scalded milk.

This recipe also calls for the scalding of the milk.  This step is only to be applied if the milk is fresh, much like it was sold in most of the region at this time.  Today, manufacturing has given us the process of pasteurized milk and refrigeration which has rendered the need to remove unwanted pathogens unnecessary.  Keeping the milk below the boiling point will improve the flavor of the soup remarkably.

Creamed Crab Soup[11]



1 Pound Crabmeat                                                          2 Cups Milk

1 Cup Cream                                                                      2 Tbsp. Butter

1 ½ tbsp. Flour                                                                   2 Hard Boiled Eggs

Salt, Black & Red Pepper                                               Sherry to Taste


                Melt Butter, stir in the flour, add milk, salt, black and red pepper.  When heated, add crabmeat and cream.  Heat and mix thoroughly, add chopped eggs and sherry to taste.  Garnish with sprigs of parsley.  This is a very nice soup to serve in cups.

This is one of the earliest instances of the use of a roux in the recipe.  It also incorporates hard boiled eggs as a thickener as well as a garnish, completing the transformation of the dish from rustic to refined.  Historically,  it was richness or the cost of the ingredients that defined it as elegant or refined, but now we begin to see the emergence of the American definition of gastronomy and the other factors such as textures, temperature contrasts and eye appeal begin to become more evident.


Crab Bisque[12]



1 Pound Crabmeat                                                          1 – 3 Cups Rice

1 ½ Pints Milk                                                                     1 Cup Cream

3 Tbsp. Butter                                                                    2 Cups Water

Salt                                                                                         Black Pepper

Red Pepper                                                                        Nutmeg


                Cook rice to a mush, in the milk, and mash through a fine sieve.  Melt half the butter and the crabmeat.  When well heated, add water, add mashed rice and milk.  Boil about 10 minutes, then add rest of butter, cream and salt, black and red pepper, and nutmeg.  Mix thoroughly.  Add ½ cup steamed rice and mix before serving. 

The canning process developed for the commercial food industry began to make possible the transportation of this dish and it’s ingredients to further and further regions of the world.  It was now possible to make this dish in California as well as along the Mid Atlantic coast.  It also was the birth of precooked and cleaned crabmeat.  At this point in history it was still a matter of cooking and cleaning the crabs and canning the resulting meat, but that changed soon after and crabmeat was divided into its different types and marketed accordingly.  The grading of crabmeat was devised by a man named Frederick Jewitt.

The four types of crabmeat are:

Jumbo Lump Crab Meat – This is considered the highest grade of crab meat due to its size and mild buttery taste.  There are very few shells or cartilage packed with this since it comes out of the body after all of the smaller more fragile pieces have been removed.

Backfin Crab Meat – is removed from the area around the back of the crab where its swimmer or fins are located.  This meat is identical in taste to jumbo lump crab meat but is smaller and flakier since it has to be sorted through in order to remove any cartilage or shells.

Special Crab Meat – is backfin and lump that has been damaged in the processing of the meat.  It is more shredded and usually contains smaller pieces and flakes then backfin.  It must be sorted through carefully which will break up the pieces even more.

Claw Crab Meat – This is meat taken from the claws and arms of the crab.  It is oilier and has more of a fish taste then the meat from the body.  It is also chewier and has a darker color.  This meat is less costly and is ideal for soups where its stronger texture will not break down and its stronger flavor has more chance to develop.

Crab Soup[13]



                Steam 1 can claw meat in 3 tablespoons water.  Add one quart milk and butter the size of an egg.  Salt, pepper and cayenne.

This is a recipe that one might find in a professional kitchen.  It is short and supposes a certain level of culinary knowledge from the cook.  Seasonings at this point were becoming more minimal due to the changing styles and abundance of availability after the Second World War.

Mother’s Crab Soup[14]



1 Qt. Rich Milk                                                                                   2 Tbsp. Flour

1 Lb. Crab Meat                                                                                                1/8 Lb. Butter

Salt and Pepper


                In a double boiler or heavy aluminum saucepan heat the milk slowly.  When it comes to a boil, put in the crab meat and cook for about five minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Rub together the flour and butter.  Add very slowly to the soup, stirring carefully to prevent lumping of the thickening and breaking of the crab flakes.

                Sprinkle a bit of finely minced parsley over each serving. 

                *Home picked crabs are best because you will have the yellow fat which is in the points of the shells.  Commercially picked crabs are washed and much of the rich flavor is lost.

 –              Elizabeth A. Mundy                                                                                                                                                                       

  Cambridge, Dorchester County, Maryland

Here we see the transformation of the dish into its more modern form.  A roux is used here to thicken the soup which still clings to the old fashioned way of making the soup, but the seasonings and flavors begin to showcase the more modern style.  The flavor of the crabmeat is highlighted here above anything else.  This is more in recognition of the rise in esteem of the blue crab as an ingredient rather than the trash fish that was associated with slaves, and complimentary fare served in bars.

Crab Soup or Creamed Crab[15]



¼ Pound Butter

2 Tablespoons Flour

1 Pint Milk

1 Pound Lump Crabmeat

1 Large Pinch Salt

1 Pinch Red Pepper

½ Pint Cream

1 Glass Sherry


                Melt half the butter in a saucepan.  Add flour and make cream sauce with heated milk.  Keep this hot.  Melt the balance of the butter in another saucepan and fry crabmeat a little.  Add salt, pepper, cream sauce, and cream.  Let boil 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and add sherry.  Mix well.  Be sure it does not boil after wine is added.  Makes 6 – to – 8 servings.

– From the Collection of Mrs. Luther Gadd

This recipe was probably in use for many years before it was published here in 1962.  It is a classic example of the dish which except for the addition of the subdivided crabmeat, could have been published at any time in the previous three hundred years.  The mace is missing from the dish, but apart from that it is a dead ringer for the classic recipe.

Cream of Crab Soup[16]



A Small Onion, Finely Chopped                                                                 

1 Tbsp. butter

1 Cup Chicken Stock                                                                                       

1 Quart Rich Milk

1 Tbsp. Parsley, Finely Chopped                                                                               

½ Tsp. Celery Salt

½ tsp. Mace                                                                                                       

Dash Red Pepper

Pepper & Salt to Taste                                                                                  

1 Lb. Crab Meat

Flour to Thicken Slightly                                                                               

¼ Cup Sherry


                Cook onion in butter until transparent; add chicken stock and slowly pour in milk.  Add all seasonings except sherry.  Stir in crab meat, cleaned of all shell, and simmer 15 minutes.  Make a thin paste with about 2 Tbsp. flour and a little water; stir into soup to thicken slightly.  Before serving, remove from heat and add sherry.

This is a historical cookbook which has recipes ranging from the colonial times all the way up to the 1960’s.  This recipe is clearly a more classic one.  It really shows the French influence on the dish with the use of stocks and the high seasonings of the classic colonial recipe.  The recipe was updated slightly to say to use one pound of crabmeat as opposed to giving a number of crabs to steam and pick, but otherwise, it is a prime example of the dish as it would have been prepared in  colonial times as well as how it would have been prepared in Europe.  The flour is used as a slurry, which would have been obsolete at this time due to the advent and common usage of cornstarch, as a purer starch it is much better suited to the last minute thickening then flour would be.  Flour should really be cooked out before it is used as a thickening agent, to avoid the pasty mouth feel it can leave in the finished product.

Crab Bisque[17]



2 Cans Pea Soup                                                                              

1 Can Tomato Soup

1 Can Milk                                                                                          

1 Can Crabmeat (6 Oz.) Flaked


                Mix together and heat slowly.  May add ¼ C. sherry.  Serves 4 – 6.  With green salad and garlic French bread.

Watermen in the Mid – Atlantic region as a superstitious bunch, as many are who have to place their fortunes at the mercy and uncertainty of Mother Nature, watermen live off of the water of the Bay and sometimes their fortune is good, while other times it is not.  The modern world would say that the application of logical fallacy is the source of superstition, (I.E. denoting an illogical cause as the source of an undesirable effect), but to a waterman, faith and reason do not necessarily coincide when dealing with the uncertainties of their livelihood.  The following are examples of some of the common superstitions of the watermen:

  1. Anything Blue
  2. Three crows flying across the boat’s bow
  3. A hatch cover up – side down
  4. Using a red brick as ballast
  5. Having a leaf, nut or twig from a walnut tree on board
  6. Allowing a women on board
  7. Changing the name of the boat

Like most forms of folklore, many of these superstitions may have at one point been established for a reason.  The blue of a boat may have made it difficult to see on the horizon against the water.  Many reasons may have led to the various superstitions of the watermen, a good harvest with a walnut on board is just as likely as one without, but a chance circumstance made this legume a scapegoat for the failure of a day’s labor.  Watermen themselves have become a facet of Mid – Atlantic folklore as they are rapidly disappearing due to diminishing harvests and increased regulation by the government.

Crab Soup[18]



1 lb. can fresh backfin crab meat                                                              

1 teaspoon Salt

¼ Pound butter                                                                                                               

1/8 Teaspoon Pepper

1 Quart Milk                                                                                                      

8 Drops Tabasco Sauce

1 Tbsp. Chopped Parsley                                                                             

½ Cup Cream

2 Heaping Tbsp. Finely Chopped Celery                                                

2 Teaspoons Flour


Remove all shells from crab meat.  In a double boiler, melt butter, add milk, parsley, celery, salt, pepper, Tabasco and crab meat.  Heat about 15 minutes, do not allow to boil.  Mix flour with a little water to make a paste.  Add to the hot mixture and stir until a little thick.  Then add cream and stir well.  Allow the entire mixture to simmer over the hot water in the double boiler.  Serve in bowls with saltines or Maryland beaten biscuits.

This is a classic version of the dish in the celebrated cookbook of the time that began to define Maryland as a culinary destination.  During this time Americans began to take on a new attitude towards cuisine that had been in long standing in Europe.  Food was no longer something that you merely ate; it began to be appreciated in and of itself.  The affordability of crab in the area and the abundance of food surpluses resulting from the end of world war two gave Americans an ability to look at food in general and Mid Atlantic cuisine in particular as something more.  We also began associating food as a connection to our past and the process of cooking became more about being a ritual to connect you with family and history.

Mrs. George Washington’s Crab Soup[19]



Dorothy Elizabeth Gruening

Wife of U.S. Senator Ernest Gruening from Alaska


1 Qt. of Milk                                                                                      

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

8 Hard Shell Crabs                                                                           

¾ Cup of Sherry

2 Hard Boiled Eggs                                                                          

1/2 Cup of Cream

1 Grated Peel of Lemon                                                                               


1 Tablespoon of Butter                                                                  P


1 Tablespoon of Flour


                Dig out the meat of the crabs which have been boiled half an hour and set aside until needed.

                Mash the hard boiled eggs to a paste with a fork and add to them the butter, flour, grated lemon peel and a little pepper.

                Bring the milk to a boil and pour it gradually on to the well mixed paste of egg.  Put over a low fire, add the crabmeat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the cream and bring to boiling point again.  Then, add sherry, salt and Worcestershire sauce.  Heat sufficiently to serve, but do not boil after sherry has been added.                 

                Note – if picking the meat of the crabs is too much of an undertaking, use the meat out of the Alaskan king crab claws.  The picked out meats sold in tins may be used; ½ pound of which will be enough.  (Mrs. Gruening doubles this recipe for 12 people and always has some left over.)

I cannot verify the authenticity of this being Martha Washington’s recipe.  The dish is missing several things which would have been used in Martha Washington’s time.  Worcestershire sauce would have been unavailable in her lifetime and the lack of seasonings in the dish, or the household pepper blend, which was universal to all of the colonial kitchens is absent in this recipe.  The quantity standards used in this recipe may have been updated by Elizbeth Gruening, but would not have been known in Martha Washington’s time. The recipe dose call for the use of whole crabs, but in the end note suggests substituting Alaskan crab legs, possibly a self promotion of the author’s native state, these too were unknown in Martha Washington’s time, as well as having a completely different flavor and texture then the blue crab.   The inclusion of the Alaskan crab legs would make a completely different dish.

Crab Soup[20]



5 Tablespoons Flour                                                                       

½ Tablespoon Butter

2 Heaping Teaspoons Butter                                                      

¼ Cup Sherry

 1 ½ Qts. Milk                                                                                    

1 ½ Tablespoons Worcestershire

1 Pound Crabmeat                                                                         

Salt and Pepper to Taste


                Make thin cream sauce with flour, butter and milk.  When sauce is slightly thickened, add crabmeat, sherry, Tabasco, Worcestershire, salt and pepper.  Serves 12.

Most recipes that are published have been in use for as many as fifty years before they are put to print.  This may be the case of the persistence of the use of the roux as a thickening agent in this dish.  This is a classic French adaptation of the Mid – Atlantic dish.  It starts with a classic white sauce to which the garnishments are added.  It could have been copied right out of Le Guide Culinare by Escoffier.

Church Creek’s Crab Bisque[21]



3 Stalks Celery, Chopped Fine                                                   

2 Bay Leaves

1 Onion, Chopped Fine                                                                 

1 Stick Butter                                    

12 Oz. Evaporated or Heavy Milk                                              

½ Can Water

1 (10 ¾ Oz Can) Wye River Cream of Crab Soup                 

¼ Tea. Garlic Powder

1 Lb. Crab Meat                                                                                               

Dash Red Pepper

½ Tea. Fines Seasons                                                                     

½ Tsp. Mace


                Place celery, onion and butter in pan.  Cook slowly until tender.  Do not brown.  Add remaining ingredients.  Heat on low, but do not boil.  Flavors should be well blended and slowly heated until hot. 

                Remove Bay leaf Before serving. 

This cookbook was published as a publicity piece for the 25th Biennial convention of the National Federation of Republican Women’s Clubs.  The Women’s Clubs of Maryland got together and wrote this cookbook as a keepsake of the upcoming convention held in Baltimore.  It is great piece of political memorabilia as well as a good representation of regional cooking in the late sixties.  Much like another cookbook published by Mrs. J. Millard Tawes at just about the same time..  Historically it has been a state leaning heavily to the side of the Democrats.  Governor Tawes was also the first governor elected from the Eastern shore of Maryland.  It was believed that Mrs. Tawes cookbook was a great aid in the election of him as governor and that this book was sort of a sequel to capitalize on the popularity of Mrs. Tawes recipe pamphlet.

Crab Bisque[22]



1 ½ Cups Flaked Crab Meat                                                                         

1 Small Bay Leaf

4 Cups Milk                                                                                                        

1/3 Cup Melted Butter

1 Sliced Onion                                                                                                   

1/3 Cup Flour

2 Stalks Celery                                                                                                  

1 ¾ Tsp. Salt

1 Sprig Parsley                                                                                                  

1/8 Tsp. Butter


                Scald Milk with Onion, celery, parsley, bay leaf.  Strain and put aside.  In large saucepan, over low heat, blend butter with flour, salt and pepper.  Slowly heat milk until thickened.  Add crab and serve with sprinkled with croutons. 

Unlike the previous political cookbook, this one contained numerous recipes for the same dish showing many of the verities of cream of crab soup that existed at the time.  This book was an edited compilation of recipes that did not have a single author, so the styling of the dishes varies and there is no distinct cooking style or philosophy running through it.

Asparagus & Crab Bisque[23]



1 Can Mushroom Soup                                                                                 

1 Cup Crabmeat

1 Can Asparagus Soup                                                                                   

½ Cup Sherry

1 Cup Cream                                                                                                     

Chopped Chives

1 ½ Cup Milk                                                                                                      

Salt to Taste

¼ Tsp. Seafood Seasoning


                Combine soups, cream, milk, and seasoning in saucepan.  Cook and cover for several minutes, stir often.  Add the crabmeat and heat to serving temperature; stir in salt and sherry and top with chives.

The evolution of the dish also spread to the creation of variations, as seen in the Bisques above.  Bisque traditionally meant that you thickened the soup with crackers or croutons that were crumbled up into a broth or unthickened soup, but the above examples show little resemblance to their historical roots.  These examples show the use of prepared ingredients such as condensed soup and readymade seasoning blends.  It also shows the ambiguous use of culinary terms in American cuisine.  Bisque is now a term used to describe just about any kind of cream soup where that is not the definition of the term.

Maryland Cream of Crab Soup[24]



1 lb. Crab Meat                                                                                                

1 C. Boiling Water

¼ C. Chopped Onion                                                                                      

¼ C. Oleo or Butter

2 Tbsp. Flour                                                                                                     

1 Tsp. Celery Salt

1/8 tsp. Pepper                                                                                                

Few Drops of Hot Sauce

1 Quart Milk                                                                                                      

Parsley Flakes for Garnish


                In a 4 Quart Saucepan, cook onion in oleo or butter until tender.  Blend in flour and seasonings.  Add milk gradually cooking over medium heat and stirring constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat spoon.

                Add crab meat  – heat but do not boil.  Garnish with parsley before serving.

                May be prepared ahead of time.  Reheat over low flame, stirring often, until soup is hot but not boiling.

Oleo is a brand name for Margarine.  It was a clever invention to use as a substitute for butter and was marketed as a healthier option.  The science of nutrition once again was misleading in that it turns out that the hydrogenation process that stabilized the emulsification of the oil was far more damaging to your health and the compounding of arterial blockage from cholesterol.  The use of transfats as they came to be known were later banned entirely in commercial cooking and the process used to create them is no longer in practice now, modified starches are used to maintain the emulsion of the oils to create modern margarine. Margarine once was by order of law dyed a different color in order to avoid confusion with real butter which merchants tried to pass off as the more expensive and desirable product.

Crab Bisque[25]



1 Can Condensed Cream of Asparagus Soup                                       

1 Cup. Light Cream

1 Can Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup                                     

1/3 Cup Sherry

1 (6 ½ or 7 ½ Oz) About 1 Cup Canned Crab Meat                             

2 Soup cans of milk


                Blend Soups, Gradually stir in milk and cream.  Heat just to boiling.  Add Crabmeat; heat thoroughly.  Just before serving, stir in sherry.  Float butter a top.  Sprinkle with snipped parsley.  Makes 6 – 8 servings.

This recipe is a result of the love affair Americans once had with the canned food industry.  The convenience of this recipe is unparalleled and it is more of a combination of prepared ingredients rather than a standard recipe.  Even the measurements of milk are given in the form of “soup cans.”  This would be the height of the Campbell’s soup revolution in American cooking.  The above recipe can barely be called cooking and is a prime example of convenience cooking.  Only a decade later when the microwave became common would cooking be reduced yet again to such a simple level.

However, these convenience foods did allow women to remove themselves from the household and begin working outside in areas other than domestic responsibilities.

Cream of Crab Soup[26]



1 Pound Crab Meat                                                         1 Tsp. Dry Mustard

¼ Cup Butter or Margarine                                          1 Quart Milk, Scalded

2 Tbsp. Flour                                                                      1 Small Onion, Minced

1 ½ Tsp. Salt                                                                        2 Tbsp. Sherry Wine

¼ Tsp. Pepper                                                                   2 Tbsp. Chopped Parsley


                Remove Bits of shell from crab meat.  Melt butter or margarine in a 1 ½ quart saucepan on surface at 200 degrees.  Blend in flour, salt pepper and dry mustard.  Add milk and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened.  Add onions and crab meat and simmer 15 – 20 minutes.  Add sherry and sprinkle with parsley just before serving.  Serves 4 – 6. 

This is an example of the modern cream of crab soup with the addition of mustard as a primary seasoning.  This flavor profile comes from the crab cake, which were often served is small cakes as a garnish for this dish, much like crackers and croutons were in the past.

This cookbook was published by BG&E which is a major utility concern in the Mid – Atlantic region.  It was founded in 1816 by Rembrandt Peale who was the first to bring gas lighting to the new world.  The company he founded was called the Gas Light Company of Baltimore.  After a hundred and fifty years the company expanded into many areas of enterprise and incorporated the electric utility as well as being an integral part of developing the PMJ interconnection which is one of the world’s largest power grids spanning across the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and reaching down south into Maryland.  In 1975 it opened the doors of the region’s major nuclear power plant in Calvert cliffs.  The utility company has been a important part of the development of Mid – Atlantic cuisine in that it has provided the power and light for all of the convenience items which have changed and revolutionized the way we prepare our food as well as preserve it.  Much of the evolution of our cuisine would not have been possible without the convenience of electricity and natural gas.

Cream of Crab Soup[27]



1 Pound Crab Meat                                                         ¼ Cup Melted Fat or Oil

Dash Pepper                                                                      1 Vegetable Bouillon Cube

2 Tbsp. Flour                                                                      4 Drops Tabasco

1 Cup Boiling Water                                                         1 Tea. Salt

1 Quart Milk                                                                       ¼ Cup Chopped Onion

¼ Tea. Celery Salt                                                             Chopped Parsley


                Remove any shell or cartilage from the crab meat.  Dissolve Bouillon cube in water.  Cook onion in fat until tender.  Blend in flour and seasonings.  Add milk and bouillon gradually and cook until thickened.  Add crab meat; heat.  Garnish with parsley.  Serves 6. 

A unique language has developed over the years to describe the various states of a crab’s life cycle.  Watermen on the Bay have developed a code to classify and denote the quality of the crab in terms of marketability.

Backram – Crab whose shell has not quite hardened, these can still be used a soft shells, if you remove the back shell and deep fry them.  They are still excellent eating.

Buster – Molting crab whose shell has split.  This is the very delicate stage where the crab backs out of his shell.  The larger the crab, the more likely they can be injured during this process.  A crab must be allowed to rest after it has molted to avoid undue damage.

Channeler – Large mature male crab (also Jimmy)

Chicken Necker – Weekend or amateur crabber

Dinkies – Smith Island crab skiffs.

Dead Man’s Fingers – crab’s gills or lungs (also devil’s fingers) these must be removed from the soft shell before eating.  By cutting off the face of the crab and lifting the corner of the shell, a pair of scissors can be used to cut away the lungs.

Doubler – Male crab carrying female for mating (also buck and rider) this is a crab in the process of mating and should not be harvested, but sometimes they are.  A real crabber will return these to the wild to ensure a harvest the following year.

Hard Crab – Mature crab between molts.  These are steamers.

Keeper – Legal sized crab

Molt – Shedding of hard shell

Number Ones – Largest crabs

Paper Shells – Crab whose shell is beginning to harden after molting

Peeler – Crab about to shed

Pickle – Brine used to preserve bait.  There has to be enough salt to float a potato.

Pot – Trap used mostly by deep water crabber’s.  Crab pots very in construction from round to box shaped, some are collapsible and even a few are pyramid shaped.  The various pots are lowered on the bottom of the bay and are baited to draw the crab in.  Ropes are tied to the pots, or the edges of the pot, if they are collapsible and are secured with cork painted in a color to denote ownership.  Crabbing locations are well guarded secrets, but can easily be uncovered by watching the markers in the Bay.  The crab is a very deceptive crustacean though and one day can be found in abundance in one area and then without any provocation, abandon the area entirely.  Anyone who says they have figured out the blue crab is not only arrogant, but also wrong.

Sally – Immature female

Scrape – A dredge used for hulling up crabs or oysters.  For a long time this could only be done under sail, but now it is done exclusively by power dredging.

She Crab – Mature female crab (also sook or sooky)

Slabs – Very large soft crabs (also whales)

Snoods – Lines tied to a trotline from which the bait is hung

‘S not – ‘S not a hard crab and ‘S not a peeler.  This is a term used to describe buckrams that have not fully hardened, they are also used to describe crabs that have hardened, but have not filled out of become “heavy”.  They are tossed back as crab houses do not like these crabs since they require the same effort to pick, with little result.  Crabber’s who deal in these crabs can run the risk of losing their reputations and are often offered lower prices for their catch.

Soft Shell Crab – Crab that has just molted whose shell is not hardened

Sponge Crab – Female carrying egg mass

Stills – Dead crabs

Trotline – Long baited line that rests on river and creek bottoms which is buoyed and anchored at each end

Crab Soup[28]



1 Can Cream of Asparagus Soup                                                1 ½ Soup Cans Milk

1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup                                              ½ Soup Can of Cream

1 Can King Crabmeat


                Mix all together and heat thoroughly.  Add 3 -4 Tbsp. Sherry to taste.  Serves 8.

This book is a keepsake cookbook from the Montgomery County Fair of 1977.  It is a compilation of recipes both local and national.  There is no real distinction between one cuisine and another and it expresses the modern American ideal of national identity over local Identity.  Seasonality and international cuisines intermingle with local dishes with complete disregard for order.  The book is broken down into common divider of appetizers, entrees and desserts with the addition of 4-H winners and a category of V.I.P. or recipes from famous people, including senators, diplomats and future first lady Nancy Regan.

The book is typical of community cookbooks of the era and encompass a wide variety of sources as cookbooks, TV shows and other media outlets as well as foreign restaurants spreading into the suburban areas, began to expand the culinary landscape of the region.

Cream of Crab Soup[29]



1 Lb. Butter                                                                                         3 TBS. Old Bay Seasoning

1 ½ Cup Flour                                                                                     1 Small Jar Pimento, Chopped

3 Qts. Milk, Approx.                                                                        6 Dashes Worcestershire Sauce

2 Onions, Chopped                                                                         2 TBS. Dijon Mustard

1 Large Green Bell Pepper, Chopped                                      1 tsp. White Pepper

2 Cups Chicken Stock                                                                      1 Lb. Crab Meat, Lump

2 Cups Clam Broth                                                                           ½ Cup Sherry


                Make a roux with flour and butter, cook 3 minutes on low heat.  Add milk, stirring constantly; when it starts to thicken add chicken stock and clam broth.  Add remaining ingredients, putting crab meat in last and stirring gently.  Cook until onions and peppers are to crispy, tender stage.


–              The Committee

This recipe was published as a fundraiser for the Country School of Easton, Maryland.  The recipe is unique in the respect that it seems to incorporate elements from both the cream of crab soup and the Maryland crab soup.  It incorporates mustard as well as peppers and pimentos which is unique to this recipe.  I cannot say I have seen anything like it produced under the name of cream of crab soup before.  It seems to take a crab cake mixture and water it down with milk.  It also uses clam broth and chicken stock to make more of a seafood stew style soup rather than a traditional cream soup.

Easy Cream of Crab Soup[30]



In a double boiler:

Melt 1 TBS. Butter or Margarine


1 TBS. Finely Chopped Celery                                    

1 ½ to 2 Cups Milk, Stirred Slowly into Other Mixture

1 TBS. Chopped Green Pepper (Optional)            

Dash Worcestershire Sauce

1 TBS. Finely Chopped Mild Onion                           

Salt and Pepper, to Taste

1 TBS. Flour                                                                        

Dash Dry Mustard

½ Lb. Crab Meat or More                                             

1 TBS. White Wine (Optional)

Drop Tabasco


                Cook until celery is softened.  May be served immediately or later if desired.  Should be very slightly thickened; add more milk if mixture is too thick.

From the same cookbook, this is much more traditional except for the addition of green peppers.  Everything else would fall into place with the dishes classic French origin.  The use of a double boiler is unnecessary to a more experienced cook, if you are tending your dish on the stove and have a familiarity with the heat capacity of your burners, then you should have no problem making this dish in a regular soup pot.

Cream of Crab Soup[31]



2 Tbsp. Butter                                                                    Pinch of Cayenne

1 Small Onion, Minced                                                   Dash of Worcestershire Sauce

1 Lb. Backfin Crabmeat                                                  2 Cups Warm Milk

2 Egg Yolks                                                                          1 ½ Cups Warm ½ & ½

Sprinkling of White Pepper                                          1 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley

Salt to Taste                                                                       Pinch of Paprika


                Melt Butter in the top of a double boiler over boiling water.  Stir in onions and sauté until soft.  Add crabmeat.  Separate eggs, putting yolks in a small bowl while setting the whites aside for another use.  Whisk yolks in a small bowl with pepper, cayenne, and Worcestershire sauce.  Blend this mixture with the crabmeat.  Slowly add milk and ½ & ½, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat on double boiler.  Cook soup slowly for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.  Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

This is a great cookbook highlighting the cooking of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  It goes out of its way to not just convey the recipes of food, but also the atmosphere in which it was cooked and served.  The Eastern Shore of Maryland is like a land lost in the past.  It has not yet succumbed to the urban sprawl and distinctive characters and true individualists still thrive along its shores.  Only the tourist town of Ocean City has fallen prey to modern times the rest of the shore still hold onto tradition as much as they can facing a decline in population and resources as well as the encroaching luxury estates and summer homes of the leisure class.   More sailboats then workboats now sail along the Chesapeake, but life still goes on for the inhabitants of the shoreline and a point of pride has risen up to keep their spirits strong.

This is reflected in the care in which they put into working long hours and the discipline in mastering the nuance of Mid – Atlantic Cuisine.  Apart from a few local specialties such as spoon bread, or shoo fly pie, the Eastern Shore is the place to sample the best of Mid – Atlantic cooking.

Cream of Crab Soup[32]



¼ Cup Butter                                                                                      5 Cups Milk

1/3 Cup Flour                                                                                     1 Lb. Maryland Backfin Crabmeat

1 Cup Chicken Broth                                                                       Salt to Taste

¼ Tbsp. Black Pepper                                                                     1/8 Tea. Cayenne Pepper


                Melt Butter in 3 Quart Saucepan.  Blend in flour and stir until smooth.  Slowly stir in chicken broth and pepper.  Simmer for 2 minutes.  Add milk and cook slowly, stirring constantly until thickened.  Do not boil.  Add Crabmeat and salt to taste.

This collection of recipes was created as a fundraiser for the Maryland Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation.  It is broken down into the standard categories of the common community cookbook.  It is unusual in that there is very little information regarding the organization in the book, other than a small paragraph of the introduction, it is just a basic compilation of random recipes, which the book even gives warning to the potential reader:

Have not been tested.

All of these recipes were contributed and put into a book to be sold strictly as a fundraiser.

While books such as these can give us insight to the diversity of the community at large, this one dose little since it offers no biographical information regarding the origins of the recipes involved.  The name implies Maryland cooking and a look beyond the standard fare associated with Mid – Atlantic cuisine, but apart from the name of the book, little else is made to distinguish it from any of the millions of community cookbooks printed all across the United States.

Blue Crab Bisque[33]



4 Tablespoons Butter                                                                     ¼ Teaspoon Mace

¼ Cup Melted Butter                                                                      ¼ Teaspoon Nutmeg

2 Tablespoons Flour                                                                        ½ Teaspoon Salt

¼ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper                                                     3 Cups Milk

1 Teaspoon Finely Chopped Parsley                                        3 Ounces Dry Sherry

2 Cups Light Cream                                                                          1 Pound Backfin Crab Meat


                Melt butter in 3 quart pan and sauté onion until clear.  Add flour, mixing well, and cook until bubbly.  Add all seasonings and stir well.  Gradually add milk, using a whisk to insure smoothness.  Cook until thickened.  Add sherry and cream.  Continue to cook (about 5 minutes), but don’t boil.  Gently fold in crab meat and heat through.  This soup is best made ahead, refrigerated, and then heated to serve.

                Note:  All the cooking may be done in a microwave oven using the appropriate container (e.g. 3 – quart Corning Ware Casserole).  Be sure to watch the cooking process at each step, i.e. set timer for 2 to 3 minutes in order to stir and avoid boiling. 



  –              Elizabeth C. Holtzclaw                                                                             

Arlington, Virginia

This is a throwback to the more classic traditional recipe.  This contains all of the classic high seasoning of the colonial era.  These seasonings have been removed from the recipe over time as tastes have changed and seasonings are not used as much since there is no need to disguise the poor quality of the crabmeat or the unsanitary food handling of colonial times.  Constant refrigeration and HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Plan) handling procedures used in manufacturing centers have reduced the risk of contamination.   Still, if you wish to sample the dish as it was originally prepared, then the inclusion of the spices can be added.

Cape Henry Crab Bisque[34]



1 ½ Pounds Ripe Tomatoes (5 to 6)                                          3 Cups Milk

1 Tablespoon Chopped Onion                                                    Pepper to Taste

½ Bay Leaf                                                                                           1 Cup Crab Meat

1 Teaspoon Salt                                                                                1 Cup Corn

4 Tablespoons Butter                                                                     ¼ Teaspoon Old Bay Seafood Seasoning

¼ Cup Flour                                                                                        ¼ Teaspoon Celery Salt


                Core and chop tomatoes.  Add onion, bay leaf, and salt.  Simmer for 15 minutes or until soft.  Cool and put through food mill or sieve.  There should be about 2 cups of puree.

                Melt butter; add flour and stir until well blended.  Add milk and stir over heat until sauce is thick.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add tomato puree, crab meat, and corn.  Stir in Old Bay seasoning and celery salt.  Heat gently and serve.

                                                                                                                –              Ellen Michel

                                                                                                                    Virginia Beach,

This recipe is again sort of an amalgamation of the cream of crab soup and the Maryland crab soup.  Tomatoes and milk are not usually combined since the acid in the tomatoes will sometime curdle the cream and make it difficult to preserve this dish beyond its immediate service.  The acid will cause the fat of the cream to separate.  This dish cannot be saved and used at a later date, so there will be no development of the flavor of the crab like in the traditional dish.

Crab Bisque[35]



1 (10 Oz.) Can Cream of Mushroom Soup                              2 Tablespoons Sherry

1 (10 oz.) Can Cream of Asparagus Soup                                6 Ounces Virginia Crab Meat

1 Soup can of Half and Half                                                          ½ Teaspoon Old Bay Seafood Seasoning

Whipped Cream or Sour Cream as Needed                          Fresh Parsley, Chopped


                In blender add soups, cream, and sherry.  Blend until smooth.  Pour into saucepan.  Fold in crab meat.  Add seafood seasoning.  Heat until hot but don’t boil.  Serve hot topped with a dollop of cream (whipped or sour) and garnish with chopped parsley                                                                                                 


Hampton, Virginia

This recipe is the essence of convenience cooking.  Little to no effort is made on the part of the cook to prepare this soup.  As the old saying about Campbell’s soup goes, open up a can; pour it in a pan and heat.  This type of cooking has led to a national crisis in health and nutrition issues, as the compounding of salt and additives have led to a plethora of disease and allergies.  It has also distanced us from the essence of cooking, by removing the ingredient as far as possible from the source.  A person could eat this way their entire lives and never know what a crab looked like, or what it takes to catch and prepare a real meal.  Fortunately this style of cooking is falling out of fashion and will hopefully disappear forever.


Crab Chowder[36]



½ Cup Chopped Onion                                                                   ½ Pound Crab Meat

½ Cup Chopped Celery                                                                  1 (8 oz.) Can Cream Style Corn

4 Tablespoons Butter or Margarine                                          2 Tablespoons Chopped Pimento

3 Cups Milk                                                                                         ¼ Teaspoon Salt

1 (10 oz.) Can Potato Soup                                                           ¼ Teaspoon Crushed Dried Thyme

1 Cup Cubed Cooked Potatoes                                                  1 Bay Leaf

¼ Cup Dry Sherry                                                                             ¼ Cup Snipped Parsley


                In a large sauce pan cook onion and celery and butter until tender.  Add remaining ingredients except sherry and parsley.  Cook until heated through, stirring often, about 15 minutes.  Stir in sherry.  Heat 2 minutes more.  Remove bay leaf.  Garnish with parsley.


                                                                                                                –              Marilyn C. Fall

                                                                                                                            Virginia Beach

This is another example of the compounding of convenience items to form an unusual combination of flavors and textures.  These recipes grew out of the 1960’s and 70’s and hit their stride in the 80’s and 90’s.  a slow food movement rose out in response to this and whole foods and organic products as well as new sources of food such as farmer’s markets and high end whole food stores began to appear in contrast to this style of cooking.

I myself find little to no satisfaction in making a soup with all readymade ingredients.  Maybe it is the chef in me, but I actually prefer making food from scratch.  I think it not only tastes better, but offers a sense of accomplishment when the meal is served as well as eaten.  Innovations in technology can be used to assist in the process of cooking, but to compound readymade ingredients is not even really cooking anymore.

Crab Soup Sawyer[37]



1 Medium Onion                                                                              ½ Teaspoon Pepper

1 Stalk Celery                                                                                     ½ Teaspoon Mace

2 Tablespoons Butter                                                                     1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice

2 Tablespoons Flour                                                                        2 Medium Potatoes, Boiled and Mashed

2 Cups Milk                                                                                         4 cups Half and Half Cream (or Milk)

1 ¼ Teaspoon Salt                                                                            1 Pound Crab Meat


                In blender, blend onion and celery.  Melt butter and sauté onion and celery for 5 minutes.  Stir in flour, milk and seasonings.  Bring to a boil over low heat.  Mix in lemon juice.  Gradually stir in mashed potatoes, half and half and crab meat.  Cook over low heat until almost boiling, stirring often to prevent sticking.

                Note: If a thinner soup is desired, add more milk.

                Despite this books use of unconventional ingredients, this recipe is at least a real recipe.  It harks back to the old style of high seasoning and even incorporates mashed potatoes as a thickening agent for the soup.  This is a real recipe and a unique interpretation on the classical dish.  A pleasant surprise in this collection.

Cream of Crab Soup[38]



4 Tablespoons Butter, Divided                                                  

White Pepper to Taste

1 Medium Onion, Chopped                                                        

¼ Teaspoon Paprika

1 Stalk Celery, Chopped                , Including Leaves                           

¼ Teaspoon Cayenne

1 Large Carrot, Chopped                                                              

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

1 to 1 ½ Pounds Crab Meat                                                         

2 Cups Milk

(Preferably Backfin), Picked                                                       

2 Cups Half and Half

3 Egg Yolks                                                                                         

1 Tablespoon Dried Parsley

2 Cups Diced, cooked Potatoes (optional)


                In a small, heavy French oven (or large sauté pan), melt 2 tablespoons butter and sauté onion, celery, and carrots until tender.  Add crab meat and cook, stirring frequently about 5 minutes.  Slowly add milk and cream stirring constantly.  Beat eggs lightly and mix in pepper, paprika, cayenne, and Worcestershire.  Reduce heat to very low and slowly stir egg mixture into crab meat.  At this point, if using potatoes, add them to mixture.  Add parsley and cook slowly, stirring often 15 to 20 minutes or until hot and thickened.  Add remaining butter just before serving.

This shows the classical use of mirepoix in keeping with the French style of soup and stock making.  Otherwise it picks up the classical preparation of the dish including the sesoning of the colonial recipe.  It also uses eggs to finish and thicken the soup at the end.  The soup must not exceed 154 degrees or the egg emulsion will break and you will wind up with scrambled egg in your soup.  This is a recipe in which a double boiler would be advantageous since the addition of egg makes the emulsion fragile.  In contrast with the recipe, the eggs should be whisked in at the last moment before serving much as in the case of making an Alfredo sauce.

Wachapreague Crab Chowder[39]



1 Cup Finely Chopped Celery                                                      4 Cups Whole Milk

1 Medium Onion, Finely Chopped                                            2 Cups Half and Half

¼ Cup Finely Chopped Green Pepper                                     1 Teaspoon Salt

4 Tablespoons Butter or Margarine                                          2 Teaspoons Sugar

¼ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper                                                     1 Pound Crab Meat


                In a large pot or Dutch oven, over low heat, sauté celery, onion, and green pepper in butter until tender.  Add milk, cream, salt, sugar, and pepper.  Stir occasionally until hot.  Add flaked crab meat.  Heat thoroughly.  If desired, sprinkle with parsley to serve.

This recipe justifies the use of unusual ingredients by likening it to chowder; however the term chowder usually refers to the inclusion of bacon and potato as flavoring elements.   This contains neither.

Chesapeake Bay Crab Soup[40]



4 Tbsp. Butter, Melted                                                                 

1 Small Onion, Finely Chopped

3 Tbsp. Flour                                                                                     

2 Cups Light Cream

2 Cups Milk                                                                                        

1 Pound Back Fin Crabmeat

2 Tbsp. Sherry                                                                                  

Salt and Pepper to Taste


Sauté onion in butter until translucent.  Stir in flour.  Add cream and milk; simmer 5 minutes over medium heat.

Add crabmeat, sherry and seasonings.  Heat through.

This is a very basic recipe more suited to the taste of the modern world.  Chefs are often met with this dilemma:  How can we season a food while still respecting the subjective tastes and styles of a varied customer base?  Many restaurants produce mediocre, flavorless food in order to not offend anyone’s sense of taste, however, this practice diminishes us as representatives of the culinary tradition that we are preparing.  The people who ask for sauce on the side or no salt or any number of adjustments to a recipe should just not eat the food.  I don’t think they realize the disrespect they are showing not just to the chef, but to the countless cooks and families which have built this tradition through centuries of time.

Sociologists have attributed this trend to people’s loss of control in the cooking process.  More and more people are eating out as opposed to preparing meals for themselves.  Entire entrees are now available prepackaged at the supermarket, not the frozen dinners of the past, but fresh roasted chickens and salads as well as sushi and any number of exotic dishes.  The grab and go style of food has replaced the need for many to prepare food at home.


Crab Bisque[41]



 2 Cans Cream of Asparagus Soup

½ Soup Can Milk                                                              

1 Cup Light Cream

7 ½ Oz. Canned Crab Meat                                          

¼ Cup Dry White Wine


                Blend soups; stir in milk and cream.  Heat just until boiling.  Add crabmeat and heat through.  Stir in wine just before serving.  Makes 6 – 8 servings.  May be frozen. 

This era brought forth a new concept.  Mid Atlantic cuisine really began to be defined and appreciated in and of itself outside of the region and be recognized as a truly distinct American cuisine.  Many of the classic cookbooks associated and collected were written in this period.  Even people outside of the Chesapeake region began claiming ownership of these recipes as is evidenced by the submission of the recipe above by wife of Kansas Senator and presidential candidate and future congresswoman herself, Elizabeth Dole.  The cuisine of the Chesapeake began having a pronounced influence of the entire nation.  During this time the blue crab in the Chesapeake Bay also saw a decline in population as preservation techniques and improvements in fishing began to drive down the crab population.  Increased demand and environmental factors soon began to take its toll on the once abundant bay.  People from every state in the union and even around the world were now enjoying the delicacies of the Eastern shore.  The demand for the blue crab has now led to more and more of the crabmeat being shipped in from South America and the Gulf of Mexico.  Success has brought with it a realization of the finite blessing of the Bay.

Cream of Crab Soup[42]



4 Tablespoons Butter or Margarine                                          2 Tablespoons Flour

2 Cups Milk                                                                                         ¼ Teaspoons Salt

1 Cup Half and Half                                                                          ¼ Teaspoon Lemon Celery Seasoning

1 Tablespoon Chopped Parsley                                                  4 Tablespoons Sherry

1 Pound Back Fin Crabmeat


Melt butter and stir in flour.  Add milk and salt and bring to a boil.

Add half and half, seasonings, sherry, and crabmeat.  Heat thoroughly, but do not boil.

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is dedicated to furthering interest, understanding, and appreciation of the culture and maritime heritage of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries through continuing educational activities including collection, documentation, exhibition, research, and publication.  This recipe comes from a cookbook prepared by the foundation to both raise money and to further education about the region and its unique cuisine.

Marian’s Cream of Crab Soup[43]



1 Lb Fresh Crab Meat                                                                                    

1 Can of Consommé

¼ Cup Chopped Onion                                                                                  

¼ Cup Butter or Margarine

2 Tbsp. Flour                                                                                                     

1 Tsp. Salt (usually omit this)

¼ Tsp. Celery Salt                                                                                            

¼ tsp. Lemon Pepper

Few Drops of Hot Sauce                                                                               

1 Quart Regular Milk

Dried Parsley Flakes or Fresh parsley for garnish                               

Add sherry to taste, or serve separately


                Remove cartilage from crab meat.  Cook onion in butter until tender; blend in flour and seasonings.  Add consommé and milk gradually until mixture thickens enough to coat spoon.  Add crab meat.  Heat but do not boil.  Garnish with parsley when serving.  Makes 8 servings. 


(Note:  Soup improves if allowed to stand for a few hours to give flavors a chance to blend)

This is a church cookbook and is a great representation of the diversity of the congregation in the area of St. Paul, Maryland.  The book also has a great distinctive feature, in the back of the book; there is a photocopied document of an old housekeeping book from 1905.  It is a poor replication, due to budget and the limits of an office photocopier, but it is a great inclusion in the book for the members of the congregation to connect them and this book with the legacy of history.  The book in the back is a copy of the receipts of Mrs. James Beck 1905 as transcribed by Aunt Lizzie M.?.  The margins of the book have deteriorated and the quality of the photocopy is not great, but the preservation of the document is priceless and a great idea from the Episcopal Church Women’s Officers.

Cream of Crab Soup[44]



¼ Cup Butter or Margarine                                                         

1 Quart Milk

2 Tablespoons Instant Minced Onion                                     

1 Quart Half and Half

2 Teaspoons Chicken Flavor Base                                             

1 ½ Pounds Lump Crab Meat, Picked Over

2 Teaspoons Season – All Seasoned Salt                               

1 Tablespoon Parsley Flakes

¼ Teaspoon Ground Mace                                                          

Paprika, to Garnish

¼ Teaspoon Ground White Pepper                                         

1/8 Teaspoon Ground Red Pepper


Melt butter in 6 – quart stock pot over low heat.  Stir in minced onion, flavor base, seasoned salt, mace, and white and red pepper, simmer 1 minute. 

Stir in milk and half and half.  Heat slowly.

Add crab meat and parsley.  Simmer gently just until heated through. (do not boil)

Spoon into soup bowls and sprinkle with paprika.

This recipe is published by the makers of Old Bay Seasoning.  It highlights the use of dried and preserved ingredients manufactured by the company.  It takes a more classical approach to the dish by referring back to the traditional seasoning blends used in colonial time.  Many of these ingredients can be replaced by their fresh counterparts to create a much better product.

Cream of Crab Soup[45]



½ Pound Butter                                                                                2 Cups Flour

2 Cups Chicken Stock                                                      3 Quarts Heavy Cream

1 Tbsp. Minced Garlic                                                     1 Tbsp. Minced Shallots

1 Pound Backfin Crab Meat                                         Old Bay Seasoning to Taste

Parsley                                                                                 2 Tbsp. Sherry


                Check crab meat for shells and set aside in the refrigerator.  Make a roux by browning flour in melted butter.  Then add crab meat and chicken stock, heavy cream, garlic, and shallots.  Heat through about 30 minutes, do not boil.  May add sherry at the end to taste.  Add old bay and fresh parsley just before serving. Serves 4.

This dish shows the unusual addition of garlic and shallots which will give the dish quite a different flavor profile.  Other than that it follows the more modern tradition of seasoning and taste.

Cream of Crab Soup[46]



½ Stick Butter                                                                                                   

1 Small Onion, Finely Diced

¼ Cup Minced Shallots                                                                                  

2 Tbsp. Flour

2 Cups Fish Stock                                                                                             

2 Cups Heavy Cream

1 Tea. Worcestershire Sauce                                                                      

1 Tea. Salt

1/8 Tea. White Pepper                                                                                 

1 Bay leaf

Dash of Tabasco Sauce                                                                                 

¼ Cup Sherry                                    

1 Lb. Backfin Crab Meat, Picked Over                                                                                                     

Lightly Whipped Cream and Paprika for Garnish


                Melt the butter in a pot over low heat and sauté the onion and shallots until tender.  Whisk in the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes.  Do not brown the flour.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the stock and cream.  Return to medium heat and stir until mixture thickens, about 8 – 10 minutes.  Add the Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, bay leaf, Tabasco, crabmeat and sherry.  Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf, ladle into soup bowls and garnish with whipped cream and paprika.

The late 80’s and early 90’ saw a transformation in the culinary world with the birth of the celebrity chef.  Television has brought an awareness of culinary technique and the richness of the bounty of the Bay to the world twenty four hours a day.  Chefs such as John Shield’s were producing local and national shows that highlighted the cuisine of the Mid Atlantic as well as the cultural traditions that helped to bring it about.  Chefs such as this began to distinguish Mid Atlantic cuisine from the homogenized version of American cuisine that it had fallen into in the 40’s through the 80’s.  The idea of cooking as a connection to the past as well as an important cultural distinction began to firmly take root at this time.

The recipes developed during this time reflect more of a traditional approach, but not shying away from the improvements of modern technology.  In cases where the science worked it was utilized and in cases where it did not, it was discarded.  This era can be seen as the arrival of the industrial food era.  Better quality food product was more available than ever before and flavor and refinement became paramount as cooking became more influential in other areas as well.

Chefs began taking a more active role in the processing of ingredients and the impact it has on our environment and way of life.  Huge efforts were made to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and avoid the mistakes of over fishing and pollution.  Now the craftsman of the trade had a vehicle and a voice with which to reach millions of people from all over the globe.  From slaves to celebrity, from necessity to excess, cooking and chefs had come a long way.  The evolution of the dish during this time mirrors the influence of the practitioners.  As the status of the cook was elevated, so were the expectations of the cuisine.

Cream of Crab Soup[47]

Shirley Dennison



1 Stick Butter, Melted                                                                   

¼ Tsp. Nutmeg

2 Tbsp. Flour                                                                                     

1 Pint Milk

1 Tsp. Salt                                                                                           

1 Lb. Crabmeat

¼ Tsp. Crushed Red Pepper                                                       

1 ½ Pint Table Cream

1 Tsp. Parsley                                                                                    

1 Wine Glass Dry Sherry


                Melt Butter, add flour, salt, red pepper, parsley and nutmeg.  Stir one minute, making sure not to brown mixture.  Add milk and stir constantly until thick.  Add crabmeat; remove from heat.  In a small saucepan, heat table cream.  Pour in the crab mixture and add sherry.  Serve hot.

Kitchen Prayer


“Lord of all pots and pans and things

Since I’ve no time to be

A saint by doing lovely things

Or watching late with Thee,


Or dreaming in the dawn light

Or storming Heaven’s gates,

Make me a saint by getting meals

And washing up the plates.


Although I must have Martha’s Hands,

I have a Mary’s mind

And when I black the boots and shoes,

Thy sandals, Lord, I find


I think of how they trod the earth,

At times I scrub the floor

Accept this meditation, Lord,

I haven’t time for more.


Warm all the kitchen with Thy love,

And light with Thy peace.

Forgive me all my worrying

And make my grumbling cease.


Thou who didst long

To give men food

In room or by the sea

Accept this service that I do,

I do it onto Thee.”

This is the opening passage for this religious community cookbook.  The book is of a common self published or vanity press style cookbook used for fundraising, in this case for the St. Raphael’s Church in Rockville, Maryland.

Cream of Crab[48]



1 Pound Crab Meat                                                                         1 Cup Chicken Stock

1 Small Onion, Chopped                                                                4 Tbsp. Flour

2 Tbsp. Butter                                                                                    ½ Cup Sherry

1 Qt. Cream or ½ & 1/2                                                                  Salt & Pepper



Sauté the onion in butter until transparent.  Stir in flour.

Add the chicken stock and slowly pour in the cream until thickened.  Add salt and pepper.

Serve soup in bowls, garnished with parsley.

Put the sherry in a pitcher and let guests take the desired amount.

This book is a great compilation of Mid – Atlantic cuisine as is its sequel published in 2004.  The book starts with a historical timeline of Chesapeake history and then breaks down recipes in traditional fashion of appetizers, entrees and such.  The books are great and offer humorous quotations and fun historical facts to liven up the books.  It is clearly a labor of love for the Moose family and is reminiscent of the historical connection between people and their food that played out in the latter half of the twentieth century.

Governor Morris Crab Soup[49]



12 Cups Water                                                                                  

½ Cup Crab Base

½ Red Bell Pepper, Diced                                                             

½ Green Bell Pepper, Diced

½ Yellow Pepper, Diced                                                                

16 Oz. Can Jumbo Lump Crab Meat

2 Tablespoons Butter                                                                    

4 Tablespoons Flour

2 Cups Heavy Cream


                Bring water to a boil.  Add crab base and peppers and bring back to a boil.  Cook until peppers are tender, than add crabmeat.  Melt butter in a small saucepan and add flour to make a roux.  Stir roux into soup to thicken.  Add heavy cream, heat briefly, and serve.  Serves 10. 

This recipe is from the Sun Inn restaurant in Bethlehem, Pa.  The Sun inn was opened in 1758 and their guests include all of the famous and infamous characters in history.  Every president from George Washington to James Buchanan has stayed there and the tradition was renewed after the Sun Inn Preservation Society restored the inn to its original appearance, with a Visit from then president Jimmy Carter.

Now guests are met at the door by costumed guides.  The restaurant hosts a historical menu including the above recipe.

Crab & Asparagus Soup[50]



½ Cup Margarine                                                             

½ Tsp. Pepper

½ Cup Flour                                                                       

1 Tsp. Salt

8 Cups skim Milk                                                              

2 Tsp. Parsley Flakes

2 Tbsp. Finely Chopped Onion                                   

10 Oz. Frozen Asparagus, Cut in Thirds

2 Tbsp. Instant Chicken Bouillon                               

1 Lb. Crabmeat, Cartilage Removed


                Melt Margarine in large saucepan over medium heat.  Gradually blend in flour.  Stir in milk.  Add onion, bouillon seasonings, and parsley.  Continue stirring until mixture thickens slightly.  Add asparagus and cook over medium heat for 20 – 30 minutes.  Serve hot.  Yields 6 servings.

The above is from a book that is part of a series of books in which they collect recipes from popular cookbooks in the region and reprint them in a convenient form.  These cookbooks offer no historical perspective, but are a good source of regional cuisine.  They can also be used to build a collection of local cookbooks based on the list of contributing cookbooks in the back which includes information about how to purchase them.

Crab Bisque[51]



6 T. Butter                                                                                           1 C. Milk

4 T. Chopped Onion                                                                        1 Tsp. Salt

4 T. Green Pepper                                                                           1/8 Tsp. Pepper

1 Scallion                                                                                              Dash Tabasco

2 T. Parsley                                                                                         1 ½ C. ½ & ½

1 ½ C. Sliced Fresh Mushrooms                                                  1 ½ C. Crabmeat

2 T. Flour                                                                                              3 T. Sherry


                Heat 4 tablespoons butter.  Add green pepper, onion, scallions, parsley, mushrooms and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.  In saucepan, heat remaining butter.  Stir in flour.  Add milk.  Cook, stirring until thickened.  Add salt, pepper and Tabasco.  Add sautéed vegetables and half and half.  Bring to boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat.  Add crab meat, simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.  Before serving, add sherry.


Joanne Gibbons

This is more of a fusion style of cooking, by incorporating an Asian element with the use of peppers, scallion and mushrooms.  It still uses the classical French style but it is very different from the traditional accompaniments.

Poor Man’s Crab Soup[52]



2 Cans Potato Soup                                                                         3 Cans Milk

2 Cans Cream of Celery Soup                                                      1 T. Old Bay

1 Lb. Imitation Crab Meat


                Combine all ingredients in soup pan.  Simmer until heated through.  Make sure to cut up crab meat (it comes in large chunks).  You may substitute real crab meat or shrimp.


Teresa Willey

This is a unique way of making a soup without any of the traditional ingredients.  Milk is the only thing this recipe has in common with its predecessors.

Crabmeat Soup[53]



10 ¾ Oz. Condensed Green Pea Soup                                     1 Tsp. Sugar

10 ¾ Oz. Condensed Tomato Soup                                           2 Tsp. Worcestershire

¾ Cup Water                                                                                      1 Lb. Fresh Crabmeat

1 C. Half & Half                                                                                  5 T. Sherry

Dash of Tabasco Sauce                                                                 


                Combine and heat all ingredients except sherry.  Remove from heat and add sherry.  Serves 6.

This recipe is so weird that I had no choice but to include it here.  I can’t even begin to describe the color of the soup and the waste of crabmeat in making this.  It is a completely weird recipe concept and I cannot recommend any one make this.  But for the brave few who seek new adventures, I hope this recipe satisfies some misplaced curiosity.  Even the idea of it is off putting.

Crab Soup[54]



½ C. + 2 T. Butter                                                                             

½ Tsp. Pepper

1 1/3 C. Flour                                                                                     

1 Tsp. Chives

2 (14 Oz.) Can Chicken Broth                                                      

2 Tsp. Worcestershire Sauce

8 C. Half & Half                                                                                 

1 Lb. Crabmeat

2 Tsp. Old Bay Seasoning                                                             

¼ C. Sherry (opt.)

1 Tsp. Parsley Flakes


                Melt butter in stockpot.  Blend in flour and chicken broth, stirring until smooth.  Add next 6 ingredients stirring slowly until thickened.  Do not boil.  Add the crabmeat and sherry.  Heat thoroughly.  Serves 8.  I like to add shrimp and a little more old bay.

This book was published in honor of the centennial anniversary of the Chesapeake Bank.  It was used to raise money for the American Cancer Society and the March of Dimes.  The book is broken down into standard recipe divisions and self published.  It is comprised of recipes selected by the submissions of employees of the bank.  It is a good reflection of the diversity of various areas of Maryland in Virginia.

Sam Miller’s Warehouse Crab Soup[55]



½ Stick Unsalted Butter                                                

1 Small Yellow Onion, Finely Diced

1/3 Cup Flour, as needed to thicken                       

2 Quarts Milk, Heated

2 Cups ½ & ½, Heated                                                   

1 ½ Tsp. Chicken Bouillon, Granulated

¼ Tsp. Dried Thyme                                                       

½ Tsp. White Pepper

1/3 Cup Dry Sherry                                                         

1 Lb. Crabmeat, Lump, Picked Clean


                Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat.  When it stops foaming, add the onions and cook, stirring a few times, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Stirring constantly, add the flour and stir until a smooth golden paste forms.  Add the milk and ½ & ½ all at once, then stir in the chicken bouillon, thyme, and white pepper.  Stir constantly until the soup thickens and is smooth.  About 5 minutes.  Stir in the sherry and crabmeat and heat through.  Serve immediately. 

This book is written by a noted food writer and critic, Fred Thompson. It is an all inclusive book based on a specific product.  It is difficult to ascribe a specific ingredient to a regional cuisine.  These books are designed more for a person trying new or exotic flavorings to traditional fare.  It is geared more towards fusion cuisine and background in specific ingredients.

Cream of Crab Soup[56]



½ Cup Salted Butter                                                                                       

Generous ½ Cup Flour

2 Cups Water                                                                                                    

1 Tbsp. Chicken Base

8 Cups Half & Half                                                                                           

1 ½ Tsp. White Pepper

¾ Cup Sherry                                                                                                    

3/8 tea. Tabasco sauce

1 ¼ Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce                                                               

¾ Tbsp. Old Bay

¼ Tea. Salt                                                                                                          

1 ¼ Lbs. Jumbo Lump Crab Meat, Picked


                Melt Butter in a sauté pan over medium heat.  Add flour and mix well.  Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so roux won’t brown.  In a double boiler, combine water and chicken base.  Heat over high heat for five minutes.  Add half and half and mix well.  Bring liquid to a rapid simmer and add roux.  Stir constantly until mixture thickens.  Add remaining ingredients and reduce heat to a gentle simmer.  Cook for 10 minutes to blend flavors.  Serves 12. 

This is a series of books highlighting historic eateries in specific states and is augmented with a selection of recipes from the establishments menu.  The charthouse restaurant is in a historic section of Annapolis, MD along the waterfront with a view of the navy yard and the city dock.  It has been refurbished from an old boat house used by the military to construct boats during the first and second world wars.  It was also the base of construction for John Trumpy and his business of building wooden Yacht’s which are revered around the world for their fine craftsmanship.  He was also the designer and builder of the Presidential Yacht, the USS Sequoia.  It is now home to the famous Charthouse restaurant, one of the many highly distinguished restaurants along the Annapolis Shore.

Rhode River Cream of Crab Soup[57]



½ Stick Butter                                                                                   

1 Small Onion, Finely Diced

¼ Cup Minced Shallots                                                                  

2 Tbsp. Flour

2 Cups Fish Stock                                                                             

2 Cups Whipping Cream

1 Tsp. Worcestershire Sauce                                                      

1 Tsp. Salt

1/8 Tsp. White Pepper                                                                  

1 Bay Leaf

Dash of Tabasco Sauce                                                                 

1 Pound Crabmeat

¼ Cup Sherry                                                                                    

Lightly Whipped Cream and Paprika for Garnish


                Melt the butter in a soup pot over low heat and sauté the onion and shallots until tender.  Whisk in the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes.  Do not brown the flour.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the stock and cream.

                Return to heat and stir frequently until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes.  Add the Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, bay leaf, Tabasco sauce, crabmeat and sherry.  Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf, ladle into warmed soup bowls, topped with whipped cream and garnish with paprika.

This is a classic modern example of cream of crab soup and what it has become today.  The addition of the garnish at the end is a nice touch.  This recipe is more for a professional kitchen with the inclusion of shallots and stock, but the home cook could easily prepare these items, although it is unlikely for many home cooks to prepare fish stock these days.

Potomac River Crab Soup[58]



2 Tbsp. Butter                                                                                   

2 Small Onions, chopped Fine

1 Pound Crabmeat                                                                         

2 Tbsp. Flour

4 Cups Hot Milk                                                                

1 Cup Corn Kernels, Cooked

1 Cups Small Lima Beans, Cooked                                            

Salt & Pepper to Taste

1 Tea. Worcestershire Sauce                                                      

1 Cup Whipping Cream

¼ Cup Sherry                                                                                    

1 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Parsley


                Simmer the onions lightly in butter.  Add the crabmeat and heat through.  Add the flour and follow with the hot milk; stir slowly and let boil for about 10 minutes.  Add the corn, lima beans, salt, and pepper and Worcestershire sauce; let simmer about 10 minutes.  Add the cream.  Before serving, add the sherry; reheat.  Garnish with parsley.

This is a classic cream of crab soup with the addition of succotash.  It makes the dish more of a stew rather than a soup, but the flavor profile matches up with traditional accompaniments.

St. Mary’s River Crab Bisque[59]



2 Sticks Butter                                                                                   3 Cups Whole Kernel Corn

1 Cup Diced Onion                                                                          

1 Cup Peeled & Diced Celery

½ Cup Diced Red Bell Pepper                                                     

¼ Cup Minced Garlic

1 Cup Flour                                                                                        

2 ½ Quarts Fish Stock

1 Pint Whipping Cream                                                                 

½ Cup Sliced Green Onion

½ Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley                                                   

1 Pound Jumbo Lump Crab Meat

Salt & Pepper to Taste


                In a 2 gallon stock pot, melt the butter over medium high heat.  Add the corn, onions, celery, bell peppers, and garlic.  Sauté until vegetables are wilted, about 10 minutes.  Whisk in the flour until a blond roux is achieved; do not brown.

                Slowly add the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring constantly.  Bring to a low boil, reduce to simmer, and cook 30 minutes.  Add the cream, green onions and parsley.  Continue cooking for 3 minutes.  Gently fold in the crabmeat, being careful not to break the lumps.  Season with salt and white pepper. 

The turn of the century saw a sharp turn to the left from the industrial food chain.  There began a new interest in more traditional preparations of the past using whole foods with little waste and better utilization of resources.  Seasonality has played more of a role and cream of crab soup has fallen slightly out of common use due to the fact that it is a heavy cream soup and crab season is from late spring to early fall.  It still is made usually with canned or pasteurized crab meat as opposed to whole crabs.  Claw meat is more commonly used in this soup, but it can be dressed up with other crab meat as seen in the recipe above.  This is the only recipe found that uses Jumbo Lump crab meat since it would have a tendency to break down in the soup and one of the qualities of this soup is that it is better after the soup is allowed to stand for several hours in a Ban Marie.

My own recollections and connections to this soup date back to the early 90’s when we made this soup as a soup of the day every Friday in a seafood restaurant I worked at.  No matter how much we made, we always were sold out before dinner.  Outside of a few historical eateries and local crab houses, this soup can be hard to find.  The cost of crab meat, once so plentiful in Maryland they were given away free, is far higher than chicken broth or vegetable base soups.

For the truly desperate I can offer them the canned soup varieties although I cannot recommend a single one based on quality.  Any of the above recipes will produce a better soup then a standalone canned product.  Some ingredients do not benefit from the aging process and the fishiness of the canned verities is testament that this is the case with crab.

Cream of Crab Soup

Christopher Gobbett


1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Small Onion, Chopped                                                                               

1 Whole Bay Leaf

1 Cups Milk                                                                                                        

2 Cup Heavy Cream

1/8 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper                                                                

½ Pound Crab Claw Meat, Picked Clean

8 Oz. Clam Juice                                                                                               

¼ Cup Sherry

¼ Cup Fresh Chives, Snipped                                                                     

2 Tbsp. Corn Starch

                 Add oil, bay leaf, and onion and cook until translucent, add cayenne.  Add milk and cream.  Reduce and simmer 15 minutes.  Strain soup into bowls and then add crab meat and clam juice and simmer 15 minutes.  Mix corn starch with water and thicken soup as desired.  Garnish with chives.  

My version of the recipe is traditional and I try to enhance the flavor of the soup with the clam juice.  You have to find a good clam juice as most of them are little more than fishy salt water.  I use corn starch as a thickener rather than a traditional roux.  It is important to add the cayenne early to let it mix with the oil as it will incorporate better into the finished product.  It will also require less cayenne then if added later and won’t be as harsh on the palette.

The soup has changed a little in the last three hundred years, the seasonings have become more muted and the preparation has become easier, but the basic elements of its original design are still there.  The main change has come in the once abundant resource that has now dwindled to a state of luxury item.  The Chesapeake blue crab has gained in respect and notoriety as the stocks of the bay have dwindled proportionately.  Soon a complete ban on commercial fishing for crabs in the bay will take effect and then all of the blue crab meat will be derived from other sources.  Mismanagement of the bay springs from a clause in the state constitution which calls the Chesapeake Bay a free estuary for all.  This allows anyone to come and fish the bay regardless of the damage they may wrought upon it.  The government has no authority to regulate the fishermen of the bay despite putting limits on the catch and trying to make people aware of the dangers of overfishing.  Resource management is a last resort for the bay, but the time may be coming when the watermen can no longer pull a living out of the bay.  Already their numbers have shrunk to minority status and if they were a species unto themselves as some have claimed them to be over the years, then their numbers would indicate an endangered species.

Although the soup has seen many changes, some good and some bad, the basic flavor profile of crab, cream and butter have remained universal.  The only question now facing us is the uncertainty of the resource itself.  Now when we say we are cooking authentic Cream of crab soup, can we even say that any of the ingredients are really of Mid – Atlantic origin?

[1] Treasured Recipes of Old St. Mary’s 1634 – 1959: compiled by the alumni of St. Mary’s Academy Leonardtown, Maryland: 1959

[2] Fifty years in a Maryland Kitchen: 430 authentic regional recipes, Ms. B.C. Howard, 1873 J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

[3] Housekeeping in Old Virginia: Marion Cabell Tyree, John P. Morton and Company Louisville, KY. 1879

[4] Maryland and Virginia Cookbook: Charles H. Gibson of Ratcliffe Manor, Easton, Talbot County, Maryland.  John Murphy & Company 1894

[5] Maryland and Virginia Cookbook: Charles H. Gibson of Ratcliffe Manor, Easton, Talbot County, Maryland.  John Murphy & Company 1894

[6] Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields: John Shields 1998, Broadway Books

[7] Fish and Seafood Recipes: covering the entire industry, published by the cooking department of U.S. Fisheries association: 1927

[8] Eat, drink & be merry in Maryland: Frederick Philip Stieff, john Hopkins University Press 1998

[9] The Southren Cookbook of fine old recipes: Lillie S. Lustig, S. Claire Sondheim & Sarah Rensel: Culinary Arts Press, 1935

[10] The Southren Cookbook of fine old recipes: Lillie S. Lustig, S. Claire Sondheim & Sarah Rensel: Culinary Arts Press, 1935

[11] Chesapeake Bay Seafood: Sherwood Brothers Incorporated: 1940 Ferdinand C. Latrobe Printed by The Horn – Shafer Company, Baltimore, Maryland

[12] Chesapeake Bay Seafood: Sherwood Brothers Incorporated: 1940 Ferdinand C. Latrobe Printed by The Horn – Shafer Company, Baltimore, Maryland

[13] A Cook’s Tour of the Eastern Shore: Easton Maryland Memorial Hospital Junior Auxiliary: Tidewater Publishers 1948.

[14] Maryland Cooking: Compiled by the Maryland Home Economics Association: 1948

[15] Queen Anne Goes to the Kitchen: The Episcopal Church Women of St. Paul’s Parish: Tidewater Publishers Centerville, Maryland: 1962

[16] The Hammond – Harwood House Cookbook: Mrs. Lewis R. Andrews & Mrs. J. Reaney Kelly: The Hammond – Harwood House Association 1963

[17] Corkran Cooking: Compiled by the Women’s Society of Christian service of Corkran Memorial Methodist Church, Temple Hills, Maryland 1963

[18] My Favorite Maryland Recipes: Mrs. J. Millard Tawes, Published in New York by Random House, Inc. 1964

[19] Who’s Who in the Kitchen: Gold Star Wives of America, Inc; Federal Publishing Co. 1965

[20] Who’s Who in the Kitchen: Gold Star Wives of America, Inc; Federal Publishing Co. 1965

[21] Maryland Menu Magic: The Maryland Federation of Republican Women; Circulation Service Inc. 1968

[22] Maryland Menu Magic: The Maryland Federation of Republican Women; Circulation Service Inc. 1968

[23] Maryland Menu Magic: The Maryland Federation of Republican Women; Circulation Service Inc. 1968

[24] Maryland Menu Magic: The Maryland Federation of Republican Women; Circulation Service Inc. 1968

[25] Shoreline Kitchen Treasures of Riva, Maryland: Sylvan Shores Community Club; North American Press: 1969

[26] Chesapeake Bay Cooking:  Home Economics Baltimore Gas & Electric company 1973

[27] Chesapeake Seafood Specialties: United states department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of commercial Fisheries: 1976

[28] Montgomery County Fair Cookbook: Fundcraft Publishing 1977 

[29] The Country School Cookbook: The Parent’s association of the Country School Easton, Maryland 1980

[30] The Country School Cookbook: The Parent’s association of the Country School Easton, Maryland 1980

[31] The Chesapeake Bay Fish & Fowl Cookbook: A treasury of Old and New Recipes from Maryland’s Eastern Shore: Joan & Joe Foley; McMillian Publishing Company, Inc. 1981

[32] Cooking in Maryland: Beyond Beer & Crabs: Maryland Arthritis Foundation; Wimmer Brothers Fine Printing & Lithography 1981

[33] The Great Taste of Virginia Seafood: a Cookbook and Guide to Virginia Waters:  Written and Edited by Mary Reid Barrow with Robyn Browder; Schiffer Publishing 1984

[34]The Great Taste of Virginia Seafood: a Cookbook and Guide to Virginia Waters:  Written and Edited by Mary Reid Barrow with Robyn Browder; Schiffer Publishing 1984

[35] The Great Taste of Virginia Seafood: a Cookbook and Guide to Virginia Waters:  Written and Edited by Mary Reid Barrow with Robyn Browder; Schiffer Publishing 1984

[36] The Great Taste of Virginia Seafood: a Cookbook and Guide to Virginia Waters:  Written and Edited by Mary Reid Barrow with Robyn Browder; Schiffer Publishing 1984

[37] The Great Taste of Virginia Seafood: a Cookbook and Guide to Virginia Waters:  Written and Edited by Mary Reid Barrow with Robyn Browder; Schiffer Publishing 1984

[38] The Great Taste of Virginia Seafood: a Cookbook and Guide to Virginia Waters:  Written and Edited by Mary Reid Barrow with Robyn Browder; Schiffer Publishing 1984

[39] The Great Taste of Virginia Seafood: a Cookbook and Guide to Virginia Waters:  Written and Edited by Mary Reid Barrow with Robyn Browder; Schiffer Publishing 1984

[40] Tidewater on the Halfshell: Fine Virginia Recipes; the Junior League of Norfolk – Virginia Beach, Inc.  Favorite Recipes Press 1985

[41] The Congressional Club Cookbook, Published by Affiliated Graphics 1984

[42] From a Lighthouse Window: The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum; Waverly Press, Easton, Maryland 1989

[43] “Heavenly Manna” From Old St. Paul’s Kent: The Episcopal Church Women’s Officers 1692 – 1992

[44] McCormick/ Schilling’s New Spice Cookbook: Edited by Jack Felton Published and produced by The Benjamin Company, Inc. 1994

[45] Chesapeake Bay Gourmet Seafood Recipes: Margie Kauffman; M & I Seafood, Baltimore, Maryland: 1997

[46]  Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields: John Shields 1998, Broadway Books

[47] Angel Food: St. Raphael’s Sodality; Cookbooks by Morris Press 1999

[48] Chesapeake’s Bounty: Katie Moose; Conduit Press 2000

[49] A Taste of Pennsylvania History:  a guide to historic eateries and their recipes; Debbie Nunley & Karen Jane Elliott, john F. Blair Publisher 2000

[50] Best of the Best from the Mid-Atlantic Cookbook: Gwen McKee & Barbara Moseley, Quail Ridge Press Inc. 2001

[51] Recipes to Roar About: Lioness clu of Berlin, Morris Press Cookbooks 2003

[52] Recipes to Roar About: Lioness clu of Berlin, Morris Press Cookbooks 2003

[53] The Chesapeake Collection: Recipes by Chesapeake bank Employees & Associates; Morris Press Cookbooks 2004

[54] The Chesapeake Collection: Recipes by Chesapeake bank Employees & Associates; Morris Press Cookbooks 2004

[55] Crazy for Crab: Fred Thompson; The Harvard Common Press 2004

[56] A Taste of Maryland History; Debbie Nunley & Karen Jane Elliott; John F. Blair Publisher 2005

[57] Chesapeake Bay Soups: Whitey Schmidt; Marian Hartnett Press 2007

[58] Chesapeake Bay Soups: Whitey Schmidt; Marian Hartnett Press 2007

[59] Chesapeake Bay Soups: Whitey Schmidt; Marian Hartnett Press 2007


About midatlanticcooking

Chef in the Mid-Atlantic region for over 20 years. Painter, writer and traveler.
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7 Responses to Cream of Crab Soup

  1. Vinny Grette says:

    O my gosh, you’ve published a whole cookbook of crab recipes here! I could make one recipe a day for a year – hey, that could be a topic for a brand new blog for Vinny 🙂

    • There is a lot more to mid-atlantic cooking than crab, check out some of the other chapters and see the evolution of the dishes through time. This blog is my attempt to preserve the culinary traditions of the Mid-Atlantic region.

  2. I would like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in penning this blog. I really hope to see the same high-grade content from you later on as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my very own blog now 😉

  3. Hans Susser says:

    Extraordinary effort 🙂 Great job !

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