How to have an authentic “down east” lobster bake

17 09 2009

Growing up, we would have lobster bakes every once in a while on a major summer holiday.  My Uncles would get up early, dig a pit in an unused part of the yard, line it with rocks, and get the fire started.  Meanwhile, my brother and I would go with Grandma to get the lobsters.  We usually bought them right on the docks from local lobster-men.  We would then go to a rocky part of the shore (aren’t they all rocky in Maine?) and begin harvesting seaweed in large garbage bags.  We needed a lot of sea weed- the kind that has pods holding sea water on them- not the flat seaweed that you see on the West coast.  We loved scurrying around the rocks pulling up seaweed- and we always smelled like the ocean when we got back.  By the time we got back to the house, the rocks were getting good and hot.  We got busy cleaning the silk out of ears of corn and rinsing the clams (steamers) out in a bath of water.  When the time came, we layered seaweed on top of the hot rocks, then layered the following: potatoes, corn, clams, lobster and sometimes kielbasa. Then we put more seaweed on top and covered the whole thing with a tarp- to bake, well actually steam- the water from the seaweed steamed all of the food within.  When done we filled our plates and ate until we couldn’t eat anymore.

The lobster bake that Aunt A and Uncle J put on was very similar- except my uncles didn’t do all the heavy lifting, and we didn’t have to gather our own seaweed.  Paul and his wife had everything taken care of and the whole process down to a science.  The big pan that they had was cool- it had drain holes to let excess water out and it was easily move on and off the hot rocks.  Check out the process:

After the fire is built and sufficiently hot, start with a bed of seaweed and add corn, potatoes, and lobster!

After the fire is built and sufficiently hot, start with a bed of seaweed and add corn, potatoes, and lobster!

Keep adding lobster, kielbasa and bags of steamers

Keep adding lobster, kielbasa and bags of steamers

Look at all that goodness!

Look at all that goodness!

Cover it up with more seaweed... whew this is tiresome!

Cover it up with more seaweed... whew this is tiresome!

 Check out this great set up- all of the prep work is done with the pan off the direct heat- once done you move it over the heat to begin cooking- this avoids some layers cooking too fast.

Check out this great set up- all of the prep work is done with the pan off the direct heat- once done you move it over the heat to begin cooking- this avoids some layers cooking too fast.

Cover the pile with a canvas cloth that has been soaking in water.

Cover the pile with a canvas cloth that has been soaking in water.

Cover it all with a blanket to keep all the steam and goodness inside- tuck it in nice and tight!

Cover it all with a blanket to keep all the steam and goodness inside- tuck it in nice and tight!

Move the whole thing over the hot rocks and let her cook!

Move the whole thing over the hot rocks and let her cook!

Once done uncover and discover the perfectly cooked feast!

Once done uncover and discover the perfectly cooked feast!

Collect the food... look at those guys!

Collect the food... look at those guys!

Awesome!  We learned a lot!  My lesson of the day- Take the rubber bands off the claws before cooking- this avoids a slight rubber taste- but watch out for those claws!

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25 09 2009
Lobsters from Pot to Plate | Fine Maine Lobster

[…] to lobster preparation were discovered. Take, for example, the well photo-documented article, “How to Have an Authentic Down-East Lobster Bake.” From the homemade, giant baking pan filled with fresh ingredients, lobster and seaweed, to the […]

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