Did you know August is Maine Lobster Month?
Neither did I, but thanks to an invite from friends of the vine, Barbra and Mark Comunale of Claremont, I find myself on the shore of beautiful Hancock Pond (one of over 3,000 ponds and lakes statewide) surrounded by tall pines, oaks and ash trees, doing my part to help promote Maine’s iconic shellfish, “lob-stah” as the Mainers say!
New Englanders enjoy large amounts of shellfish including mussels, crabs, clams, oysters, scallops and shrimps. I’m here however, for the lobsters and wine! There are over 35 wineries located throughout Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Lobster has been harvested along the Maine coast for generations, but it was not always the highly-esteemed seafood that it is today.
Tough economic times for Maine’s lobster industry have recently been in the news while Maine lobstermen are working diligently trying to create greater awareness for their tasty shellfish. Lobster is a healthy protein and lower in calories and fat than skinless chicken breast and also provides beneficial vitamins and minerals that promote healthy bones and maintain healthy nerve cells.
New England native Ed Cooper of Boston, is a 40-year resident of Hancock Pond, which is located in southwestern Maine in the Sebago Lakes Region about 10 miles from Bridgton, Me.
Cooper shared some of the difficulties facing the lobster industry. “Just last week, Maine lobstermen were earning $2.50 to $3 per pound for soft shells and $4.25 to $5 per pound for hard shells. These are very low prices,” said Cooper whose father and grandfather were cod fishermen from Ireland’s Eye, Newfoundland in Trinity Bay, fishing on the Grand Banks and Labrador.
Lobsters thrive along the about 3,500 miles of rugged Maine coast because of its environment of cold, clean water and rocky bottom. “It’s an ideal habitat for lobsters,” said Cooper. “Maine is well-known for its delicious soft-shell lobsters. About once a year, mature lobsters shed their tough, old shell for a new, larger shell that hardens over time. These soft-shell lobsters yield a flavorful and sweeter meat in a shell that can often be cracked by hand. Hard-shell lobsters are completely full of lobster meat but can be difficult to open without a hammer.”
Until recently, Barbra Comunale lived in New England for over 40 years. In Barbra’s family lobster and steamer clams have always been a summertime treat. Lobster is easy to cook and soft-shells can easily be opened with two metal tools called a lobster cracker (like a nutcracker) and a pick. You need a large plate and many paper towels because lobsters can contain much water inside the shell. Some people even use plastic “lobster bibs.”Once you remove the lobster meat you dip it in melted or “drawn” butter for a sweet, salty and buttery taste sensation.
“When our family is travelling closer to the Maine coast we like to order lobster at one of the `Eat-in-the-rough’ (think picnic tables and paper plates overlooking a pristine fishing community) with lobster restaurants like Cod-End-Marine in Tenant’s Harbor,” said Barbra.
Of course, people are frequently searching for the “perfect” wine to accompany lobster and our group was no different. Here’s our catch of whites (there was no pinot in the house!). We agreed they all paired well when chilled:
Hardys Southeastern Australia, 2008 Chardonnay, 3 liter box (4 bottles), $19.95
Penfolds Koonunga Hill Southeastern Australia, 2005 Chardonnay, $9.99 bottle.
Chateau Bonnet Andre Lurton Entre-Deux-Mers (Bordeaux), 2008 Sauvignon Blanc 50 percent, Semillon 40 percent, Muscadelle 10 percent, $12 bottle.
Big Claw White California, 2008 blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, $12 bottle
South Coast Winery Temecula Valley, 2008 Muscat, $14 bottle (at the winery).
Maine lobster is a major contributor to the state’s economy. “In 2006, the catch exceeded 72 million pounds and generated close to $300 million in ex-vessel or dock value. There are over 5,700 lobster harvesters, and the trade supports businesses including processors, dealers, marine outfitters, boat makers, retailers and restaurants,” said Cooper. “Lobstering is a vital fishing industry supporting hundreds of small, coastal villages and communities.”
“Unfortunately this has not been a profitable summer for lobstermen so far. Perhaps because of the poor economy in general, recently people have not been going out to eat and ordering lobster,” said Barbra. “Also, Maine has received record amounts of rain this summer. The bad weather is keeping people from going out. Meanwhile, lobstermen are catching a normal amount of lobsters and trying to make a living. It is a case of more supply than demand.
“If you would like to help our Maine lobstermen, and enjoy a delicious treat, please visit a few of my favorite Web sites,” said Barbra.
By the way, the record speed in lobster boat racing is over 50 mph!
A lobster roll is a buttered and grilled flat-sided hot dog roll filled with lobster!
Gino L. Filippi can be reached at Ginoffvine@aol.com