20120812

How to Prepare and Eat Garden Snails

Here is some advice on how to prepare and eat garden snails! It’s from Elisabeth Luard’s book Saffron and Sunshine. She’s spent much of her life in places like Spain, living in simple villages on a tiny budget to feed a family.
Luard says that all land snails are edible but you must starve them before you eat them, because they contain potentially toxic excreta – that is, snail poo, Collect them (that won’t be difficult!) and keep them in a clean container that allows air to circulate. Feed them on whatever you’d like to flavour them with – she recommends lettuce and mint. Keep them for about two weeks – less if small, longer if big – and clean out the container every day. She doesn’t mention whether you should have water, but another source says you don’t need any – there’s enough in the atmosphere.

Preparing a box of snails

When you’re ready to cook them, wash in several changes of water and salt them. They will froth (ugh, this is getting horrible!). When they stop frothing they are considered clean enough to cook. Put them in a pan with enough warm water to cover. Bring gently to the boil. Skim off the froth and add salt and a tablespoon of vinegar, some peppercorns, a couple of bayleaves, parsley, thyme and an onion (this begins to sound like Stone soup!). Simmer 30 mins. Drain, rinse. Remove snails from their shells and pinch off the little curl of black intestine at the end of the body. Finish by simmering a few minutes in garlic and wine, like cooking mussels (this is what they do in Liguria in the Italian Riveria) or in a spicy tomato sauce (which is what they do in Andalucia in southern Spain).

Snails ready to cook

Many thanks (possibly!) to Jane C for researching this topic.
Clive (picture-links by Jim)