Morecambe Bay Shrimps
Tiny brown shrimps, about 6cm long with distinctive pinky-brown colouring and a mild, sweet, succulent taste. Although they are sometimes available cooked in the shell, but they are most famously served 'potted' i.e. boiled (traditionally in sea water), shelled and preserved in spiced, clarified butter, and served cold with thin toast.
Caught in the shallow waters, sand and mud of Morecambe Bay on the Lancashire coast, shrimping has been a traditional occupation in the area since the 18th century, but the technique of preserving the shrimps for sea journeys is reputedly said to go back to Tudor times. The industry expanded in the 19th century when the railways enabled the product to be distributed more widely, but it was only in the early 30s they became popular on the fashionable tea tables of London. The shrimps were originally packed in small earthenware or china pots, now replaced by plastic cartons. The production is labour-intensive because of the peeling. The main season is from the August Bank Holiday to Christmas.
Some producers traditionally used distinctive boats called ‘nobbies’, others rely on tractors (formerly horses and carts) to cross the dangerous estuary sands plus an essential degree of local expert knowledge of the shifting quicksands and tidal patterns. The actual fishing involves a complicated system of long nets with floats attached to the tractors which are driven along the water line.
Although most remaining shrimpers are to be found in the north of the Bay, around the small towns and villages of Flookburgh, Ulverston and Bardness, there is also some limited activity to the very south of the Bay, around the resort town of Southport. There is some small degree of difference in size (and, arguably, juiciness) between the shrimps from the different ends of Morecambe Bay.
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