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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Preparing & Cooking Garden Snails

Preparing & Cooking Garden Snails

If the SHTF and food sources become over hunted...and they will.  You must consider other means of feeding your family.  The garden snail, Helix aspersa, came to Britain with the Romans, who loved to eat them, they may have come earlier, in the Bronze age, but didn’t spread much. It’s the snail most cultivated for gourmet food and is known as petit gris.


Snails are nocturnal, and like places which are dark and damp. So in spring and autumn they are most active, destructive and edible. When it’s dry or cold they seal themselves up, to hibernate in winter, and aestivate in summer. After being closed up for long they have less fat, but are still edible.

The French used to collect them in autumn, when dormant and already naturally purged and safe inside their shells, in the autumn. This is a good shortcut, avoiding the need to fatten up and dry out by purging.

To see check if a snail is mature, not growing any more, feel the outer, front edge of the of the shell opening. If it has a hard lip it has finished growing, if it's a bit soft, and less prominent, it is an immature one, leave it to grow up!

If you want to eat garden snails regularly, then you should breed them.

A vivarium, a wooden box, bucket or washing bowl are suitable for snails to breed in, if outside, should be placed in full shade. Ideally they are kept at 20o C in damp air to breed, so in a greenhouse or coldframe is better. Spray water in the house to keep it damp. They need good moist soil is a flowerpot or box to lay the eggs in.  Rodents and birds must be kept out.

They are hermaphrodites, but two must mate to breed. You can keep just two fine large specimens together in quite a small container. The eggs take three weeks to hatch if they’re kept at 20o C. In good conditions they are mature and ready to eat after 3 months of growing.

To grow they need lime to make their shells, so for keeping snails long term, it is important to provide lime. Crushed oyster shell is suitable, but I think powdered lime is best, available from garden centres, or cheaper is a sack from a builders merchant. It's good for the soil when growing vegetables too.

They can produce 100s of young, so a bigger house is necessary for them to grow up in. I have an old cracked aquarium, but an enclosed space can be made with special snail netting. I could only find it in rolls. I will buy a roll, and sell shorter lengths to any of you who would like some.

In theory ( I haven't personally done this yet) it is possible to produce edible mature snails by autumn or late summer from a pair put together in the spring. I have paired two up, and wait in hope!


Provide them with a home for about a week, where you can give them food and water, exclude soil and grit, and crucially, keep them in. They are good escapologists! An old pair of tights makes a good cover for a bucket. A softwood box is good too. It is important to provide plenty of ventilation.

Feed them with human-friendly food for a week or more, to clear out any grit in their guts and fattens them up a bit. Lettuce, onion greens, apples are things they love, stale bread, bran and sunflower seeds are good. If you keep them for more than a week you must give them powdered lime, from a garden centre or builders merchant if you want a sack!


Before cooking they are purged, that means no food or water for 48 hours, so their guts empty and their close up in thei shells with a membrane protecting them. They are washed thoroughly before this stage, and after.  Commercially they just hang them in nets for up to a fortnight.

At home you can use a dry bucket without food, but with some wood or stones, an earthenware flower pot, for shelter. Make sure they are well secured with the tights!

Take the snails out carefully from the home they were feeding in to another container like a colander, wash them well, two or three times. Then put them in the purging bucket for 48 hours. you can use the same bucket, but might need help to prevent escapes while you take everything out of the bucket, wash it, and just return what you used for their shelter, but no food or water.

COOKING is in 3 stages:

1 Killing: they must be right inside their shells, if not, disturb them by gently shaking the container. Plunge them into boiling water for two - five mins.

2 Then cool them in cold water, and extract them carefully from their shells with a toothpick or pin.

3 Then they are cooked for an hour or so in good tasty stock. The French always include wine. See below

4 Then they are baked with butter and flavourings. This is because they are quite low in fat, and flavour.

5 Serve with bread.

Serving them in their shells requires two extra stages:--

6 Cleaning and drying the shells, see below

7 Putting the snail into the shells with butter sauce, then baking.

THE STOCK cook up for ½ hour or so. This was used on the One Show, a court bouillon or your own stock recipe is fine.

Then add the snails, after removal from shells.

1 lt water

generous handfuls of fresh:

water parsnip leaves

wild sorrel

nettle tips

Some welsh onion/garlic


Ramsons (wild garlic)

Thyme, basil,


Bay leaf


½ bottle of Chardonnay.


To melted butter, add garlic cloves

Then ground almonds to make a soft paste.

Put a snail in each hollow of a snail plate and add as much paste as possible.

Bake for 20 mins.

Serve with cubes of bread and salad.


Using a good book, collect seasonal weeds. For the One Show in April, I used those below.

Wash and chop finely, then

Blanch for 5 mins the wild herbs you can lay your hands on.

I used the following:

Water parsnip

Wild sorrel

Water cress

Nettle tips

A little ribwort plantain.

Sieve , pressing out the water.

Finely chopped ramsons

(if in season, otherwise use onion or garlic with the blanched herbs)

Add all these to melted butter.

Put a snail in each hollow of a snail plate and add as much paste as possible.

Bake for 20 mins.

Serve with cubes of bread and salad.

An old French recipe:

“To dress snails:

Put some water into a saucepan, and when it begins to boil throw in the snails, and let them boild a quarter of an hour; then take them out of their shells; wash them several times, taking great pains to cleanse them thoroughly, place them in clean water and boil them again for a quarter of an hour; then take them out, rinse them, dry them, and place them with a little butter in a frying pan, fry them gently for a few minutes, sufficient to brown them, then serve them with some piquant sauce.”

From “Edible Molluscs from great Britain and Ireland” by M S Lovell, a, PDF book that I downloaded from www.EatWeeds.co.uk pages 23 – 27

For other fun and exciting prepping info, come visit me at http://www.preparetosurviveincalifornia.blogspot.com/

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More Thoughts on Bics - Modifications

More Thoughts on Bics - Modifications

The Safety
Bics nowadays come with a "child proof" safety, which is mostly just annoying. You used to have to bend them and break them off, but now they're a separate piece of metal that pops out easily. Just insert the tip of a pocket knife or something similar and pop it off. Be prepared for the little safety tab to fly across the room though.

One Bic lighter modification that I find handy is attaching a simple paracord loop. This allows you to neck-carry the Bic or attach it to your belt for retention if you're pocket carrying. I keep the inner core of the paracord intact, but if you wanted a prettier package, you could remove that--the full paracord adds some bulk, but also means that you have more cordage if needed.

Bic lighter with paracord lanyard. I recommend bright colored Bics
for better visibility in a pack or if dropped.
I use a simple wrap of Gorilla tape (uber-duct tape) to attach the paracord, and using that method also gives you a bit of high-strength tape if needed. I've also seen it done other ways--super glue and electrical tape comes to mind--but this is fast and easy. I have other lighters with a better-looking tape wrap, so if you want to take your time you can have a better-looking end product. If you don't want the 
whole neck-carrying length, you can just 
shorten the amount of cordage, down to 
just a small loop for attaching to a key chain.

I plan on adding a magnetized heavy duty sewing needle to the back of these lighters in the near future, as seen on PigMonkey's blog and Dave Canterbury's videos. It would fit under the tape wrap, no problemo, with no weight, and would give an extra option if it came to that. Makeshift compass, sewing and so on.

Keeping the Gas In
Some people have issues with the Bic's gas button getting depressed accidentally, causing all of the gas to escape, thus rendering the lighter inoperable. BFE Labs has a great little post on using O-rings as a "safety" for the button. I've also seen it done with small zip ties. I personally haven't had this problem with a Bic, but it's a good idea to play it safe.

Water is one of the great enemies of the Bic lighter, though they can usually be dried out fairly easily. The easiest solution is carrying the Bic in some kind of waterproof container, of which a freezer weight Ziploc is the cheapest and a pretty good choice if you don't smash it around too much. For a more durable option, there are small Pelican and Otterbox cases, as well as metal tubes. In Dave Canterbury's book, The Pathfinder System: Survivability for the Common Man, he has a picture of a small metal water proof tube with a pair of Wetfire cubes and a Mini bic lighter. I've been unable to track down the tube, but it looks to be a very good option for carrying a survival Bic. If anyone knows the source, let me know.

The Yin and Yang of preparedness

The Yin and Yang of preparedness

These days I find myself contemplating survival, preparedness and life in general. As I said several times already, the correct mind-set and awareness are “always on” mods to your brain. If the right mentality regarding survival is embraced its never turned off, it never goes away, but it filters your perception and influences your actions. But this “always on” mode must never be mistaken with being paranoid, and even worse, it should never make you fall for the doom and gloom so common among the survival and preparedness community.
Where does common sense stop and where does depression and doom worshiping begin? The purpose of this article is to analyze just that and maybe make some soul searching to make sure we’re going in the right direction.

Extremes in survival and preparedness

As all things in life, there should be a balance in your survival mindset and emergency preparations. As an example, for those of us that have been into this for a while now, there are things that dont compute in our brains anymore. Not being able to defend yourself and your family in your own home is one of them. Yet there’s millions of folks that are just counting on dialing 911 ( and using their mutant X men type powers to freeze time until help actually arrives, say 15 to 30 minutes in the best case) On the other hand never setting foot on the street out of fear isn’t reasonable either.
Sometimes there’s a disconnection between what you think you’re doing and how effective that will actually be in the real world. Having 25 guns doesn’t make you safer that having 20, so just adding more weapons and gear may be just a matter of hoarding, rather than real security. This is a common problem these days. Difference between hoarding and collecting? A collection is guided based on country of origin, period, or some other topic in common. Hoarding is just buying stuff randomly. Maybe the guy that invested five hundred dollars in a used Glock, some ammo, holster and concealed weapon license and another 500 bucks in a defensive shooting class is better prepared for trouble than the guy with a safe full of guns but no weapon on him when he actually needs it.
You can be capable of defending yourself yet lead a normal life, that includes a social life as well. I often read about survivalists having problems interacting with people they consider (and probably are) sheeply. In my opinion, this is a negative attitude since being capable of blending in and not only that, also being tolerant of other people’s choices, no matter how misguided we consider them, is an important trait for survivalists. A real survivalist should be just as comfortable doing fighting training soaking wet and covered in mud or in a social reunion with people that can spend four hours talking about topics we may consider superficial. Adapting means this too, being capable of interacting in other social circles, and feeling comfortable while doing so. Next time you find yourself in such a situation, try doing your best to fit and mentally take note of how successful you manage to be.

Paranoid doom and gloomer

Its so easy to get caught in all the doom and gloom. Especially during trying times such as these, with an ongoing economic crisis world wide and un uncertain future ahead. But you know what, doomers have been promising the end of the world for centuries. Just like there’s people that believe in bigfoot theres people that will swear to you the world will end next year, and when it doesn’t they’ll say its going to happen the next one. Dont worry, they have no shame in keep doing this their entire natural lives. Who knows? sometimes they “get lucky”, at least in their minds, and some event does take place. Truth is you should prepare no matter what simply out of common sense. And during the good times you just enjoy them as much as you can while you keep prepping. The way I see it preparedness is all about happiness and quality of life. Preparing means problems, accidents or unfortunate events, life threatening or not, will be overcome or solved better and faster and I can go back to enjoying life quicker. Preparing as an excuse to be sad, miserable and angry or as a way to justify depression or character problems, that’s of no use.
Make no mistake, during hard times, specially during periods of recession, unemployment and crime, you need to be one peppy, happy son of a gun to make it. If you’re already depressed before things really get bad I promise, you wont stand it when it gets worse. A positive attitude is essential to survival, and economic collapse survival will put this to test for years to come, maybe the rest of your life.

Weekend or Theoretical “preppers”

Taking a few classes (self defense, food storage, first aid, just to name a few) an then going back to being your old self wont work either. Being all tactical during a shooting class only to store everything and spending the rest of your week completely unarmed because concealed carrying isn’t comfortable or convenient means you wont be ready when you need it the most.
Your company doesn’t allow you to carry? Leave your gun in the car then but put it back on when you get inside, and by all means, find other ways to have tools for defense on the meantime, even if its just a folding knife. Sometimes I really dont feel like carrying a bag with the stuff I often post about here, but I do it anyway. It has all come in handy in enough situations to remind me how important it is to carry a minimum amount of gear at all times as your daily EDC. The epitome of this are “theoretical" survivalists and preppers, spending hours on line talking about survival but no actual preps. Gun? Not yet, still putting the money together. BOB? Go bag? car kit? EDC gear and kit? Nope. Food stored? No, I’ve been “thinking about it" but still nada. Guys, reading hundreds of gear threads and reviews wont do you any good if you dont get up and actually put a kit together, actually bother to carry the minimum gear often mentioned. Trust me, eventually you end up using it so you learn to appreciate it.

Selective preparedness

It usually happens that guys just love guns and concentrate on that, buying lots of guns, maybe knifes, but completely ignoring other areas of preparedness.
For the ladies, its usually that they feel more comfortable with food preps and storage, also gardening, but the idea of training for self defense isn’t as appealing.
Folks, you have to cover the basics on all regards no matter if you personally happen to like some better than others. We’re human and its very hard to be objective, but we must do our best to be as logical as possible about preparedness and survival and cover all areas, starting with the essential ones such as security, both personal and at home, food and water, shelter, health and finances.

Like everything else in life, a balance to your preparedness is crucial. Do your best to get all the family involved too. Dont force it and try starting with the areas that you believe will be of more appeal to each family member.
Take care folks and have fun!