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Proper Storage of Snails

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Ask the Chef:

I buy escargot in cans with 6-10 dozen in a can – too many to prepare at one time. Once a can has been opened, can they be frozen, or can they be refrigerated and consumed later?

Response:

The proper storage of snails is not a frequent question – perhaps because escargot is considered a delicacy and generally ordered at a restaurant rather than made at home. Our chefs are more familiar with fresh or frozen snails; while canned ones are presumably preserved, our best advice is to check with your manufacturer. Methods of preservation vary from country to country and we can’t comment on your specifics. Although some sales sites suggest that snails that are cooked and ready-to-eat may be stored in the refrigerator for two days, we recommend that you prepare them as soon as the can is opened, perhaps making a soup in addition to escargots a la bourguignonne. Freezing any kind of shellfish can lead to a deterioration in flavor. If unopened, canned escargot generally has a shelf life of one year, stored at room temperature.

A helpful web site is www.herzmann.com. It says, “Canned snails are cooked in a court-bouillion prior to canning and some of the cooking liquid is packed along with the snails. The cooking liquid may be as simple as water, salt, and spices, or it may also contain some vegetable matter. Before use, the snails should be thoroughly drained and then rinsed under flowing water. The canning liquid is either discarded or reserved, depending on the recipe. If the recipe calls for small snails and all you have is large ones, the snails can be cut in half without affecting the finished recipe.”

Snails are land mollusks and may have first appeared in a French cookbook as early as 1394. There are 19 edible types of snails, and the easiest way to cook them is to buy them in cans. Otherwise, you may be subject to having to purge them of harmful vegetation. Canned snails, however, are ready for immediate use.

For recipes and more information, check out Shellfish Cookery.

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