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Snails - the ultimate slow food

Have you got your slow cooker on the go today? I have! I think there’s nothing better than the flavours you get from slow cooked food. Slow Food Week (1 – 9 June has a snail as its symbol - which is very appropriate. If you cook snails slowly you get a lovely soft texture like mushrooms. Quick cooking produces that horrible lump of gristle that so may people complain about. The pleasure you get from eating snails, or anything else is all in the cooking. This is my cider recipe for cooking snails using locally sourced Kentish cider.

Cooking Kentish snails with Kentish cider

 Kentish Cider is an essential ingredient in cooking locally grown edible snails and here is how to use it. In true Mrs Beaton style: first catch your snails, clean them and let them dry off so that they go into temporary aestivation.

Make your cooking stock with the following ingredients:

1 measure cider

10 measures water              

1 crushed clove garlic, chopped shallot, chopped carrot,

sea salt and black pepper

1 clove, 1 bay leaf, small sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg,

chopped parsley and thyme (could be dried)

1 whole bird’s eye chilli (don’t break it up or the stock could be too hot)

(One litre of stock would cook a kilo of snails.)

Make a 10% brine preferably with sea salt

Bring a large pan of water to rapid boil and add salt. Drop the sleeping snails into the boiling water and bring back to the boil for five minutes. Plunge them into cold water after blanching so that you can handle the shells to remove the snail using a small fork. Twist the snail with the shape of the shell to remove it.

Drop the de-shelled snails into hot brine and boil for thirty minutes to remove slime.

Rinse well.

Drop snails into the hot stock, bring back to the boil and simmer for about one and a half hours. I use a slow cooker for this part of the process so that I can be sure they won’t boil dry. At the end of the cooking process turn off the heat and leave in the stock while you prepare the garlic butter.

For the garlic butter: Per 250 gm pack English butter (taken out of the fridge well ahead of time) which should do 4 dozen snails, depending on how much you like garlic butter.

20gm chopped garlic

40 gm chopped shallot

Freshly picked parsley – enough to colour it green

Add cider to taste but try 70 ml

The herbs, garlic and shallot are most easily chopped in a food processor with the cider unless you are a skilled chef. Then mix well with the butter.

Drain the snails well and reheat with the cider butter in a hot oven in an oven proof dish until the butter bubbles but don’t burn it. Served with crusty bread and a side salad.