A Taste of Crete – Snails

Spread the love



This dish has been a long time comin’. Remember when I picked and jarred my own grape vine leaves for dolmades? Well…that same patch also was rampant with snails.

After consulting Maria of Organically Cooked, I went and harvested a bucket of snails which would have to be plumped and purged of any food they may have eaten of late.

Ideally, this process takes 4-6 weeks but it really wasn’t that difficult and the final, delicious result was well worth the wait.

First off, I found and used a plastic hamper-type crate, the ones often used to cart and transport fruits and the holes in the crate were small enough to not allow the snails to escape and I covered it with a wooden board.

I placed the snails in my garage with some of the grape vine leaves, some corn meal and pasta to feed the snails.

Each week (wearing plastic gloves) I removed as much fecal matter as possible but this task became easier with each passing week as the snails were mostly now in their dormancy stage and food did not have to be replenished and little additional poops were to be found.

Yesterday, time was up for my snails. I removed them from the plastic crate and placed them in my kitchen sink. I plugged the drain and filled the sink with water up to about 1 inch high.

Almost immediately upon submerging the snails did they realize they were in cold water and they did awake from their dormancy and started peeking out of their shells…trying to crawl out of the sink!

At this point, it was time to ascertain if there were any dead snails in the lot and I started plucking any snails (most) that had peeked out their shells and showed signs of life and I placed then in a nearby colander (with a cover on top).

Out of the 70 or so snails, perhaps a dozen were devoid of life, they felt lighter than the rest and upon close inspection, I could see that the opening if the the shell had a dark discolouring to it…YEP, they were dead and they got chucked.

Before I go on to the dish at hand, I’d like to thank Maria ofOrganically Cooked for her immense patience in educating me, hand-holding and encouragement throughout this process. I’ve given you the abridged version of the preparation of snails but you may source, with great detail how to find, prepare, clean and cook snails.

Part A, Harvesting Snails

Part B, Cleaning & Cooking Snails

From here on…I’m on my own.

In order to rid the snails of any remaining impurities, I was instructed to boil the snails in in salted water until little or no scum was floating on the surface. I was lucky, as I only had to boil the snails two times (sometimes you need to repeat this process three – four times).

Before I get on to the dish, I must address the challenge of eating snails which for a novice like me, came with some difficulty at first.

I tried using a fork but that didn’t work. I could have bought snail utensils but I don’t eat snails that often to justify the purchase so…in a typical and resourceful Greek way, I used a wooden souvlaki skewer to poke, twist and pluck out the succulent snail meat from within the shell.

Eating snails are a delight. It’s a messy affair but if you’re like me, a “Kalofagas” who’s in pursuit of delicious foods, then you’ll want to give snails a try.

It’s a messy affair but the flavour, the eating with your hands, the frequent sips of Raki in between bites along with many a dunking of bread in the sauce makes it all worth the trouble of harvesting, plumping and preparing snails.

I have never visited Crete but after enjoying this dish, I just got a little closer to enjoying a vacation on Crete.

Until next year, I leave you with Snails Stifado.

Snails Stifado

1 kg. of large snails
1 bunch of scallions, diced

1 large onion, sliced

1/2 cup of olive oil
2 pints of cherry tomatoes, roasted in the oven

7-8 cloves of garlic, roasted along with the tomatoes

3 bay leaves

1 sprig of fresh rosemary

1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup of water

salt and pepper to taste

splash of balsamic vinegar

  1. After boiling your snails to remove any remaining impurities, get a large pot on your stovetop and over medium-high heat, add your onions, scallions, bay leaves and rosemary and lower to medium and saute for about 5-10 minutes.
  2. Now add the snails, roasted tomatoes and garlic, wine and water and bring to a boil. Adjust seasoning with some salt and pepper, cover with a lid and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
  3. Adjust seasoning with salt & pepper and throw in a splash of balsamic vinegar to balance the sweetness from the onions and roasted cherry tomatoes.
  4. Serve in bowls as an appetizer with good crusty bread and some Raki, Ouzo or Tsipouro.

© 2008 – 2014,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

70 Comments for “A Taste of Crete – Snails”

Peter G

says:

No matter how adventurous my eating habits are, I still get funny about snails. Maybe its psychological brought about by a childhood of squashing them in the garden! However I can still apreciate the effort that goes into them (harvesting, cooking etc). Your “saliggari stifado” is “interesting” and I admire your attempts. Would it help if I closed my eyes?…LOl

joanne at frutto della passione

says:

Wow, what patience! I couldn’t do it, simply because I have an 8 year old in the house for whom snails are things to capture, feed and play with! Maybe we he’s a little older. It looks amazing though.

gay

says:

This is very interesting! I haven’t really tried cooking snails. I didn’t realize that you have to feed them a few weeks to be able to eat them. We have snails sold in the market that is harvested from the ricefields. I’m not sure if cooks would cook them immediately or let them go dormant first.

Mary

says:

I’m fairly curious how come the snails went dormant and what snail poop looks like. That’s a lot of effort for a first time eating snails. It would be terribly dissapointing if you didn’t like them.

Mary Coleman

says:

You are simply amazing. I am so impressed with this whole process you just went through to eat snails.
I definitely want to try this recipe but i think I may have to use someone else’s snails!

Dhanggit

says:

i love love snails..this was my dad specialty..his version was with coconut milk ..but i like your version of cherry tomatoes and rosemary and white wine :-) with love to top it on my newly cooked pasta!

MEDITERRANEAN KIWI

says:

i hope you enjoyed this dish, peter – looking at the snails in the photo, they are a different shell colour from the cretan ones, but they looked large, and i’m sure they tasted good.
congratulations on being so daring!

Bellini Valli

says:

I read about “cultivating” your own snails at Marias site. Very abnitiius project but probably worth the effort:D

Gloria

says:

Peter, never eat this! but I will try!! Make me a little nerveous! But I trust in you.!!! xxGloria

Parker

says:

I love the color and swirl of the shells, makes for a pretty dish. Interesting flavors, much better than drenching them in butter.

Sam Sotiropoulos

says:

Peter, I loved this idea right from the get-go. Having been over to your house while the snails were in process, I can say that you outdid yourself on this one! Bravo!!! And bravo to Maria for helping you along the way!

Peter M

says:

Pete, when I was picking the snails…I was squashing them, couln’t help it, they were everywhere. If you smelled these snails, you’d dip right in, filarako!

Joanne, try it next year and hide them from your son…well worth the wait.

Gay, the feeding and hold period is so that they lose the taste of whatever else they were eating, get plumped up from what you feed them and take on the falvour of your food…pasta-fed snails anyone?

Mary, snails go dormant when there’s no water(rain) and as for the snail poo…long, thin, squigly white poops.

Mary C…stop…I merely followed instructions and I was well rewarded for my patience.

Dhanngit, having this with pasta sounds great.

Maria, I enjoyed the snails immensely and again, thank you so much for your guidance and snail wisdom.

Val, I will do this again next yr. now that I have my secret patch of snails and grape vine leaves.

Gloria, I say try them – you will definitely like them!

Parker, the dish catches the eye, the aroma was dreamy and the taste…sweet, savory, onion, garlic.

Sam, I’m hooked. I’ll do this again next year…we’ll do a big snail feast!

Ivy

says:

Peter your dish sounds delicious. My mum used to make them and we used to love them. However, I remember the feeding process did not last more than three days and they fed only on flour. I am not absolutely sure about this, however. I also remember making a hole on the back of the shell was easy to suck them out. (lol)

Judy @ No Fear Entertaining

says:

Yummmm. You warned me that this post was coming and it looks incredible. What a huge undertaking that was!!!!

I love snails and have had (for reasons unknown to me???) many opportunities to eat them. Your recipe looks delicious. As I told you though we don’t have snails here just slugs and there is no way I would eat those disgusting things!!!

Maryann

says:

Did you ever wonder what the first person to eat a snail was thinking?? “hey, look at that slimy snot looking thing… Wonder how it tastes!” lol

kittie

says:

OK… deep breath…. no.. i can’t do it!

I have finally just about got up to courage to try snails… but I don’t think I could do this. I hate those little slimy buggers – and kill loads of them in my garden every year.

As for scooping their poop??? Madness, I tell you, sheer madness.

The sauce looks good though ;)

[shakes head in disbelief and wanders off in search of some mind bleach…]

kat

says:

I am so officially impressed I can’t even begin to tell you! Thanks for all the step by step details. I don’t think I’ll ever do it but its fun to see how someone did.

Wandering Chopsticks

says:

Peter,
I was super impressed when you made your own phyllo, but this! OMG!!! There are tons of snails all over my brother’s garden and we joked about cooking them, but only joking. Even if I had known how, I don’t know if I could have done this. And I love snails! Especially with herbed butter and bread crumbs. Or with a lemongrass coconut broth. And still, I could not have done this. Kudos to you!

PeterMarcus

says:

Wow, it’s almost like raising livestock! I love snails, though, so I’m sure it was worth it. It sure looks good!

Helen

says:

Yay snails! I’m always up for a bowl ful. I can’t get the imagine out of my head of you in rubber gloves removing snail sh*t from the tank! Well worth it though. That’s a bti creepy about them all waking up when you put them in the water though!

Marjie

says:

Bravo! Beautiful! That was an enormous amount of work over a long time, but it’s pretty, and the ingredient list is delish! I’ve only had snails in garlic butter, and they are certainly a pain to de-shell!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen

says:

That is just awesome Peter! What a huge undertaking! I am well beyond impressed!

Farmer Jen

says:

I have only tried snails once, long ago, and I didn’t care for their taste or texture, but I do appreciate learning from you how they are properly cultivated and prepared. It’s very interesting. Perhaps the ones I tasted were not done correctly. Your writing and photos are always wonderful Peter.

Peter M

says:

Ivy, the whole process I followed was according to Maria, I trusted her wisdom and followed it. They were absolutely delish.

Judy, snails/slugs…same thing no? lol

Maryann, what does snot taste like? lol

Kittie, you of all people can handle this. If you could only smell them braising, you’d be not needing the mind bleach!

Kat, they come out after a good rainfall…give it a go.

Wandering…thank you…I like when new food discoveries work out well in the kitchen.

Pete..exactly…my very own little snail ranch! lol

Helen, good to know you love snails…wanna help with the poop next time? lol

Marjie, delighted to hear to like’em too…I wish you could try some.

Jenn, thanks my dear but the question remains…would you eat them?

Jen, with this sauce…impossible to taste bad.

Chrissy

says:

Wow Peter, I am way beyond impressed! I’ve never had snails, not sure how I would handle it but we don’t find them out here in the desert. I’ll have to wait to get my hands on some and try them out. Awesome job! You make them look wonderful.

Kalyn

says:

Peter, what a fantastic post! I used to love eating escargot when I worked at a French restaurant, but I don’t know if I have quite this much patience nowdays. I remember reading about how Maria did it, and love hearing how you did it too.

Jan

says:

I don’t do snails!! I can’t look -sorry!
I’ll be back tomorrow when they will be scrolled down the screen out of sight lol.

Elise

says:

Peter,
This is awesome! Major props to you. I love escargot, and even abalone, a giant sea snail, but have always been too queezy to attempt this on my own. Bravo.

ΕΛΕΝΑ

says:

Peter, you are unbelievable!!!
That’s the only receipe I couldn’t imagine that I could see in your blog!! Can you easily find snails??
Well, stifado snails is the favourite dish of our family. To persuade you, I’ll tell you that once my son ate 8 (yes eight!!!) dishes of stifado snails!!!
But I’ve never, never cooked them, because of the difficulty of feeding, cleaning them and all these….
So I prefer to enjoy them in a greek restaurant (shame on me!!)

Maria

says:

Oh dear. I have a great snail story. My parents own a Greek restaurant (I know, I know, kill the jokes) … about 10 years back, they were doing snails as a menu feature, so a massive crate-ful had taken up residence in the restaurant kitchen. One night chef keeps the lid cracked inadvertently when feeding them, and the next morning walks in to a thousand snails crawling the walls of the kitchen. We were finding them for months. Thank goodness the health unit wasn’t as stringent back in the day – something tells me the whole experience wouldn’t have been so funny, otherwise.

Gorgeous snails!

Grace

says:

ah, “fecal matter.” such an appetizing phrase. this is a great post–super informative and a little bit gross. :)

Antonio Tahhan

says:

Peter, you are a true Kalofagas!!! I couldn’t even get myself to eat goat brain while I was in the Middle East… I’ll be remembering this post next time I’m faced with an extreme food.

Jen of A2eatwrite

says:

Amazing post, Peter! I love snails (at least as escargot), but found out in my early 20s that I’m deathly allergic… sigh. This is truly a fascinating piece, though.

Prudy

says:

Oh, I just can’t do it.. Interesting and informative, but not dinner for me. Can I have some of the lentils below instead?

Peter M

says:

Chrissy, snails need moisture, not happenin’ in the dessert but try them at a French restaurant sometime.

Kalyn, they did involve some work but I did for the team…the readers…now ya all know how!

Katerina, these snails were thoroughly clean…you’ve eaten far worse in the East, no?

Jan…is…a…prude! lol

Elise, thanks for dropping by and extending your props. It really wasn’t that hard…a little tedious but not hard.

Elena, efharisto! We’ve always had snails here but I didn’t know if they were edible or not…the internet empowers one.

I can understand eating them at a restaurant and yes…your son ate alot!

Maria…LOL – that’s gold! I guess your dad didn’t order snails after that debacle.

Grace, would you prefer I called it snail shit, excrement or snail steamers? People pick up after their dogs in the park…this is far less off-putting.

Antonio, goat brain? That sounds might Fear Factor-like. Again, if you could smell these snails cooking, you would have jumped right in the pot!

Jen, it’s too bad about the the allergy but at least you tried them – many would even go there…pity.

Laurie Constantino

says:

I do love snails – but whenever I’ve cleaned them myself I can’t bring myself to eat “the boys.” I get too attached to them!

Heather

says:

Wow, I really admire your devotion, Peter! Picking out the lil’ daily poops and everything. I love snails – I have a tattoo of one on my tummy.

Astra Libris

says:

Oh my goodness! I am quite impressed! True adventurous dedication to culinary excellence! I loved your description of the whole process – such a unique and informative post!

(I also am impressed by your dedication to actually cooking them – I’m afraid by the end of the weeks I would have named them all and kept them as pets, and then where would I be, with 70 some snails in the house… :-)

glamah16

says:

I do love my french style escargot. I just dont like to actually think of them as snails. You are dedicated. I admit seeing the hamper of snails made me bit quesy, but if you just gave me plate I would have deveored it without having to know the details. You my friend are a true foodie and the Slow Food movement would be so proud of you.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

says:

Suh-Weet! I have been meaning to do this since our first winter in Sacramento, when smails overran our yard in the rainy season.

But since then, the snails have gone somewhere else and I have been, sadly, snailless. They must have know just what kind of sick bastard I am and skedaddled…

[eatingclub] vancouver || js

says:

Peter, I admire your pursuit and dedication to culinary pleasures. You are true, my friend.

I’ve only had snails once, prepared in a French restaurant, but I wouldn’t be averse to trying them again. So I guess the question is, am I going to invited to this snail feast next year? ;)

Dragon

says:

I still have yet to try snails. I must admit I’m squeamish about them. You make them look pretty good.

Natashya

says:

These look just like the guys in my garden, feel free to go hunting there.
I used to make snails for hubby #1, one hundred years ago. Lots of butter, garlic and parm. (no shells)
Good for you for farming your own, that takes commitment.
On another note – I am making Greek food this weekend, can you recommend a Greek wine under $25 to go with baked fish, etc?
Thanks sweetpea.

Bridgett

says:

With all the time and effort you put into harvesting, I am glad you enjoyed your feast so much. I tried snails before just plainly cooked in a wine, butter and garlic sauce. Not as bad as I thought it might be!! Some things just are a pleasant surprise, aren’t they?

farida

says:

I read your post with one hand covering the snails photo, because I just can’t look at them:)) But I admire your patience and how much effort you’ve put into the whole process. Opps, I am seeing snails again:)) It’s just me. I have that thing for snails:))

Proud Italian Cook

says:

I’m not a snail girl but my Hubby and his brother would be all over this bowl! I truely applaud your efforts!

_ts of [eatingclub] vancouver

says:

Holy Crap!!!
Definite UN-lack of industry there.

And oh, so one can just eat the snails roaming about outside?!

Also, you made your oen phyllo?!?!?!!

(OK, after working them so hard, the question marks and exclamation points can rest now.)

Mochachocolata Rita

says:

peter…..eeeeekkkkk…but i am willing to give anything a second chance…and i hv plenty of friends who are more than willing to gobble these babies down

Christine

says:

Peter, my hat is off to you! You are one brave soul. I think I could eat snails in a restaurant, but I’m not sure I could process them at home the way you did. It’s the snail poop that I’d just rather not think about. Way to go!

Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm)

says:

Consider yourself invited!!!!We have a serious snail plaque and you look like OUR MAN!!!!!

The Pied Peter of Kalofagas!!!

Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm)

says:

Consider yourself invited!!!!We have a serious snail plaque and you look like OUR MAN!!!!!

The Pied Peter of Kalofagas!!!

Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm)

says:

Consider yourself invited!!!!We have a serious snail plaque and you look like OUR MAN!!!!!

The Pied Peter of Kalofagas!!!

Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm)

says:

Consider yourself invited!!!!We have a serious snail plaque and you look like OUR MAN!!!!!

The Pied Peter of Kalofagas!!!

Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm)

says:

Consider yourself invited!!!!We have a serious snail plaque and you look like OUR MAN!!!!!

The Pied Peter of Kalofagas!!!

Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm)

says:

Consider yourself invited!!!!We have a serious snail plaque and you look like OUR MAN!!!!!

The Pied Peter of Kalofagas!!!

Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm)

says:

Consider yourself invited!!!!We have a serious snail plaque and you look like OUR MAN!!!!!

The Pied Peter of Kalofagas!!!

Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm)

says:

Consider yourself invited!!!!We have a serious snail plaque and you look like OUR MAN!!!!!

The Pied Peter of Kalofagas!!!

Núria

says:

I have detailed instructions on how to fast, clean and cook snails, Peter!

I always let them fast for a week after they have been eating for the last time. Purge them with flour before that (if you wish) and so that you don’t have to mess with their excrements the best is to have them inside a net hagging in your garage with a container under and naturally all will fall in the container.

Rubbing them one by one before their first boil is something I like to do.

Also when you boil them the first time the water should be could so that they get confident and come out of the shell.The heat should increase so slowly that they can hardly feel it… If you do it this way, their bodies will be outside the shell and there will be no problem to eat them with a mouth stick.

If I may end with another suggestion… a red hot chilli pepper or two would give them a bit of spicy wonderful hint here :D.

Please don’t take me wrong, just wanted to help :D

Peter M

says:

Laurie, before I dispactched by snails…I said "so long suckers"…was I bad?

Heather, the poop removal was more pick & flick and the grated bottom helped alot too.

Astra, I had no sentiment for the snails…I knew what delicious treats they would become.

Glam, here's a reminder of where they come from. I got in touch with the food on my table…maybe I slaughter and pluck a kitchen here? Cut up a pig? Behead a rabbit? Ahhh, the possiblities.

Hank, go for a walkabout after a good rainfall, you might yet find some.

JS, thanks… I will do this again (farm snails next year)and if you're in town…come enjoy!

Dragon, focus on the finished dish, it was a delight.

Natashya, many good Greek wines but the LCBO selection in the 905 is sparse. The larger stores have a better Greek selection and for a red, the Hatzimihalis cab red is really good ($16.95) and the Tsantali Makedonikos white ($9.95) is a steal.

Bridget, snails are wonderful and I'm pleased that you're not so girly about them and enjoy them.

Farida, try them once then judge…look at the last photo…how can one not eat them?

Marie, you're missing out…there are far grosser foods out there that are more popular.

TS, yes, you can eat the snails outside but they should be harvested from a pretty pristine area…think of where the snails are and what they would be eating.

Rita, you've seen far worse in the East…snails are child's play…come have some!

Christine…it was tedious, not hard and the whole poop thing wasn't that bad but the taste of these…very much worth it!

Nina, I always wanted to visit Africa and your invite is very tempting…thank you!

Nuria, chica darling…thank you for your valued advice and I appreciate your indepth reply.

The recipe is a good one but your method of cleaning, preparing and how to boil them are very good points. I particularly see the value in placing the snails in regular temp. water so the snails don't hide/shrivel and hence making the eating of them easier. Next year, for sure!

Fearless Kitchen

says:

This looks fabulous as always. Dealing with the snails sounds like a lot of work. It sounds worthwhile, especially as I can’t buy snails here that aren’t already pre-flavored and pre-cooked, but I’m not so sure that I wouldn’t get distracted and forget about the poor tasty little things.

Foodycat

says:

I don’t mind the odd snail in your classic garlic/parsley butter, but dear god – in Spain at Easter a friend ordered them North African style in a stunning cumin-rich sauce and I just couldn’t deal because you could see their faces! Faces! With little withered but still enquiring horns! No snails for me.

On the other hand, your link to vine leaf bottling has solved the problem of the triffid in my garden. Dolmades here I come!

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy

says:

Peter, I am so incredibly impressed! Kudos to you! Waiting 6 weeks for a meal has to be some kind of record too.

I love snails. My grandma used to make them in a rich tomato sauce when I was little. I was the only one of the kids that would eat them! Hmmm. I wonder if that was a harbinger of things to come. ;)

Lori Lynn

says:

Escargots Bourguignons was always one of my favorite dishes, but now that I have a garden with plenty of snails I am more reluctant to eat them. Not so for Wilson, my Boston Terrier, he loves them, brings them into the house in his dog bed to play with them. OY.

I like the gourmet meal you fed them…

Jeanne

says:

Very interesting post! There has been some coverage here about harvesting your own snails so I knew about the diet they have to go on for a while first. And I might even have been persuaded to try this but for two things…
1. I don’t really like snails that much (a textural thing, largely); and
2. I am far too sentimental abotu living snails to want to eat them. As a kid I used to drive my mom insane by “rescuing” all the snails before they could dine on snail bait and then releasing great batches of them in bait-free areas of the garden…!

But a huge “courage of your convictions” award to you for killing your own dinner!

Jeff

says:

Looks like all your hard work paid off. Awesome job! I would love to try this but even though I have no problem working hard for my food I think this maybe even out of my league and definitely test my shiny object syndrome to the fullest.

Zen Chef

says:

I went through the whole process of harvesting, cleaning, cooking snails once and i know how much work that is. That takes courage!!
Looks like the reward was worth it! Bravo!!

We Are Never Full

says:

i applaud you on this post. another blogger (chez loulou) attempted to do this same thing, but grew very close to her snails during the waiting time. she admits her first mistake was giving some of them names and i think she even talked to them. well, after about 3 weeks, she sent them home to live their lives. she couldn’t go thru w/ it.

i bet you these tasted delish! great job.

Mariza

says:

A tip to help you get the snails out when you’re eating them (and the way my mother’s family prepares them) is, after the initial boilings to rid the scum, drain them and using a sharp knife, (carefully) cut a hole into the centre of each shell where it coils up. Not a big hole, just enough that air will flow through. Then, after you make the stew and eat your snails, they will slide out much easier, using a toothpick. Or, if you don’t mind the mess and noise, just pick them up with your hands and suck them out, plugging and unplugging the hole in the back with your finger. It takes a bit of practice but you’ll see that after you get the hang of it, you’ll barely even need the help of the toothpick and the little buggers will come shooting out.