You might be wondering Is eating snails really that popular? Many people are still thinking of snails as pests, that crawl around and destroy our beautiful vegetable gardens, and they are right – they can be a menace, but they can be a delight too. With high numbers of snail-lovers and the demand for escargot constantly growing, it is likely they will become a solution to many diets in all parts of the world. Snail meat is high in protein and minerals such as magnesium and calcium, which makes it perfect food in nowadays nutrient-lacking vegetables, fruits and massively industrially produced meat.
What is Escargot?
The term Escargot comes from French and it means snail. The plural form is Escargots.
This usually means a land snail that is cooked and ready to eat. Escargots are served as a starter, and are a typical dish in France and in the Catalan region of Spain. The word Escargot sometimes applies to the living snails of those species which are commonly eaten in this way.
Which countries consume the most snails?
While some people still consider snails to be pests and can’t imagine puting them on their plate, there are others who savour this delicacy and would never exlude them from their cuisine. There are countries where eating escargots is embedded deeply in their culture and has a long history. Among the highest consumer countries are France, Spain, Italy, USA and Australia.
How do you know when the snail is mature and ready for consumption?
The first sign to look for is an opening of the lip of the snail’s shell. It is very common that the shell of the snail breaks during growth due to the lack of magnesium. This makes the snail undesirable. Helix aspersa is ready to be consumed when it weighs 8 grams or more.
Escargots are very rich in protein and very low in fat, therefore they make a very healthy meal. It is estimated that Escargots contain 80% water, 15% protein and 2,4% fat.
Nutritional value of raw snails (per 100 grams):
Water: 79 grams
Protein: 16 grams
Available carbohydrates: 2 grams
Fat: 1 gram
Magnesium: 250 mg
Calcium: 170 mg
Iron: 3.5 mg
Vitamin C: 0 mg
Fiber: 0 grams
Energy (kcal7kJ): 80.5
Raw snails also contain Vitamin A, Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin B-6
(source: Nutrient databank of France)
What is great about snails is that not only their meat and their shells are used for various purposes; their eggs are also considered to be a delicacy. Snail eggs that are harvested and processed into caviar are getting more and more recognition. Snail caviar is considered to be very special with its neutral and earthy flavour, and is very highly valued among consumers.
How to prepare escargot
There are many ways how to cook escargots, especially with gastronomy evolving with such a fast pace. Traditionally in France, the snails are purged, killed, removed from their shells, and cooked with garlic butter, chicken stock or wine, and then placed back into the shells with the butter and sauce for serving. Chefs experiment with many additional ingredients like garlic, thyme, pine nuts, mint and parsley. Escargots can be also used in sauces and salads or prepared as a side dish or a dessert.
Special snail tongs (for holding the shell) and snail forks (for extracting the meat) are also normally provided, and they are served on indented metal trays with places for six or 12 snails.
Escargots de bourgogne
Escargots de bourgogne means escargot prepared with herb and garlic butter. This is the most popular way of eating escargot and is usually served as an appetizer. Eating escargot is quite an adventure, because its tender texture and flavour are very specific and not commonly found in our daily cuisine. This way of preparing snails is traditional for Burgundy region in France.
Escargot stuffed mushrooms
Escargot stuffed mushrooms is an escargot recipe without shells, which makes the snail preparation much easier and faster. Using garlic and herb butter and together with snail meat they are stuffed in the mushrooms. This way of preparing snails is also traditional for Burgundy region in France.