Shrimp are crustaceans, related to lobsters, crabs, and crayfish. Their shells are formed in plates that permit movement of the body; in fact, the shell is a shrimp’s skeleton. There are a number of different crustaceans known as shrimp, all of them related, no matter how distantly. More than a dozen varieties of the ten-legged sea creatures are sold as shrimp in this country.
Because of Americans’ seemingly insatiable taste for shrimp, domestic fisheries now supply less than half of the market. Countries from around the world are exporting large quantities of shrimp to this country. Tiger shrimp from the Orient, white and brown “farmed” shrimp from South America, giant white shrimp from mainland China-all are found on foodservice menus across the nation.
Major import sources are Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, India, Pakistan, Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines. The shrimp was known and prized as a gourmet treat in ancient Greece. One of the earliest recipes for a Greek dish was for preparing shrimp in a wine sauce. The Romans liked highly salted shrimp as appetizers to build a thirst for wine-a counterpart of our hors d’oeuvres used during the cocktail hour.
There Is a Lot of Misinformation about Shrimp
Today, a prawn is a specific type of shrimp-like crustacean, yet it has become the commonly used name for any large shrimp. Actually, most shrimp belong to the family Crangonidae, suborder Penaeus, while real prawns belong to the suborder Pandalus. Scampi is another name that has been twisted to mean something else. Originally, the scampi was a close relative of the shrimp that was caught only in the Adriatic Sea around Venice. It belongs to the family Nephrops Norvegicus, and is a large creature with an orangish shell and whitish legs. It also exists in slightly different form as the langoustine of France (caught in the Mediterranean) and the Dublin Bay Prawn (caught along the Irish Coast). Yet, when you see “scampi” on the menu in an American restaurant it means large shrimp sautéed in a garlic sauce ! Shrimp are actually found in every part of the world. There are even fresh water shrimp, although they are very small and not used for food-except by fish and other aquatic creatures. It’s nothing for a female shrimp to spawn a half million eggs. But the supply of shrimp is uneven, and man has depleted huge spawning grounds through over-fishing. Weather and poisonous plaques that attack microscopic life forms upon which the shrimp feed are also responsible for th shrimp catches. This is a problem of the whole seafood industry because-despite successes in shrimp farming in more than 30 countries-most of the U.S. supply still relies upon unpredictable catches of wild stock.
Shrimp canning began in a floating cannery off the Louisiana coast in 1867, just after the Civil War had ended. The first cans were rejected by customers because the shrimp turned black within a short time after canning. The producers soon determined this was because of a chemical reaction between the flesh of the shrimp and the tin coating on the can that only occurred when the shrimp meat actually came into contact with the tin.
Soon all the cans were being lined with a parchment paper, which prevented contact between the shrimp and the tin and the problem solved. Some foreign canners still use the parchment lining for canned shrimp. The real impetus to the shrimping industry began with freezing, which grew to commercial proportions after World War 11. The majority of all shrimp used in the institutional trade today are frozen. Uses range from appetizers, such as the shrimp cocktail, through salads and soups to a wide variety of exciting entrees.
Processing Of Frozen Raw Headless Shrimp
For years, frozen raw headless shrimp (known as green shrimp) were the basic product used by foodservice operators. Today, however, peeled and deveined shrimp have taken a major portion of the volume, and breaded (or battered) shrimp account for a growing portion of sales.
Certain shrimp are demanded in green form by operators. The most popular is the Tiger shrimp from the Orient. In its green form it has a black and white mottled shell, which resembles the stripes of a tiger. A large shrimp, the Tiger shrimp has become a trendy item in casual dining and seafood operations.
Most of the U.S. catch of shrimp consists of three species. There are white shrimp (Penaeus setiferus), pink shrimp (Penaeus duorarum), and brown shrimp (Penaeus aztecus). Although the color refers to the appearance of the shells before cooking, after cooking the shells are all a shade of pink (ranging from light to a dark, almost red shade), and the flesh of the shrimp takes on a similar color on its outer surface. Inside, the color is usually a yellowish white to white.
There is little difference between the tastes of the various types of shrimp, although there is some difference in textures. The brown shrimp, formerly considered less desirable because of a “softer” texture, is now being used for most breaded shrimp, where the soft texture receives the best acceptance from diners.
Atlantic Coast fishing is done in bays and in-shore shoal waters. The fishing season is usually from May to November and from June to December in Florida. In the Gulf of Mexico, the shrimp harvest runs throughout the year, but the peak harvest seasons are in the summer and the fall. Shrimp are trawled for. That is, a net is dragged along the bottom behind the boat, and the shrimp are scooped up from where they rest on the bottom. An average “drag” lasts about 1.5 hours.
When the shrimp are hauled aboard they are quickly stowed m the hold and either iced thoroughly to preserve freshness and flavor, or many vessels are equipped with a blast freezer or brine freezer tanks where the shrimp are frozen solid. On some vessels, the shrimp are beheaded immediately after catching, and are then frozen for shipment to the market, but most of them go back to processing plants at the harbor sites.
Peeled and Deveined Sets
The industry uses two or three different sets of initials to describe frozen shrimp. IQF stands for individually quick frozen, of course. But many operators ask what PDQ stands for. It is peeled, deveined, and quick frozen. Another combination is PDC, which stands for peeled, deveined, and cooked. All three types are usually frozen loose and dipped in water after freezing to protect them from dehydration, although more and more processors are providing unglazed shrimp for the foodservice trade, particularly in the cooked variety. Glazed shrimp generally weigh about 15 percent more than unglazed shrimp. It takes about two to two-and-a-half pounds of “green” shrimp to make one pound of PDC shrimp.
Breaded Jumbo Shrimp
Most breaded shrimp come in one of the three larger sizes: extra jumbo, jumbo, and extra large. Jumbo is the most commonly used for foodservice. Most breaded shrimp have about 30 percent to 50 percent of the weight made up of the batter or breading. By federal law, processors cannot use more than 50 percent by weight of breading.
Packs Shrimp in Food Service Industry
For foodservice use, canned shrimp usually come in one- or five-pound cans. This represents the weight of “dry pack” (without any brine), or the net drained weight of “wet pack’ shrimp (which are packed in a salt brine).
Frozen shrimp are available in a variety of pack sizes, largely determined by the policies of the particular processor. Some of these include 2.5-pound, 4-pound, 5-pound, and 10pound packages. A few manufacturers are packing IQF shrimp, peeled and deveined, in plastic bags, which are then packed cases of about 25 to 50 pounds. Breaded shrimp are packed in 4- 5-and-7-pound boxes. Again, the size of the pack is largely at the discretion of the individual packer or the importer.
Uses Shrimp into Heathy Meals
Almost every country in the world, particularly those that lie along a sea coast, has some shrimp dishes in its national cuisine. And today, with the development of quick freezing at the point of catch and the ability to send frozen product to every comer of the world, shrimp are available almost everywhere. Canned shrimp are considered a great delicacy in the midst of the Sahara Desert, where caravans bring supplies to wealthy desert sheiks. On the steppes of Siberia canned shrimp caught by Russian shrimp fleets in the Bering Sea and along the North Sea coastal waters, as well as those ranging far afield into the North Atlantic shelf off the United States, are a major item of commerce. Any shrimp from Alaska, Japan, and the New England coast make excellent canapes, and because the cost of shrimp increases with the size, these tiny shrimp make an excellent and less expensive shrimp salad.
Suggest to your customers that tiny shrimp be substituted for larger shrimp in any dish where the shrimp is used as an ingredient, such as a shrimp bisque or in a chopped shrimp and egg sandwich. In many operations, such dishes as shrimp Creole or shrimp curry may be made with smaller shrimp. The larger sizes must be used in such dishes as shrimp tempura, shrimp cocktail, shrimp Newburg, or a fried shrimp platter. But it is surprising the amount of smaller shrimp that may be used in combination with larger shrimp in many of the dishes that are prepared in a sauce or mixed with other seafood items.