“If you buy another jar of jam, I’m going to …” Suzen continued talking but this post may be read by persons who are easily offended. She was not happy but she was adamant.

I was not offended. I had just built three more shelves in our panty to hold “stuff.” Pantry creep is not pretty. You can let it go on as long as there is space for one more shelf. But eventually, you do run out of room. And then, what?

Fortunately for us, our refrigerator failed. The liner on the freezer was old, and there was ice buildup. We could not open the door to the freezer section. Our service technician sadly shook his head and said he had seen this many times before. The only thing to do was unplug the refrigerator, roll it to the driveway, and make space for a new refrigerator, which his firm happened to have in stock.

We unplugged, we defrosted, we ordered new liners, and we saved a bundle. Thing is, from start to finish, it was a six week process.

So this weekend, when I was by myself [Suzen was doing CBTB events in the city], I went to the refrigerator for some capers for the sauce for the soft shelled crabs I had bought. No capers. They had perished at some point in the six weeks.

But I did recall Suzen’s recent threat. I have been eyeing some blackberry jam so I needed to make space anyway. Our jam — and other “stuff” — purchases are made as we travel around the country and explore markets. We always say we will keep track of where we got each jar, but we really never do. On one pantry shelf, I found a jar of Cranberry Onion Pepper Jelly with Roasted Garlic, from www.newenglandcranberry.com.

I don’t know where we bought it, but I made the recipe below for soft shell crabs with a butter-based sauce and some of this jelly. You may have the standard butter-caper sauce on your crabs before, and it is lovely. But this sauce, this sauce is simply wonderful and much, much better. If you can’t find this particular brand of jelly, then you certainly can experiment: you need a combination of pepper jelly, cooked onion, and cooked garlic.

My remaining jelly is now on a shelf in the refrigerator. It can stay there for a while. In those six weeks with no fridge, Suzen learned to treat that cool box as a temple to be revered. Well, that’s what I’m going to say to her the next time I hear her utter, “What is this?”

Soft Shell Crabs with Onion Pepper and Garlic Sauce

Yield: 4 soft shell crabs, enough for 1, not enough for 2


  • 4 soft shell crabs [let your fish monger clean them!]
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons Onion Pepper Jelly with Roasted Garlic [or your best substitute]


Gently rinse each crab in cold water and pat dry. You’re not cleaning here, just removing any surplus materials.

Put the flour on a flat surface, like a plate, and spread it out evenly. Put a crab into the flour, press lightly, turn over and press again. Place the crab on a clean plate. You don’t need 100% flour coverage but try without crushing the crab. Repeat with the remaining crabs.

In skillet, preferably cast iron, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Turn the heat to medium low. Add all four crabs. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Turn once and cook for another 2-3. You can peak to make sure you do not overcook. Crispy is one thing. Hard and black is another.

Remove the crabs back to a plate.

Return the heat to medium, add the last two tablespoons of butter and stir with a wooden spoon to melt. Make sure to scrape up any of the crab bits left on the surface. That is flavor. When the butter is melted, add the two tablespoons of jelly. Stir until melted and mixed.

Using a glove, because that cast iron skillet is hot, pour the sauce over the crabs.

This spring dish is lovely if accompanied by some buttered peas, asparagus, or a simple potato salad. And to drink? Beer, wine, or try yesterday’s post: Blackberry Banana Margarita!

Source: Brian O’Rourke