Like many types of seafood, the lobster has always been eaten by humans.
The French word homard seems to have appeared in the 16th century, derived from the Danish hummer.
It was extremely abundant in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in North America, where it was considered food for the poor, and where the leftovers were used to add substance to soup.
It was raised to the heights of gastronomic nobility in the 19th century, particularly in Europe, and it became more intensely fished, leading to scarcity. Its capture is regulated in many countries in order to ensure the survival of the species.
The lobster is an important part of the culture of Quebec and New England. It is the center of popular celebrations. The “lobster party” is to the northern parts of the United States what the barbecue is to Texas.
A lobster should always be alive, with all its legs and two claws, which are usually kept shut with a large elastic band, intact.
Sometimes a claw can be missing. It is then known as a “cull” lobster and has a lower price.
A lobster’s tail should be tucked under its body and shake violently when it is picked up. A lobster that is too lethargic should be avoided: its meat will become spongy or decompose when cooked. If a lobster does not move at all, then it is dead and now inedible.
European lobsters are reputed to be the best, with particularly fine flesh.
More common and less expensive, American lobsters are good, but their flesh is a little less fine.
Rarely found in Europe, Cape lobsters have flesh that is much less fine than the other two species.
Female lobsters are a little larger than the male, as they produce 6,000–10,000 eggs that they keep in their body until they are released into the water.
The minimum size for a lobster to be caught is defined by the length of the cephalothorax.
This is 8.7 cm in France, 8.1 cm in Canada in general (8.3 cm on the Magdalen Islands), and 8.2 cm in the United States.
The transport and sale of a female bearing eggs is forbidden by law in the United States.
The capture of lobsters is controlled because they are becoming increasingly rare.
Lobsters are sold whole and live, or frozen or cooked. Frozen lobster tails can be found with or without the carapace (vacuum packed fresh or frozen).
Lobster claws, peeled or unpeeled, are found fresh and cooked, vacuum packed or frozen.
Lobster meat is sold frozen, or pasteurized and vacuum packed.
Canned lobster bisque and lobster stock powder can also be found.
A whole 500-g lobster is usually enough for one person.
Lobster can be grilled, cut in two lengthwise, with the gravel sac removed from the head and its intestine (in the tail) also discarded. It is simply basted with olive oil or melted butter.
It can be cooked in boiling water with salt, perhaps aromatized with a fennel stick, with the head immersed first for 3 minutes. It is then be taken out, and the claws detached and cooked for 3 more minutes. The lobster is then peeled.
A noble product and with pride of place in French gastronomy, the lobster has given rise to classic recipes: Lobster thermidor, Newburg lobster, homard à la americaine, lobster bisque, etc.
It can also be baked, prepared as a soufflé or au gratin, or in salad.
Once it leaves the water, a lobster will keep for a very short time: 24 hours maximum at 4ºC wrapped in a damp cloth or in its basket (never in a plastic bag). At ambient temperature it will die within a few hours.
When cooked, it can keep for 1–2 days in the refrigerator, in an airtight container so that the smell of the meat will not affect other foods.
Lobster is high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Its flesh is very lean. The creamy parts are high in cholesterol.
There are three species of lobster:
. European lobster (Homarus gammarus)
This species lives in the Atlantic Ocean between Norway and Morocco (including the North Sea) and in certain areas of the Mediterranean and Black Seas.
It has a purplish blue carapace with light markings. It can grow to a size of 60 cm and weigh as much as 8 kg.
In France, the European lobster (also known as the Breton lobster) is in season mid-April through late August.
. American lobster (Homarus americanus)
This is the most common variety. It lives off the east coast of Canada and the north coast of the United States, between Newfoundland and North Carolina, and more particularly in the Gulf of Maine and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. There it is captured in waters up to 500 m deep.
Its carapace is dark green – almost brown – and its legs are almost flat. It can grow to 60 cm in length and weigh up to 19 kg.
The seasons when it can be captured are controlled and occur in spring and winter. It is not permitted in summer in order to protect the lobsters that molt at that time. However, Canadian lobsters are found all year round, with excess captures stored in tanks.
. Cape lobster (Capensis homarinus)
This somewhat uncommon lobster lives off the coast of South Africa. It is smaller, with a brown carapace.