A high country boil is exactly what it sounds like. Its a low country style boil, using invasive Signal crawfish, that are caught in the high country. The high country being the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.
I won’t get too in the weeds on the differences in crawfish, because there ARE differences. Of the many species of crawfish, there are Red Swamp Crayfish(common in a low country boil), Virile or Northern, Ringed, Rusty, Shasta, and Signal.
In our part of the eastern sierra, Signal crayfish are invasive, they are also one of the largest species of crayfish. Unlike other crayfish in North America, many Signal crayfish have large claws, with claw meat, worth digging out.
Catching crawfish is straight forward. I use traps like these, baited with chicken livers. I occasionally catch by hand, but am careful not to get pinched. I’m not sure you’d get injured, but also can’t imagine it would feel great to get pinched by a large Signal Crayfish.
I toss all my captured crayfish into a tote with a battery operated air bubbler, for transportation home.
Once home, I transfer the crayfish into a bigger tote with a larger volume of cool de-chlorinated water. I de-chlorinate with an aquarium water de-chlorinator.
I let the crawfish sit in the tote for at least 24 hours, without food. Nobody wants to eat a poop vein full of black crud. 24 hours is the minimum to let a crawfish purge itself of waste. 36 to 48 hours is even better.
Worth mentioning is salt. Adding Epson salt, gives the mud bugs diarrhea, and can speed up the purging process. Some folks use table salt which may kill your crawfish. Giving crawfish ample time to purge, and not losing them to salting, seems to work best.
I bring a solution of water, lemon and salt, up to a boil, then drop the crawfish in. As soon as the water starts to boil again, I set a timer for 12 to 15 minutes.
At the same time I start the boil… I start another pot of brine. It includes bay leaves, pepper, salt, seasonings, lemons.
When the crawfish are done boiling, they get a quick rinse in cool water. The rinse will also remove any parasites that are still attached to the crawfish, all of which should die, fall off or get loose during the boil. After the rinse, I add the crawfish to a hot soak in the brine. They get brined for a few minutes, then plated for consumption.
My catch, clean, cook process, right or wrong, purges the crawfish, cleans them of any parasites, and them brines them for a great flavor. A big plate of Crawfish, is a great reward for catching an invasive species, and its simple to do.