While you can buy snail meat in a can for easy escargot preparation, if you're going to do things the traditional way -- starting with live snails -- the cleaning process can take about two weeks. This ensures that your snails are clean and healthy both inside and out before you start the actual process of cooking them. On the day you want to serve your escargot, the final cleaning can take up to four or five hours, so planning ahead is key.
Things You'll Need
- Large plastic bin with ventilated lid (size varies)
- Small water dish
- Fresh lettuce
- Large plastic bucket (size varies)
- Cold water
- Pot (one or several)
- Small spoon or fork
- Cutting board
- Sharp knife
Keep your snails in a clean plastic tub with a tight-fitting lid and ventilation holes for breathing. They'll need to live in this bucket for 10 to 14 days, allowing anything unpleasant that they consumed in the wild -- pesticides, especially -- to filter through their systems. Provide your snails with water and fresh lettuce, and store them in a dark place that remains between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Stop feeding your snails three days before you plan to prepare them, but continue giving them fresh water. This clears out their intestines in advance.
Rinse your snails in cold water, discarding any dead ones -- you can identify them from a lack of movement .
Fill a large plastic bucket with cold water, stirring in two tablespoons of salt and one of vinegar for every 12 snails. The size of the bucket depends on the number of snails you're preparing, though the snails require only enough water to keep them completely submerged.
Soak the snails for about four hours, draining and replacing the water once an hour. This process strips the snails' slimy mucus, which collects in the water -- replacing it periodically discards the mucus and speeds up the process. While you can speed up the process by using boiling water, this makes them shed a large volume of mucus in only 10 or 15 minutes, and makes it more difficult to keep the water and the snails in it clean.
Rinse your snails one last time and dump them into a pot of boiling water. Boil them for 10 to 15 minutes -- depending on how many you're preparing, you may need several pots going at once. When they cool, pull the snails from their shells with a small spoon or fork, like a seafood fork.
Slice off any black parts of the snail, particularly near the tail. Defer to the recipe you're following, as some recommend cutting off other parts, like the head, as well.
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