So… according to Our Community Now, at the start of crab season, there’s the age-old question – which seasoning do you prefer to spice up your crabs? J.O. Spice or Old Bay?
There’s a poll going around – There’s no right or wrong answer, it all depends on your taste buds! It’s the age-old question if you live in Maryland, especially along the water, according to the author. BUT, here at J.O., we’re SO appreciative and grateful for the word-of-mouth advertising! The fact that you know there are 2 different companies is awesome! The fact that you converse about which spice is “better,” or “tastier,” or “all I’ll ever use!” is awesome. The fact that you, the consumer, know J.O. by name, as much as you know Old Bay, is awesome!
Every day, we strive to spice up your crabs, shrimp, seafood in the bestest way possible – and if you recognize that by taking a poll, liking us on Facebook and telling us in the comments “to keep up the good work,” that is all the thanks we need!
Rivalries are what makes everyone better, keeps everyone on their toes -Pepsi or Coke, Coors or Bud, Lays or UTZ, J.O. or Old Bay – yeah, we can agree to disagree in such good company!
Thanks for spreading the good word of spice but more importantly, thanks for sharing the good times, laughter and fun that J.O. brings to your table. We love being a part of great memories.
This is a fun read! How many of these wonderful crab restaurants have you had the pleasure of dining in? What’s a favorite? How many times have you experienced J.O. Spice? Help us spread the word – the secret is out!
February 29th – leap day! Celebrate with a little Foodie knowledge and lots of crabby fun! The “extra” day brings proposals, once-every-four-year-leaplings birthdays and some special celebrations for those who married specifically on February 29th! Here at J.O. we “leaped” for joy when we learned that our spice was being used on Food Network’s web show Foodie Call with Justin Warner and Mo Rocca!
A few months ago we had gotten an order from Justin ordering a bucket of #2 and some crab mallets. We are all lovers of great food at J.O. – spicing up our Foodie knowledge everyday – we recognized his name from the order, sent a hello and he said he was ordering because he was featuring the products on his web show: Foodie Call! The excitement was felt throughout all of Facebook and social media!
We wanted to thank him for the “word-of-mouth” advertising so we custom designed a cutting board, mallets and a spoon/spork set; and we sent along some customized spice packets, too! He used some of the items for his set decoration that you can see on the show (and no, the broken mallet is not ours! Ours were double-sided -engraved special just for Justin! Just sayin’!)
He and Mo Rocca have a blast talking about crabs, and spice and we love that he featured J.O. Spice products! Our Foodie knowledge just got better as we watched Justin make smoked salt crab seasoning! Definitely something interesting to try! We love when people use our products in a different, creative, and unique way.
To catch the web show, and to grab yourself some interesting foodie knowledge, watch this link!
J.O. made another fine article! AND this has some really good info – how to pick a crab (comic), where to get some really good crabs (and you’d be surprised how many of those are J.O. customers!!), and some tried and true definitions to keep you and your friends always in the know! Thanks to Jamie Liu for doing a great job researching -and knowing that J.O. is preferred by most crab and seafood restaurants! Reprinted from www.eater.com: Maryland Crabs: A Guide to the East Coast’s Essential Summer Feast – Eater
Maryland Crabs: A Guide to the East Coast’s Essential Summer Feast
Every summer, people from near and far flock to Maryland’s coast to get their fill of blue crabs. Here now, Eater DC contributor Jamie Liu breaks down the how’s and where’s of crab season.
Summers in Maryland aren’t summer without crabs. And not just any crabs: We’re talking about the delicate, sweet blue crab bounty of the Chesapeake Bay, whose Latin name Callinectes sapidus means “beautiful swimmer.” There are few things that get Marylanders more excited than tearing into a bushel of red-shelled beauties encrusted with crab seasoning, or enjoying the delicacy of a fried soft shell, accompanied by an ice cold Natty Boh.
Marylanders prepare hard shells and other seafood by steaming them, rather than the boiling that is common along the rest of the East Coast and Louisiana. Marylanders will tell you that boiling makes the crabmeat wet, rather than just moist. (Boiling proponents argue that steaming pushes the internal temperature too high and dries out the flesh.) But oddly enough, Marylanders complain that the seasoned boiling water makes the crab taste too evenly seasoned — they prefer the variety in heat and seasoning that comes from tasting the spice that rubs on to the crabmeat from their fingers. As a result, in Maryland, steamed is usually the only option on offer.
WHAT’S SPECIAL ABOUT MARYLAND CRABS?
Blue crabs can be found in waters as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as Uruguay, but the crustacean’s strongest association has always been with Maryland. According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, approximately 50 percent of the country’s blue crab harvest comes from Maryland waters.
And they are an essential part of the region’s culinary heritage. “Blue crab is part of the holy trinity of Maryland seafood, made up of oysters, rockfish, and blue crab,” says chef Spike Gjerde of Baltimore’s Woodberry Kitchen.
Gjerde is the first Baltimore chef to win the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic, and was raised in Baltimore. He knows his crabs: “Blue crab is really unlike any other crab in the world, thanks to the growing conditions, and the type of estuary we have here,” he says. “They are superior to any other crab in my opinion.”
The lazy might prefer larger Dungeness crabs from the West Coast, which are much larger and easier to eat. Many restaurants use cheaper pasteurized crab from Asia for their dishes. But not all crabs are made equal. Gjerde notes that other species of crab lack the depth of flavor and delicate texture of blue crabs. “The seasons have a lot to do with it,” he says. “The season typically starts around [April] and lasts until the cold weather comes around in November. The seasonality has certainly affected our appreciation for blue crab over the years, and it is why it holds the place that it does in the Chesapeake way of life.”
From a scientific perspective, the need for hibernation is the main reason Maryland crabs taste better than other types of crab — and also tastes better than blue crabs from other waters, according to Steve Vilnit of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Services. He explains that just like other creatures that hibernate, crabs need to build up fat stores to sustain them through the dormant period. “This gives our crabs a buttery flavor that you won’t find anywhere else,” Vilnit says. “To someone that knows what they are looking for, it is possible to tell by eye which ones are from Maryland, but most likely it will be by taste.”
So how does one look at a crab and know if it’s from Maryland? One of the ways is the color of the fat, often called mustard by locals, which is a darker shade of yellow, according to captain Frank Updike Sr. of Natural Light Charters, who leads chartered crabbing and fishing trips with his son Frank Jr.
The easiest ways to ensure you’re getting Maryland crabs are first to ask, and second to visit restaurants that are True Blue-certified by the state of Maryland. The certification verifies through the restaurant’s receipts that at least 75 percent of the crabs or crabmeat used during the year came from Maryland.
But as Updike says, “Yes, Maryland crabs do taste better. But even if a blue crab isn’t from Maryland, it’s still going to taste pretty good.”
WHAT ARE SOFT SHELL CRABS?
Many consider soft shell crabs to be a delicacy, and a way to enjoy crabs without the arduous task of picking them. Soft shells are any crab that has molted within the last 12 hours. During that time the shells are soft and papery, so they can be eaten whole, claw to claw, with the exception of the gills and parts of the abdomen. These parts are removed prior to being cooked, so diners can eat with abandon.
Crabs typically molt between 18 and 23 times during their life, and they can mate only when a female is molting. Because the crab spends only about 12 hours as a soft shell, crabbers look carefully for the sign that a crab is about to molt — the development of a line on the last leg, known as the paddler fin, that starts out white and progresses to pink and then red as it grows closer to molting.
These pre-molting crabs, known as peelers, are usually held in a special shedding tank until they bust out of their old shells. The then-valuable softies are removed from the water to prevent hardening of their shells before they are cooked and eaten.
Before finding their way to a plate, soft shells are typically fried with a seasoned batter or sautéed. It’s hard not to love something deep fried, but many natives consider sautéing the better option to not overwhelm the sweetness of the meat. Both methods preserve the fatty mustard inside and typically lead to a crab gushing with juice.
At most Maryland seafood restaurants, soft shells are served as a sandwich with mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato or plain on a platter to enjoy with a fork and knife. But obviously many chefs have taken the classic further, putting them in the pervasive soft shell sushi roll, as well as in tacos and on top of pizzas.
WHEN TO EAT CRABS
The Maryland crab season starts in April and runs through December. But much of what is found in crab houses early in the season or in the winter is coming from North Carolina and Louisiana.
Maryland crabs that are served in April and early May are typically ones that stayed north during the winter and dug themselves down into the mud. Then around Memorial Day, the initial supply is exhausted, and crabbers await the crabs that are still migrating their way up the Bay.
While June through August are the most favored and tradition-laden times for eating crabs, September and October are the best time to get the largest and fattest hard crabs at the best prices.
The Maryland soft shell season usually runs mid-May through September. Because they are a delicacy, the best time to eat them is whenever you can get them. However, they are typically the least expensive at the beginning of the season.
Mustard/Tomalley: Found in all crabs, the tomalley, known as mustard in the mid-Atlantic, is the crab’s fat. It can range in color from white to dijon mustard yellow to a greenish color. It is included with most pre-packed crabmeat to enrich its flavor.Roe: Found in mature female crabs, crab roe is a bright orange color. When steamed it solidifies, and is often used as a topping in Chinese cuisine for dishes like pork and crab soup dumplings, or tofu.Jumbo lump: These are the large chunks of meat connected to the swimming fins of the crab. It is favored for its presentation and size, and is accordingly more expensive.Backfin: Backfin meat comes from the body of the crab and broken chunks of lump. It tends to have a more shredded texture than lump and is less expensive.Apron: This is the flap on the white underside of a crab, which terminates in a point. They can be used to judge the sex and maturity of the crab.Jimmy: These are male crabs; the point of the apron is long and narrow. Adults have locking spines that allow them to open and shut their apron for mating. These are typically the favorite for consumption due to their size and have higher availability due to higher catch limits.Sally: Also known as she-crabs, these are adolescent female blue crabs. Their entire apron forms a triangle, and their blue claws are tipped with red. The aprons do not open since they are not ready to mate or carry eggs. Typically these are thrown back due to their small size and reproductive potential.Sook: Mature female blue crabs are identified by an apron that is the shape of an upside-down U with a triangular point at the end. She also has blue claws tipped with red. Sooks are usually less expensive and end up in the picking houses due to their smaller size. Some say that sooks have sweeter meat than jimmies.Sponge crab: Sponge crabs are mature females that have fertilized eggs attached to the bottom of their abdomens. In Maryland, these must be thrown back into the water.
Peeler: This is the term used to describe a crab as it prepares to molt and to become a soft shell crab. It is distinguished by a colored line on its paddling fin.
Size classes: There are no industry standards for crab sizes, so they may vary from vendor to vendor. Most are categorized by the distance from point to point on the top shell and sometimes by sex.There are two systems of size classification. The first uses numbers, with #1 being the largest, heaviest males, #2 signifying smaller males, and #3 labeling the females and smallest crabs. The other system classifies them by small, medium, large, and jumbo; smalls are usually four-and-a-half to five inches across, while jumbos are typically larger than six inches.Old Bay: The spice served up from the iconic blue and yellow box has become a pop icon. McCormick, the owner of Old Bay, doesn’t publicly disclose all 18 herbs and spices that are in the recipe, but the box lists celery salt, red and black pepper, and paprika. Speculators note the likely ingredients as bay leaves, cloves, allspice (pimento), ginger, mace, cardamom, cinnamon, and paprika. Locals sprinkle it on just about anything, and it’s found in consumables like Baltimore ice cream parlor the Charmery’s Old Bay caramel ice cream, or in Flying Dog Brewery’s Dead Rise Old Bay Summer Ale.Some locals contend that McCormick changed the spice blend recipe when they purchased it from German immigrant Gustav Brunn in 1990. They claim that since the transition Old Bay has lacked the heat of the 1939 original made by Brunn’s Baltimore Spice Company. But a McCormick spokesperson denies any changes to the recipe since it was purchased.J.O. Spice: Odds are at a crab house, what’s seasoning the crabs is made by J.O. Spice Company, not Old Bay. Established in 1945, the company supplies more than 800 restaurants in the mid-Atlantic, often creating custom blends that vary in saltiness and heat. The easiest way to discern if a restaurant is using J.O. is to examine the salt crystals, which are flaky rather than cubical.Apple cider vinegar: Aside from crab seasoning, most Marylanders consider apple cider vinegar to be one of the key condiments for crabs. Butter is used infrequently, and cocktail sauce is generally considered a big no-no.
Most traditionalists think the best place to have a crab feast is in one’s backyard. Gjerde agrees. “We grew up with steamed crabs at home,” he says. “If it’s the full undertaking, you’re steaming them at home or you’re buying them steamed from the shop. They come in a heavy brown bag; it’s all part of the awesome experience.” But Gjerde notes that regardless of locale, the “tradition is that crab-eating is a communal exercise — it is meant to be enjoyed by the whole family, or in a big group, and that’s part of the enjoyment.”
It’s not uncommon to find trucks taking up residency in empty lots and by gas stations for the summer, selling live crabs for locals to take home and steam themselves. Generally these are Maryland crabs, and obviously are less expensive.
For those who are not lucky enough to have the benefit of a friend or family member’s home, or want to enjoy crabs and not have to deal with the clean-up, there are plenty of options that will satisfy a hankering and, more importantly, provide overworked fingers with respite in the form of other seafood and summery sides like corn, hush puppies, and coleslaw.
NEAR THE CITIES
L.P. Steamers may not be much to look at from the outside, surrounded by formstone-covered rowhouses, but it’s the inside that counts. This 18-year-old spot opened by Bud Gardner is the one that folks in the know visit.
And they come not just for the hard shells, but for the traditional battered and fried soft shell crabs platters and sandwiches sprinkled with Old Bay. Those looking to up the ante can order the stuffed soft shell crabs, which come stuffed with a crab cake.
But what makes this spot even more special is the way the hard shells are classified and sold. While most restaurants sell by distance from point to point, Gardner sells crabs by weight. So rather ordering expensive large or jumbo crabs that are half empty, patrons get what they pay for — meaty crabs.
1100 E. Fort Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 576-9294, Website
Gjerde recommends Conrad’s Seafood Restaurant in Perry Hall, a nearby Baltimore suburb. “Tony Conrad is amazing — he has a retail operation and is also a waterman so he’s catching a lot of what he’s selling.” And what he isn’t catching comes from other Maryland crabbers during the season, and from Louisiana during the winter.
Conrad is a relative newcomer in the crab house business. After spending weekends crabbing, he quit his corporate job and took on the business of crabbing full time. Eventually he took over an old crab shop, and then expanded the business to include more shops, a restaurant, and a stand at Cal Ripken’s minor league stadium. Even though Conrad started out corporate, his family has a long history of being crabbers and fishermen, dating back to the Civil War.
To season his crabs, Conrad uses a special blend he commissioned from J.O. Spice. And for those who aren’t interested in picking crabs, soft shells are available as a special when they are in season.
9654 Belair Rd.
Perry Hall, MD 21236
(410) 529-3474, Website
This crab house located in the state capital was opened in 1975 by fifth-generation waterman Jimmy Cantler and his wife Linda. It may be considered by many to be a tourist attraction, but it’s no trap. Located on the banks of Mill Creek, it is the traditional go-to spot for a true crab feast and all-around seafood orgy of soft shells and shellfish.
Many locals will pull their boat up to the dock before dining, and it’s not unusual for cars to snake out of the parking lot into the street as patrons wait their turn to park and eat. For visits during peak summer crab season, go early and bring a cooler of beer to enjoy while waiting it out.
The Suicide Bridge Restaurant is located in the historic home of the crabbing industry, Dorchester County. Along with the proximity to crabbers and picking facilities, it offers a view of Cabin Creek, a tributary of the Choptank River.
Open in its current form since 1983, the restaurant celebrates the culinary traditions of Maryland, serving local wine and the state’s official dessert, Smith Island Cake (8-15 ultra-thin layers of cake with fudge or chocolate frosting).
For those looking to add a touch of history to the experience, enjoy a meal on one of the two authentic stern wheeler riverboats like those often seen on the Mississippi.
While it’s difficult to imbue romance into the messy experience of eating crabs, Waterman’s Crab House manages to do so with its west-facing deck and sunset views.
Owned and operated by Bill and Debbie Weldon since 1996, the restaurant is frequently surrounded by docked boats. But one of the biggest attractions is the all-you-can-eat crab feast (with two hour time limit) that includes Maryland crab soup, corn, and coleslaw.
21055 Sharp St.
Rock Hall, MD 21661
(410) 639-2261; Website
The original Fisherman’s Inn opened in 1930 with seating for 30 and a grocery store from captain Alex Thomas and his wife Mae. A new, larger restaurant was opened by their daughter and son-in-law in 1971. It was destroyed in a fire in 1980, but was rebuilt and reopened in 1981.
The spot is split between the Inn, the Crab Deck, and the Market. The Inn has a more formal menu serving crab dishes, but not hard shells. The Crab Deck is where folks can dig in to crabs coated with J.O. Spice and other seafood items, while the Market allows customers to purchase seafood to take home.
3116 Main St.
Grasonville, MD 21638
(410) 827-6666; Website
Harris Crab House was founded in 1981 by Jerry Harris, his sister, Karen Oertel, and their spouses. But the Harris family already had a history in the crabbing industry; their father William Harris founded the W.H. Harris Seafood Packing Company in 1947 on the Kent Narrows.
During the week the restaurant has an all-you-can-eat special, which can be enjoyed with a view of the Bay. And there are plenty of soft shell options on offer from sandwiches to platters, as well as ones stuffed with crab imperial.
433 Kent Narrow Way N
Grasonville, MD 21638
Phone: (410) 827-9500; Website
Those seeking an interactive learning experience may want to opt for a chartered trip with captain Frank Updike Sr. and his son captain Frank Updike Jr. on Kent Island. Along with the option to seek out Maryland’s state fish, the rockfish, the two take groups on the Bay for crabbing.
Both are experienced watermen, and Frank Jr. spent one summer working on a crab boat picking up plenty of war stories along the way. The two will help lay out 1,200 feet of baited trotlines with an anchor and floats. After waiting the requisite amount of time, they show guests how to bring the lines in, watch the water, and teach them the right timing for putting the dip net underneath their crabs. When enough crabs are caught they’ll be steamed for the road.
And if it all ends up being a little too exhausting, stop by Kentmorr Restaurant across the marina. Founded in 1954 and operated by Dave and Tammy Harper since 1993, it offers crabs and other seafood dishes, and features a beachfront tiki bar with a view of the Bay Bridge.
More J.O. in the news is a great way to start a Monday!
More J.O. in any capacity is awesome but more J.O. in the news to get the word-of-mouth advertising spreading everywhere is doubly awesome! If you’re from Maryland, DC or VA and have used J.O. for years, first, THANK YOU!!! Then, do you explain how you use J.O.? (Don’t forget to share that info with us on our Facebook page! We love to hear from fans!) Do you have any secret recipes that use J.O.? Do you know that steaming your crabs with J.O. is what makes them taste like the crabs from your favorite restaurant? Do you know that some use “secret ingredients” in their famous hamburgers/BBQ/ribs but that it is really onions sprinkled with J.O. or a J.O. Specialty seasoning rubbed on the meat? It’s only a secret because J.O. is one of those things people from Maryland have to explain!!! We’ve been here almost 70 years, but we are Maryland’s best kept secret – until you give it a taste! Then you’re in the know!
Always feel free to come in to the retail store in Baltimore and learn some more tips – on cooking, decorating or for wedding favors – yes, we do weddings, too! We have the products that make your crabs as good as the restaurant, we can customize and personalize the favors at your wedding so they are the perfect accompaniment to your Chesapeake wedding and your secret ingredients is really cooking done à la J.O. Spice! Let the secret out!
So you think you know what’s on your crabs? Isn’t it funny how a spice can just add so much to a meal? I’m not sure people even realize the difference a sprinkle of spice makes…I just love to cook so I forget that some people don’t like to experiment with spices and flavors and the combinations that can make the difference between an okay meal to a fabulous meal. It can get overwhelming if you have no idea what coriander or celery seed or marjoram or crushed red pepper can do – even what J.O. #1 or J.O. #2 can do!
Someone just told me that she learned all about celery seed when she ate her neighbor’s potato salad. She never knew that was what made the difference and why she preferred her neighbor’s to her own! Another person said she could never get her mom’s noodle burger casserole just right until she learned that it was oregano, rosemary and marjoram – the spice that alluded her! What is the spice you love and didn’t know? I didn’t know I could make chili better with cumin, coriander, and cinnamon!
A lot of people think they are eating a certain brand on their crabs and go to the store, buy it and yet can’t get the combination just right when they steam…it’s because the spice is J.O.! Most crab restaurants use J.O. #2 when steaming or preparing crabs. There is a difference. You can taste it and you can see it! Do you know how to tell the difference?
Become a fan of J.O. on Facebook. Let us know how you know what you are eating on your crabs and spread the word!
*Reprinted from baltimoresun.com September 28, 2014
Mount Airy residents Donald and Ginger Ports head J.O. Spice Co., which supplies 800 restaurants, crab houses and carry-outs from New Jersey to the Outer Banks with seasoning for crabs. (Photo by Nicole Munchel / September 12, 2014)
By Mary K. Tilghman8:12 a.m. EDT, September 22, 2014
The crabs piled on a table for a backyard crab feast, hot and spicy, are probably sprinkled with a unique taste many in the area associate with summer in Maryland.
If the crabs came from one of the metro area’s carryout restaurants or crab houses, more than likely the seasoning isn’t the iconic Old Bay. Chances are, it’s a seasoning mix produced by a company run by a Carroll County couple.
This is no McCormick with its giant campus in Hunt Valley and hundreds of employees.
J.O. Spice Co., in Halethorpe, is family run and employs a couple dozen people to produce seafood seasonings, as well as a whole line of products to spice up meat, fish and poultry.
“You go to a restaurant and you eat your crabs, and you think you’re eating Old Bay,” said Ginger Ports, vice president of marketing and sales for J.O. Spice Co.
And, said Mount Airy resident, that’s fine. “That’s a Maryland icon. There’s a place for that product,” she said.
“Old Bay is in the grocery store,” she said. “J.O. is in the restaurants.”
Ginger Ports works in the office next to her husband’s in the spice company’s headquarters in the southwestern portion of Baltimore County, a short distance from the Anne Arundel County border.
Donald Ports, the president, is from the third generation of the original family to run the business.
His grandfather, James Ozzie Strigle, a Tangier Island, Va., waterman, and his wife Dot, started J.O Spice Co. in a Baltimore storefront in 1945.
Don Ports, a Catonsville High School graduate, served in the U.S. Marine Corps before taking over operations at the spice company, then located on Hammonds Ferry Road, only a few miles from its present site.
The company, which produces its own combinations of spices, has been growing ever since.
J.O. Spice moved to its current location 24 years ago. Last December, it doubled its size when it took the adjacent 14,000-square-foot space for spice-mixing operations, a gift shop and specialty items.
With her youngest child in middle school, Ginger Ports, a long-time stay-at-home mom, considered getting a job when Don suggested that she work for J.O. Spice.
“Let’s keep it in the family,” he said.
One of her first projects was the custom crab mallet.
“It was the mallets that brought me in,” she said.
Don Ports bought the engraver and she began selling custom mallets to restaurants and for parties and even weddings. They sold 650,000 that first year and 800,000 last year.
The couple moved to Sykesville soon after their marriage and now live in Mount Airy. They chose Carroll County, in part, because of the school system, and they like the slower pace after long days in the spice business.
“It’s more relaxed out there, slower, not as stressful,” Don Ports said.
The couple have three children and have been active in their community, especially Ginger Ports.
She participates every year in the American Cancer Society‘s Relay for Life. She worked first with a team in Sykesville, then formed a team six years ago called Colleen’s Crusaders, in memory of a friend who had ovarian cancer.
She also volunteered at oldest daughter Brittany’s school, Piney Ridge Elementary, and at Winfield Elementary, which Tyler and Bethany attended.
A soccer mom, she spent lots of time taking her son to games with his travel team.
“We were always, soccer, soccer, soccer and more soccer,” she said.
Tyler, now 19, is at Carroll Community College, studying golf management. He works at Rattlewood Golf Course in Mt. Airy, where this summer he taught golf to children.
Brittany, 21, hopes one day to take over J.O. Spice Co. She is studying business at Carroll Community College.
Bethany, 15, attends South Carroll High School.
All three have worked for J.O. Spice, doing everything from sweeping floors to sticking labels on bottles to stocking the store and running the cash register.
“Just because they were family, they didn’t get special treatment,” said Don Ports. “They probably had to work harder.”
Running a business meant a lot of time away from the kids for Don and now for both parents — although weekends usually remain open, Don said. The family had its first summer vacation together four years ago.
Now that she spends as much time in the office as her husband does, his wife understands his level of commitment.
“Working together has improved our marriage,” she said as her husband nodded in agreement.
Now, she explained, she understands the long hours and the customer service that gets Don Ports in the car to make a delivery on a Sunday evening.
For a small family run company, they have a big job. Ginger Ports said there are some 800 Mid-Atlantic restaurants, crab houses and carryouts among its regular customers.
Local crab houses, as well as seafood houses from New Jersey to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, are their main focus. Another 25 distributors handle orders in North Carolina, Florida, New Jersey and New York. Small as it is, J.O. is spicing things up as far away as Australia and Singapore, too.
With the company delivering its spice mixes directly to restaurants and crab houses, you might not have heard of it. “J.O. has always been on the wholesale side,” Ginger Ports said.
Locally, restaurants such as the Woodbine Inn, Salerno’s, Park’s Landing, Winfield Inn, Captain Bob’s Manchester, Steamin Mad Crabs in Hampstead, and Casa Rico’s use J.O. Spice.
The familiar yellow and blue Old Bay can, on the other hand, is stocked in major retail outlets. “It’s a consumer brand and a consumer item,” said Laurie Harrsen, McCormick’s director of public relations and consumer communications. “That’s the way it started.”
Old Bay, marking its 75th anniversary, is available wholesale for restaurants and, to a small degree, for companies with licensing agreements to use the spice blend in their products.
“Primarily, it’s a consumer business,” Harrsen said. “That’s a good, long-standing heritage.
McCormick, which bought the brand in 1991, produced 50 million ounces — 3.1 million pounds — of Old Bay last year, she said.
J.O. produces enough spice to season 7 million to 12 million bushels of crabs a year. Some 1,750 to 3,000 tons of raw materials produce 3.5 to 6 million pounds of spice blends every year, according to Ports.
Spice only begins to describe J.O.’s participation in the traditional crab feast. They print bushel boxes for crab houses, stock brown paper to spread on the tables for crab feasts, order crab mallets by the trailer truck-full. They stock big paper bags and even vinegar, too.
“We literally provide everything but the crabs,” she said.
Since the demand for crab seasoning tends to drop in the off season, J.O. started a small gift shop in an unused space a few years ago. It expanded when the facilities grew last winter.
The diversity of their products keeps the staff working year round, Ports said. The work may change according to the season but “it keeps them busy,” Ports said. That way, she explained, there are no layoffs, or temporary employees and everybody works full time, with holidays and two weeks at Christmas off.
10 Things Only People From Baltimore Will Understand
It’s all true Charm City.
1. It’s Perfectly Acceptable To Address Everyone As “Hon”
Source: Facebook user Honfest
Some Marylanders take offense to the stereotype of the “hon” but not Baltimoreans. They’re loud and proud about it, hon! They even have a “Honfest” that celebrates true hon culture.
So get your hair done up, put on those fake eyelashes, and get ready for a hon parade cause this is Baltimore.
2. There Is Nothing Better On The Planet Than Berger’s Cookies
Source: Flickr user Emily-Carlton
This classic, chocolatey, delicious Baltimore snack is not meant to be eaten lightly… you need at least a pound of Berger’s or you’re doing something wrong with your life. Quit being an amateur.
3. Except Maybe Kicking Back And Drinking Natty Boh All Day
Source: Flickr user newskin0
National Bohemian Beer was brewed in Baltimore before recently being bought out by Pabst. But Baltimoreans don’t care. To them, it will always be the beer that defines their city.
This is, and will forever be, the beer any true Baltimorean craves on a hot summer day at the beach or while watching an Orioles game. It’s Natty Boh, or nothing.
4. Baltimoreans Have Complicated Feelings About “The Wire”
No matter how much they deny it, Baltimoreans secretly love “The Wire” and the notoriety it gives the city. Plus, watching the show and seeing their neighborhoods, stores, and schools as sets is actually a pretty awesome thing about living in Baltimore.
5. Utz Potato Chips Are The Greatest Thing That Ever Happened To The Potato
Source: Facebook user Utz Snacks
Utz Potato chips are a way of life in Baltimore. Sprinkle a little J.O. Spice on them and you’re golden. Yum.
6. Wondering Who The Heck The Poe Toaster Is, And Where The Heck He Went
Source: wikimedia user midnight dreary
If you’re a true Baltimorean, you’ve undoubtedly tried to get a glimpse of the Poe Toaster—a mysterious man who visited the grave of Poe on Poe’s birthday, leaving only a rose and a bottle of cognac behind.
The tradition went on for 75 years, and though it has since stopped, many Baltimoreans still visit the grave on Poe’s birthday to see if he’ll return. This is just one of those Baltimore traditions that’ll never really die.
7. Love The Orioles Or G.T.F.O (Especially You Nationals Fans)
Source: blogspot user nats55
There’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned baseball rivalry to make a city. Almost all Baltimoreans (with any good sense in them) root tirelessly for the Baltimore Orioles. However, an unfortunate few still pledge loyalty to the Washington Nationals (for God knows what reason…)
So, Nationals fans beware. This is the Orioles’ city. And they’re proud of it.
8. The Need To Eat All The Delicious Crabs You Can Get Your Hands On
Source: Facebook user Schultz’s Crab House
Everyone knows that Baltimore has the best blue crabs in all of Maryland. Don’t believe me? Head to the Baltimore Crab Festival. Or, better yet, the Baltimore Crab and Beer Festival.
Baltimoreans know how to make crab in a million different ways and could serve it to you for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Tip: you eat crabs with your hands. Utensils are not for true Baltimoreans.
9. A Holiday Hubcap At Nacho Mama’s Makes The World A Better (And Drunker) Place
SOurce: Nacho Mama’s
All Baltimoreans know the best place to drink on a Friday night is Nacho Mama’s. Where else will you get to have a cheap, hubcap-sized margarita? The answer is nowhere. So drink up and enjoy. Plus, the nachos are, well, amazing.
10. Yelling At People About J.O. Spice Being Better Than Old Bay Just Comes Naturally To Baltimoreans
Source: J.O. Spice
All Baltimoreans know that J.O. Spice is where it’s at. If someone tells you its Old Bay, they’re clearly an outsider. So away with you, Baltimorean posers.
*Reposted from movoto.com/baltimore-md website – posted August 28, 2014
Proud to be a Baltmorean? LOVE J.O.? Let us know! Review us on our website – we love to spread the love of spice all over!!!
1. Maryland Does Crab Cakes Like No Place In The World
Source: Flickr user adamisserlis
If Maryland is known for anything, its crab—especially blue crab. Steamed, fried, in cake-form. No matter how you have it, Maryland crab is the best.
But, let’s be honest, Maryland crab cakes are out of this world. Don’t believe me? Head to Faidley Seafood in Baltimore or the best crab cakes you’ll ever taste.
2. Forget Your Block, In Maryland Your County Is Your Family
Source: Flickr user CraigShipp.com Photos
One of the first things you’ll notice when you move to Maryland is that there is a lot of county pride—each county is really known for something unique—there are even nicknames for counties (MoCo, HoCo, PG…etc.).
When you tell people what county you’re from, it’s like telling them part of your identity. Basically, your county is your family (often, literally!).
3. If Maryland Was A Flavor It Would Be Old Bay Seasoning
Source: Flickr user Steve Snodgrass
People generally associate Old Bay Seasoning with two things: Maryland and seafood. But if you’re a true Marylander, you know that Old Bay goes on pretty much anything you can think of (um, hello, Old Bay fries and Old Bay popcorn? Amazing).
4. There’s Nothing More Maryland Than Natty Boh
Source: Flickr user sidewalk flying
National Bohemian, or as it’s known to everyone in Maryland, “Natty Boh” is how Maryland gets down. In fact, 90 percent of all Natty Boh sales are from Maryland. This will always be a Maryland beer.
After all, Mr. Boh lost his eye so this state could drink beer in peace.
5. The Baltimore Ravens Are Maryland’s Salvation
Source: Flickr user Keith Allison
It was a sad, sad day in Maryland when the Colts left Marylanders for Indianapolis. They thought they’d never get over it.
So, after a brief phase of rooting for the Redskins (it was a dark time) Marylanders were finally blessed with an awesome, super-bowl-worthy football team: The Ravens (yes, named after Poe’s Raven…one more win for the lit geeks of Maryland!).
6. So, Naturally, All Marylanders Will Resent The Colts Forever
There is some serious hatred for The Colts in Maryland. After they abandoned Maryland for Indianapolis, there is absolutely no reason anyone in Maryland in his or her right mind would still root for them.
7. The Baltimore Orioles Are “O”-Mazing
Source: Flickr user Keith Allison
The Oriole’s are O-tastic—and everyone in the state of Maryland knows this.
Maryland is responsible for that wonderful National Anthem we all sing at the beginning of sports events, afterall. “O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave…”
8. Everyone In Maryland Has A Favorite Musical, And That Musical Is “Hairspray,” Hon!
Source: Flickr user Bev Sykes
If you’re going to be a Marylander, you should probably memorize the soundtrack to “Hairspray.” In school, you learn the lyrics to “Good Morning, Baltimore” before you learn your ABCs. True story.
So, get ready to be singing show tunes to represent the awesomeness of being a hon in Maryland!
9. Speaking of Hons… If You Want To Fit In You Have To Learn The Maryland Lingo
If you’re moving to Maryland, get ready to call everyone and their mother “Hon”—it’s just the polite, Maryland way to refer to a lady.
And while on the topic of things Marylanders say. No. 1: It’s not Maryland. It’s Mare-lin. Like Marilyn, kind of. And nobody washes their hands. They “warsh” them.
Got it, hon? Good.
10. Icy Delights’ Snowballs In the Summer Make Marylander’s World Go Round
Source: Facebook user Icy Delights
Until you’ve tried an Icy Delight’s Snowball, you haven’t really lived. Icy Delights has a ton of unique flavors to choose from and are the epitome of a summer day in Maryland. Nice try, Rita’s but nothing beats homemade Icy Delights!
11. Ledo’s Pizza Is The Best Thing Since Sliced Square Pizza
Source: Facebook user Ledo Pizza
All Marylanders can agree that Ledo’s square-shaped pizza is out of this world. You don’t know Maryland until you indulge in Ledo’s. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
12. Maryland Is Home To A Baseball Battlefield
Source: Facebook user United States Naval Academy
The United States Naval Academy is located in Annapolis. So, as you can imagine, Maryland has some serious Navy love.
This also means the US Army-Navy game one of the state’s favorite sporting events. In case you were wondering, Navy leads in this annual tradition, 58-49. But the real winner of this game… America, obviously!
13. Maryland Has One Seriously Spicy Rivalry
Source: Facebook user J.O. Spice
Remeber when i said Old Bay is the flavor of Maryland, well…. thats really only half the story.
Old Bay definitely is some Marylanders favorite spice, but for indie spice lovers it’s all about J.O.
The population is split about 50/50 on who prefers Old Bay and who prefers J.O. Spice. And while J.O. is definitely lesser known, this family business has been spicing up Maryland since 1945.
14. Sunrises on Maryland Beaches Will Make You Cry Tears With Angel Wings
Source: Flickr user fahringerbrock
Regardless of where you watch the sunrise from a Maryland beach, you will NOT be disappointed. There’s no better place in the world to watch the sun come up over the water. Whether you go to Ocean City, North Beach, or Assateague (yes, this is the best place to watch it, but we’ll get to that in a minute…) you’re going to feel blessed. After all, Maryland’s beaches are the cleanest, nicest beaches in the U.S.
15. The Real Bronies Live In Maryland
Source: Flickr user m01229
Maryland is home to not one, but two, wild islands—Assateague and Chincoteague Islands. These islands are both filled with wildlife, oysters, biking and, of course beautiful, quiet, clean beaches.
However, that’s not all. These islands are also home to wild ponies! Like, straight out of the best dream of your life, wild ponies appear on the beach. No joke.
16. Maryland Has Free Books For Everyone!
Source: Facebook User The Book Thing Of Baltimore
The Book Thing Of Baltimore is like heaven on earth for literary geeks: it’s a bookstore with thousands of free books. Yes, free books. Stacks and stacks of, ’em.
This non-profit, volunteer driven bookstore has one goal: to make sure books get into the hands of book lovers for no cost. That’s just the way Maryland works.
So get your lit geek on at The Book Thing of Baltimore.
17. There is Nothing Lax About John Hopkins’ Lacrosse Team
Source: Facebook user Johns Hokins Lacrosse
Lacrosse is Maryland’s official state team sport. Which explains all of the lax bros with lax sticks tattooed on their chests (really…).
While everyone loves watching any and all Maryland colleges play lacrosse, there’s no doubt about it: Johns Hopkins is, by far, the best lacrosse team in the state and the most loved.
So if you’re moving to Maryland, get ready to play (or at least watch) some lax, brah.
18. You Can’t Help But Cheer For Maryland’s University Sports Teams
Source: Facebook User University of Maryland
Maryland has some great college sports teams, and even more enthusiastic fans. Don’t believe us? Head to any University of Maryland, Loyola Maryland, or Johns Hopkins sporting events and you will witness the insane fandom first hand.
No matter which college you root for, there’s nothing like rooting on your Maryland college sports!
19. The Fresh Fruit On Maryland’s Farms Will Change Your Life Forever
Source: Facebook user Baugher’s Orchard and Farm
Maryland is full of farmland. And that farmland is filled with delicious fruit: apples, cherries, peaches, blueberries, you name it.
Maryland is proud of it’s farm-to-table attitude and either grow their own fruit, or buy local. Because, why outsource when the freshest fruit is right here?
A local favorite? Baugher’s Orchards. Go apple picking here and make the best apple pie you’ll ever taste.
20. Find Something Bizarre At Baltimore’s Bazaar
Source: Facebook use Baltimore Farmers Market and Bazaar
The Baltimore Farmers Market and Bazaar is not only filled with fresh, local produce but also really crazy, weird, unique arts, crafts, jewelry, clothes, second-hand furniture, etc.
Basically, if you’re looking for something unique or quirky, head to the Baltimore Bazaar and be pleasantly surprised!
21. Heavy Seas Brewing Company Is A Local Brew Worth Toasting To
Source: Facebook user Heavy Seas Alehouse
There are few things Marylanders love more than a good local brew. So, when breweries like Heavy Seas do their thing, Marylanders raise their glasses.
Take a tour at Heavy Seas brewery or head to Heavy Seas Ale House for incredible food with your amazing, Maryland-brewed beer.
22. The Breakfast Sandwiches At THB’s Are Seriously Worth Waking Up For
Source: Facebook user Towson Hot Bagels
Towson Hot Bagels knows how to make a breakfast sandwich and we are oh-so glad they do.
Going to THB’s on a Saturday morning is like heaven on earth. THB’s is part of the reason any Marylander is glad to be from Maryland. Put a little J.O. spice on it and you’re good to go!
23. Quoth The Raven, Nevermore…
Source: Wikimedia user midnightdreary
The literary giant, Edgar Allen Poe, wrote many of his most famous short stories, poems, and science fiction in Baltimore. His writing inspired poets and playwrights all over the city, and a love for Poe extends throughout the state.
He was buried in Baltimore and, for almost seven decades, a mysterious “Poe toaster” would come to the grave on Poe’s birthday, pour a shot of cognac, and raise a toast to Poe, leaving only an unfinished bottle of cognac and some red roses behind at the gravesite.
This went on for 75 years until the tradition ended in 2006 for an unknown reason, but all Marylanders like to think one day the “Poe toaster” will return…
24. Maryland’s State Flag Is Better Than Your State Flag. Definitely
Source: Flickr user marabuchi
Marylanders have a lot of state flag pride… and we can see why. It’s freakin’ glorious.
No other state in the country has a flag that looks like it just came straight out of “Game of Thrones.” Seriously. This is probably why Marylanders make sure to have a ton of state flag paraphernalia on them at all times.
What do you love about living in Maryland? Leave a comment and let us know!
This article ran online on movoto.com, August 12, 2014 ~ I copied the entire article – no revisions or editing done – just the way it was posted!
Enjoy reading and deciding to move to Bawlmer, hon!,