One of America’s Favorites – Old Bay Seasoning

June 8, 2020 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | 2 Comments
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Old Bay Seasoning’s distinctive yellow can, with a mound of the seasoning in front.

Old Bay Seasoning is a blend of herbs and spices that is marketed in the United States by McCormick & Company and originally created in Baltimore, Maryland.

The seasoning mix includes celery salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and paprika. It is regionally popular, specifically in Maryland, the Mid-Atlantic States, the Southern States, and parts of New England and the Gulf Coast.

Old Bay Seasoning is named after the Old Bay Line, a passenger ship line that plied the waters of the Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore to Norfolk, Virginia, in the early 1900s. In 1939, a Jewish-German immigrant named Gustav Brunn started the Baltimore Spice Company. There, in his new company on Market Place in downtown Baltimore, and having fled the Bavarian town of Bastheim, Germany in 1937 at the outset of the second World War with only a small spice grinder, Brunn created what would later become known to the world as Old Bay seasoning. He produced the “Delicious Brand Shrimp and Crab Seasoning”, as he first named it, to service the needs and tastes of the nearby seafood market. A catchier name was later suggested and Old Bay seasoning was born.

For many years, the Baltimore Spice Company produced Old Bay until the legal rights to the seasoning brand were purchased by McCormick & Co in 1990 and the rights to the Baltimore Spice Company itself were purchased by the Fuchs Group, a German spice company. McCormick continued to offer Old Bay in the classic yellow can. Gustav Brunn had worked for McCormick for a short time before starting his own spice business.

McCormick has a number of other products under the Old Bay banner, including seasoning packets for crab cakes, salmon patties and tuna, tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, and seafood batter mix. They also make other seasoning blends that mix Old Bay seasoning with garlic, lemon, brown sugar, herbs and blackened seasonings. McCormick has offered a lower-sodium version of Old Bay Seasoning.

In 2017, McCormick changed the packaging from metal cans to plastic containers in an effort to reduce the packaging costs.

Putting Old Bay on crab legs.

The seasoning is chiefly used to season crab and shrimp. It is also used in various clam chowder and oyster stew recipes. The seasoning is also used as a topping on popcorn, salads, eggs, fried chicken, french fries, tater tots, corn on the cob, boiled peanuts, dips, chipped beef, baked potatoes, potato salad, potato chips, and guacamole. Several movie theaters in the Chesapeake region offer it in the condiment section.

Potato chip manufacturer Utz created the original “Crab Chip” based on a similar mix of spices. The popular potato chip variety was later copied and marketed by Herr’s Snacks (however, Herr’s uses Old Bay seasoning and it is sold as “Herr’s Old Bay Chips”). Lay’s introduced its own Old Bay-seasoned “Chesapeake Bay Crab Spice” flavored chips in 2018.

Early in its history, the Subway sandwich shop used Old Bay when mixing their seafood and crab salad. Many local Subway shops still have Old Bay for use on sandwiches.

Old Bay is also occasionally used around the Chesapeake Bay region as an ingredient in Bloody Marys, and even in places as far south as The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida. Some bars in the Baltimore region also often sell what is known as a ‘Crabby Bo’, which is National Bohemian beer where the lip of the glass or mug that is being used is moistened and dipped into a container of Old Bay seasoning. In 2014, the Maryland-based brewery Flying Dog created an Old Bay-inspired summer ale named Dead Rise to celebrate the seasoning’s 75th anniversary.

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2 Comments »

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  1. Thanks for sharing that Old Bay Seasoning is 75 years old. I am a fan of it.


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