NPR logo Mae Bissett's Crab Soup

Mae Bissett's Crab Soup

Alice Witt ran the Hill Top Inn Restaurant in Mayo, Md., which she and her husband built in the 1930s. This is her recipe for Crab Soup, passed down through the family to her granddaughter, Mae Bissett, mother of candidate Phil Bissett. Bissett is running for county commissioner of Anne Arundel County.

Mae Bissett made this recipe recently for the local fundraiser for Phil's campaign. "I think they showed up more for the soup than for me!" Phil Bissett jokes.

Crab Soup

This recipe feeds about 200.


10 lbs. beef, cubed very small

10 lbs. potatoes, diced

4 onions, diced

4 full stocks of celery, diced

15 lbs. of vegetables (frozen)

Water – 42 quarts or almost to top of your pot

2 10 oz. cans of tomato soup (you can also use fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes, but you'll have to estimate.)

12 Fresh hard shell crabs, broken in half and cleaned

5 lbs. fresh crab meat


Amounts below are approximate:

1 cup Old Bay seasoning,

1 cup celery salt

Salt and pepper to taste


Prepare your soup stock by browning the cubed beef slowly in a 48-quart pot. When browned, add your chopped onions and celery. Sauté with the meat until soft. Add the potatoes and chopped *vegetables and cook until soft.

*Mae Bissett uses carrots and peas and whatever else is in season. You can use frozen vegetables already chopped up. Depending on what you end up using, you'll have to adjust the quantity.

Add tomato soup (canned or fresh). Add 42 quarts of water or fill the pot until it is nearly full. Add seasoning to taste. Stir well and keep stirring. Simmer for 1 – 3 hours or as long as you like, until it reaches the right flavor and consistency to your taste. Keep the lid off. You might have to add some more water as it boils down. Keep your eye on it.

Preparing the Crab

Take the top shell off and remove the dead man's fingers underneath the top shell, the eyes and whatever else you'd consider inedible under there — just the insides, not the meat! Mae Bissett leaves the crab claws on and always uses fresh crab.

One to three hours before you are ready to serve the soup, add the crab. It's important not to cook the crab too long before serving. Simmer your soup stock with the fresh crab and season again to taste.