If you’re familiar with the Baltimore area or have roots anywhere near the Chesapeake Bay, you know that Old Bay Seasoning is a staple for most seafood dishes. Since its launch in Baltimore during World War II, the unique blend of spices has attracted crab cake and shrimp lovers everywhere, but many aren’t aware of the history behind this popular seasoning.
image via Martha Stewart Living
Where Was Old Bay Seasoning Started?
In 1939, A Jewish-German immigrant and wholesale spice business owner named Gustav Brunn first arrived in Baltimore after being released from a concentration camp in Ettersberg. According to his son, Gustav’s family successfully bribed several German Nazi soldiers into letting him go unharmed. Soon after Gustav’s escape, he and his family fled to America.
Upon their arrival in Baltimore, the German business owner worked tirelessly to produce what he called the “Delicious Brand Shrimp and Crab Seasoning.” The spice was later renamed Old Bay after a passenger ship line that sailed across the Chesapeake between Maryland and Virginia.
In the 1990s, McCormick & Co. bought the rights to Old Bay and continues manufacturing the spice right here in Maryland. Aside from experiencing an uptick in popularity and demand, the original Old Bay has yet to change. The same blend of 18 spices once used by Gustav Brunn are packaged in signature yellow cans and sold in stores across the country.
What is in Old Bay Seasoning?
With its rich historical background and distinct, flavorful taste, it’s no surprise that Old Bay seasoning is so widely used and consumed. But what exactly makes this spice so desirable? The known ingredients in Old Bay include celery salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and paprika, however the remaining 14 ingredients have never been disclosed.
While no one knows exactly how Old Bay Seasoningis made, at-home recipes attempting to recreate the secret formula can be found by the dozens online. In our opinion, nothing beats the original Old Bay seasoning. But, if your local market is short on supply, here is one of our favorite attempts.
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Old Bay at G&M
Here at G&M, Old Bay is a necessary seasoning included in many of our popular dishes. We use the spice to season our famous crab cakes and stuffed shrimp in order to give both an irresistible, peppery taste.
“To get the true Maryland seafood flavor, you have to use both fresh and local seafood, and Old Bay,” says our own Chef Paul. “It gives seafood the spicy heat it needs thanks to the black pepper, paprika, and the complex flavor of the celery salt.”
Not only do we like to add Old Bay Seasoning to our seafood menu items, but to one of our signature cocktail drinks as well. Our chefs carefully rim each and every glass of our signature Bloody Mary with Old Bay—just to give customers a little extra texture and flavor. Try it at home (or stop by for a drink!) and let us know what you think.
Check out our carryout, lunch, and dinner menus for more items that will curb your cravings for Old Bay Seasoning today. And if you’re not in the Baltimore area, we’re glad to ship our Maryland crab cakes and more to you overnight.