That familiar seasoning you taste when buying and eating traditional blue crabs in Maryland is assumed by many to be the hugely famous and beloved Old Bay Seasoning. However, that is often not the case.
Many crab houses across the state instead use “J.O. No. 2 ‘Crab House Spice’,” a seasoning made by J.O. Spice Company.
“You think that when you sit down it’s Old Bay on the crab, but it’s really J.O. Spice,” said Ginger Ports, the company’s marketing and sales manager.
“That’s not discounting Old Bay at all. It’s an iconic Maryland product,” Ports said, although she added that it was nice to finally set the record straight on a recent episode of the long-running Discovery Channel show “Dirty Jobs.”
Mike Rowe, the show’s host and Maryland native, said he often made the mistake himself.
“For years people like me have been giving Old Bay all the credit,” Rowe said on the episode. “Most of the spice on most of the blue crabs is actually made by a family-run operation called J.O. Spice.”
The episode showed Rowe traveling to the company in Halethorpe, Maryland, right outside of Baltimore. He mixed ingredients together, getting his hands “dirty” and working to make the spices alongside the employees.
“It definitely was not a normal business day,” Ports said. “There were cameras everywhere.”
J.O. Spice Company, which has been around since 1945, is a manufacturer and distributor of seafood seasonings, spices, batters, breading and soups.
“The J.O. brand crab seasonings are used in almost every crab house and restaurant on the East Coast that serves Maryland steamed crabs and is the preferred crab seasoning around the Chesapeake Bay area,” the company said on its website.
According to Ports, since the episode of Dirty Jobs aired, the company’s online store has been “on fire.”
During a typical week in the winter, the store usually ships about 50 packages per week.
However, last week, the store shipped 900 packages out to customers.
“We are busy!” Ports said. “It’s very exciting.”