In the low country this is considered a condiment, because they are "put up" as often as traditional relishes and chutneys. Of course if we lived in the low country we could walk out in the yard and pick our bay leaves from an old Roman laurels bay tree, and buy our sweet creek shrimp from a street vendor. But we will make do with what we have. Make these at least twenty-four hours in advance of serving. They'll last for two week refrigerated, if you hide them well. If you put these out at a party they will be the first thing to go.
Makes 1 quart
1 1/2 quarts water
1/4 cup crab or shrimp boil, such as Old Bay Seasoning
2 pounds small to medium shrimp (about 50 per pound)
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
2 garlic cloves, minced
25 to 30 bay leaves
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice cubes ready. Add the shrimp boil to the boiling water, drop the shrimp into the pot, and cook until the shrimp are just done - no more than 3 minutes. Do no let the water return to a boil. Drain, then plunge the shrimp into ice to stop the cooking. Peel the shrimp when they're cool enough to handle and set aside.
Sterilize a quart jar (wide-mouth) in a pot of boiling water. Combine the salt, oil, lemon juice, mustard and celery seeds, and garlic and set aside. Place about 15 shrimp in the jar, then add a layer of about 4 bay leaves, then a layer of onion slices. Continue making layers until the jar is filled and all the ingredients are used. Pack the jar tightly, pushing down on the ingredients with a tall, narrow olive or capers jar if necessary.
When the jar is full, stir the oil mixture well and pour slowly into the jar. Use a spatula handle or a tool made for the purpose to run down the sides to release air bubbles and to make sure the jar fills. If well packed, the jar will hold all the ingredients perfectly. Put the lid on the jar and turn it over once to make sure everything is coated with oil and the air bubbles are out. Open the jar again and push down on the ingredients again so that they are covered with a film of oil.
Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving. Always use a clean fork to remove the shrimp, never a finger, and when returning the jar to the refrigerate, make sure the remaining ingredients are covered with a film of oil.