From the cookbook, "200 Years of Charleston Cooking," published in 1930.
"In Charleston, they still eat dinner at three o'clock in the afternoon. In the days of King George, before the Revolution, elegant people served dinner at three o'clock and Charleston does not like change. By good fortune it is not only the dinner hour which has been preserved; but the secrets of those good things which they ate at their spacious dinners.
"As you wake up in the golden mornings in your high ceilinged, paneled room on the Battery overlooking the sea, you do not hear the screech of brakes on a Fifth Avenue Bus. Instead sweet singing slips between the pages of your dreams and you wake to hear a soft negro voice intoning on the streets a song about 'She Crab'; he also sells 'he' crab, but few buy.
"The Crabman charges ten cents a dozen extra for 'she' crabs with the eggs in. The crab eggs are picked and put with the crab meat and give a delicious, glutinous quality to the soup which makes it very different from regular crab soup.
"'She' Crab Soup belongs especially to the Rhett family and has been served by Mrs. Rhett for presidents and princes. It is prepared always now by Mrs. Rhett's able butler, William Deas, who is one of the great cooks of the world.
"It is impossible to get 'she' crab except in the laying season; and it is difficult to get it at any time except in places like New York where the markets have everything. But the soup, as tested out in the New York Herald-Tribune Institute, seems to be just as good made with any hard shell crab. Only a little flavor of association would be lost. This soup may, of course, be made with canned crabmeat but the real 'she' crab soup as William makes it is worth the extra trouble of picking out the crabmeat."
1 dozen she crabs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion
Black pepper and salt
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon flour
1 tablespoon sherry
"Cook the crabs until tender -- about twenty minutes in boiling, salted water. Pick the meat from the shells and put the crab meat with the crab eggs into a double boiler. Add the butter, onion and a little black pepper. Let simmer for five minutes. Heat the milk and add to the mixture. Stir together and add the cream and the Worcestershire sauce. Thicken with the flour, add the sherry and salt to taste. Cook over a low flame for one-half hour. Six servings."
I do a variation on this recipe: 1 cup picked crab meat, 2 1/2 cups of half and half. Also, it's now illegal in SC to keep roe crabs, so it's not really she crab soup. Some folks add egg yolks, but I don't. I start with half a Vidalia onion and sweat it in a saucepan with salt in the butter until it's translucent. Then I add the flour, and cook for a minute or so. I don't want color on the onion, or on the flour. Then I add the half and half and the rest of the ingredients, taste for seasoning, and transfer to the double boiler to simmer while I finish the rest of the meal. Sometimes, I'll add the crab while it's still frozen, and let it thaw in the simmering soup. I also add two or three dashes of mace. It serves four as an appetizer or accompaniment to a main seafood and/or steak course.