Escargot is a dish of cooked land snails, usually served as an appetizer in France and in French restaurants.
The word is also sometimes applied to the living snails of those species which are commonly eaten in this way.
Not all species of land snail are equally edible, and many are too small to make it worthwhile to prepare and cook them. Even among the edible species, the palatability of the flesh varies from species to species. In France, the species Helix pomatia is most often eaten. The "petit-gris" Helix aspersa is also eaten, as is Helix lucorum. Several additional species are popular in Europe; see heliciculture.
Traditional Method : After the escargot have passed a fasting period for 5 or 6 days in wooden boxes (never in plastic unless they have a bottom well ventilated, the objectives of which is to make them dry) they should be washed in running water or with a garden spout. Next they are put in a big container a layer of escargot with a hand full of rock salt. Follow this with another layer of escargot and another hand full of rock salt, etc. The escargot will issue a lot of foam in what is called disgorging themselves. We braise them for a while and then wash them again very carefully before scalding them. It is difficult and in my opinion, useless.
Personally : I never proceed as described above, even for the escargot gathered in the wild. I put them in a box of white wood (wood without tannic acid) with a bottom grating and raised 15 cm (5 in) above the ground so they can never touch the ground (to prevent them from eating the dirt or anything else). The first evening I wash them thoroughly with a garden spout. That activates them so they empty their intestines. The same step I do on the second and sometimes third evenings.(Note : you can give them dill (anethum) these first two or three days to give them a good flavour). If they are very dirty, it may be necessary to wash them one by one. During next three days, I leave them to dry.
After these three days or the salt treatment above, the escargots are put into boiling water where they are left for three minutes after water is boiling again. Then they are removed from their shells. The hepatho-pancreas ("tortillon" in french) can be cut off or not depending on preference. Lovers of the Petit Gris prefer the entire escargot whereas it is preferable to remove the hepatho-pancreas of the Gros Gris or other big species. The raw flesh is then put into cold water saturated with salt for one-quarter hour. They are rinsed thoroughly with fresh water after which they are ready for cooking or freezing.