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Catching and Preparing Conch

 

Our Excellent Conch Adventure!

 

 

Like so many other Americans I had heard of Conch but never really knew anything about them. They are large sea snails, yeah got that. But where do they come from? How do you catch them in the wild? And how the heck do you get them out of the shell?!

Well these pages are based on my first hand experience with the Conch from the Abacos.

I grew up in Central Florida with parents from the Midwest, North Dakota and Minnesota. You know, land of the Three Seasonings…. Salt, Pepper and Ketchup!

So needless to say shell fish of any kind was not a regular on our home dinner table. Even growing up in a Beach town, I never got into eating seafood.

When I learned I was going on a trip to the Bahamas I told everyone I would be the floater with the snorkel sticking out above the water. And yes, I spent a lot of time in the crystal clear water I had only dreamed about.

One of the highlights of the trip was going out and collecting Conch. I learned that the best place to find them was in about 15 feet of water in the grassy areas. It was so pretty down there, rolling hills and grass as far as you could see.

Of course being a surfer from the east coast of Florida I had the Jaws theme music going through my head! It still was a thrill to dive down and grab a hold of these amazing shells. It is kind of daunting to see the long eye stems, then they spot you coming and whoosh! they close up.

 

We were dragged behind the boat on knotted ropes. Mask and snorkel made it easy to scan the bottom as we went along. When you spotted a conch you just let go of the rope and took a few deep breaths and down you went to grab the shell.

 

 

Getting the Conch out of the shell is pretty simple. Since they have a “foot” that goes all the way to the tip, you have to get to where he is gripping the shell. On this trip we did not have a “conch breaker” so we used the back side of a Machete blade. Holding the shell steady CJ (Conchy Joe) was able to break into the shell near the tip. If you want to keep the shell for decoration you don’t want to make too big of a hole.  All you need is a slit large enough to insert the tip of a sharp knife into the shell and cut / pry the foot loose.

Then CJ grabbed the spur with his fingers bracing the butt of his hand on the shell and “rolling the conch out of the shell. He made it look easy. Rolling it uses leverage rather than pulling it out. The motion went like this, put your fist on a table top knuckles down. then roll your hand over and out, keeping your hand closed. the butt of the hand stays on the shell and the conch slides right out.  He then put them in a bucket of sea water.

 

 

Here he is removing the pistil.  If you have been where they catch and serve fresh conch,  it is a long clear part that everyone gets “dared” to eat if you know what I mean!

This was the Catching part of the Conch Adventure

 

Next we will prepare the conch for several dishes.

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