(Food History) See Also: Conch Chowder Recipes
Conch (pronounced 'konk') is a common name for certain large marine snails. They are gastropod mollusks, the most commercially important of which are in the family Strombidae. The specific species most commonly used for food is the queen conch, or pink-lipped conch, Strombus gigas, which can be found in warm waters of the Atlantic and the Caribbean from Florida to Brazil. Their shells have overlapping whorls with a bright colored pink lip, which can reach a length of 12 to 13 inches. The operculum, which is the covering of the shell opening, is a claw like structure which the conch uses to dig into the sand and push itself along the bottom. They are plant eaters and can live as long as 25 years.
Conch is the second best known edible snail, the first being escargot from Burgundy, France. Conch has been a popular food source throughout the Caribbean since the time of the Arawak Indians, before Christopher Columbus. The Arawaks also carved the spiral shells into various tools, musical horns (there are still conch-horn blowing contests throughout the Caribbean) and ceremonial objects. They are still an important food source for natives of Haiti and the Bahamas, who use it in soups, stews and salads.
It is illegal to take live conch in U.S. waters, where they are an endangered species, so most conch now comes from the various Caribbean islands, including the Bahamas (where it is sometimes called 'hurricane ham'). However, they are becoming scarce even in those waters, and the price continues to rise.
The world’s only commercial conch farm is Conch World located at Heaving Down Rock, at the end of the Leeward Highway, on the island of Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands, British West Indies. The Conch Farm grows Queen conchs from eggs to adults. (More than 2 million conch are there).
Conch meat has a mild, sweet clam-like flavor, but like abalone it is extremely tough and must be pounded, or marinated in lime juice to tenderize it before cooking. Some of the most common uses are for conch fritters, conch chowder, conch steaks and marinated raw conch salad. Most restaurants in South Florida have conch fritters and/or conch chowder on the menu, along with the ubiquitous Key Lime Pie.
Note 1: Scungili and whelk are distant relatives of conch.
Note 2: If you are ever in Florida do not pronounce the word conch sounding the 'ch' - be sure to pronounce it 'konk'.
1 lb. conch
2 oz. onion
2 oz. celery
2 oz. green pepper
1 egg (beaten)
½ oz. baking powder
12 oz. flour
In a meat grinder, grind the conch (medium grind), or chop into a fine dice.
Dice the vegetables, 1/8-1/4 inch dice.
Mix the eggs, flour and baking powder and seasonings with sufficient water to form a fairly firm batter.
Combine all ingredients and allow to rest for 15 min. prior to deep frying.
TANGY FRITTER SAUCE
½ cup of mayonnaise
3 tablespoons of ketchup
1-teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1-teaspoon lime juice
Mix all ingredients together until smooth, and enjoy with freshly fried conch or seafood fritters.
Cut the conch in half horizontally and tenderize.
Marinate the conch in the lemon juice for ½ hour.
Beat the eggs and dip the conch in the flour, egg wash and finally dip again into the flour.