Hunter's Impossible Caribbean Conch Ceviche

Now, sometimes (frequently?) I collect recipes that I just don’t ever make by myself, no matter how good the intentions.  We all know about good intentions, right?  And, I have the best of them.  But, this recipe is unique.  It can only be made in San Pedro, Belize.  It’s that special.  It’s that delicious.  It’s that unique.  You won’t be able to create Hunter’s Impossible Caribbean Conch Ceviche.  Enjoy the read.  Just don’t even think about doing this in your home.

For a little background information on conches, they are also known as whelks.  Now, seriously, that does nothing to clarify things for me.  So, you might as well stick with the word conch.  You could also call them “sea snails”, but that is a little too much information.  No, for our purposes, we are preparing conch meat.  End of discussion. 

The first step of this recipe requires a guide, snorkeling equipment and a nephew.  Take a ride out into the blue waters off the shores of Belize.  Not totally comfortable snorkeling? Grab a life preserver.  Sunscreen number 70 breaking the seal on the mask and dripping into your eyes?  Don’t worry at all no matter who mocks you.  Can’t swim like a fish?  It isn’t a problem.  Send your nephew down to the bottom of the sea to gather up four to six conches.  Size does matter.  If he gets big ones, you only need four.

When you have your supply of conches, it’s time to head back to shore.  Rest.  Relax.  It’s time to cool off in a shower.  The next part of your recipe requires your guide. 

George will take a hammer or chisel to those slippery little suckers.  You (and when I say “you”, I mean “he”) will have to place a hole on the crown of the shell to break the suction hold of the conch.  That critter doesn’t want to come out of the shell.  He is no fool.  He fully knows your intentions.  But, in this contest, the conch never wins.  After that hole is made, the meat is coming out of the shell.  It’s all done right down on the beach, nestled around beautiful mangroves.  However, if you have any mercy in your heart, you will also add a can of Raid to your recipe because along with all that nestling are a few million blood thirsty mosquitoes. 

Now, a little more information about conch meat than you may want.  White is a good color for meat.  You can also eat pink and orange meat.  You want to avoid gray and anything else dark.  And, speaking of things to avoid, there are plenty.  Attached to the white meat, the digestive track of the conch dangles like a long worm.  I’m told that it is considered a local treat.  But, really now, how can anything that looks like a worm be a treat?  I didn’t ask George if he ate “worms”.  I didn’t want to know.

By the time the shower is over, it should be time to move on to the kitchen.  The conch meat is tough.  For some recipes, you need to pound it into submission with a mallet.  But, for ceviche, you need to dice it up very fine.  When your meat is collected, prepared - and rid of worms - it is time to know about the rest of the impossible ingredients.

Hunter's Impossible Caribbean Conch Ceviche
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
xxxx 4 to 6 conch shells xxxx 4 plum tomatoes
  10 limes   1 green bell pepper
  1 bunch of cilantro   1 jalapeño pepper
  1 medium red onion   1 tsp sugar
  1 small cucumber   Salt and pepper to taste

The impossible ingredients continue.  You want freshly grown supplies, as perfect as Caribbean sunshine can make them.  So, go next door to the neighbor with a green thumb, and harvest the local limes and cilantro.

Anything else needs to be purchased at Maria’s Mini Market.  Maria is just about the sweetest woman on the planet.  I would purchase fruits and vegetables from nobody else in San Pedro.  When I first met her, I had a bad cough.  She crushed fresh ginger and tossed it in a bag with lemons, some branches of fresh chamomile and what appeared to be oregano.  Instructions were to boil it up and sweeten the concoction with honey.  It may sound delicious, but it tasted like pine sap.   Still, I drank it all and savored the kindness.

Magic in the kitchen with Maria

All fruit and veggies need to be diced up finely.  Then, mix it up with the juice of all those squeezed limes.  Some people use the word “cook” to describe what the limes do to the conch meat.  I’m not completely convinced.  There is no heat and I always think of heat when I think of the word “cook”.  But, let me repeat, there is no heat.  Those juices need to soak into everything to do their job.  The minimum is four hours, but it is really best to seal them up in the refrigerator overnight.  That allows the “cooking” to soften the meat and bring out all of the flavor.  And, there will be flavor.  However, you still may want to add a teaspoon of sugar as well as salt and pepper to taste.

To properly serve the ceviche, you need to buy a serving dish made from a conch shell.  You can find them in the town square in San Pedro.  However, it would be really cool to have one made from the actual conch your nephew harvested, but that just might take too long.  Anyways, whatever dish you use, you scoop up the ceviche with Annie’s Homemade Corn Tortillas.  It's a treat made in paradise, or more precisely, San Pedro, Belize. 

Copyright 2017 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.