Who has an Easter egg hunt over the summer?
The state of Florida does in the Gulf of Mexico, every summer!
Florida calls it scalloping, but it’s an Easter egg hunt that takes place in the ocean with snorkeling gear!
Every summer, from late June to mid September, Floridians and out of state tourists flock to the Gulf coast in search of the elusive Florida bay scallop. This is not the scallop you get at the restaurant as a seared sea scallop or the “bay” scallops you get from the local grocery store. These sweet, succulent morsels of goodness can only be found in a very small stretch of Florida’s Gulf coast.
How to Scallop in Florida
Scalloping is really pretty simple. You do need a boat (which we rented) and snorkeling gear (we had our own, but you can also rent). Scallops live among the turtle and eel grass in which they are born. As seen in the picture above, they sit on the bottom of the ocean, sometimes vertical and sometimes flat on the bottom.
Typically, you find the scallops in shallow water between 2 and 9 feet deep. We look for patches of sand surrounded by turtle and eel grass. Scallops seem to be gathered around the “coastline” of these patches of sand and it’s where they are usually easiest to locate.
Once you’ve located your spot to search for scallops, you don your snorkeling gear and jump in! You snorkel around the area, making sure to stay near the boat, and look down in the grass for scallops. You’ll want a mesh bag to hold the scallops, hopefully, otherwise your hands and pockets will quickly become overloaded.
After you’ve found your limit (2 gallons whole bay scallops in shell or a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell per boat), it’s time to head back to shore and retrieve your booty — the sweet sea candy within the scallop shell!
How to Shuck Florida Scallops
Getting to the meat of the matter with scallops takes a little work. You must separate the bivalve near it’s hinge, carefully — you don’t want to split the scallop meat in half. You can use a scallop shucking knife, a standard kitchen knife, or a spoon. I personally prefer the spoon. It’s shorter than most knives, so you can get good leverage on it when splitting the shell and it’s curved, so you can scrape the meat from the curved shell of the scallop.
Speaking of scraping the meat from the shell, that’s the next step in the shucking process. I’ve found that if you scrape the meat from the dark side of the shell (scallops have a dark side and a light side), it makes shucking them a bit easier.
After scraping the meat off one side of the shell, break that shell off the hinge and toss it aside. Now, you have to scrape the boogers off the meat. Ha! That’s what we call the “organs” and yucky stuff that we don’t eat. You have to be somewhat delicate about this, as you don’t want to scrape away the tender, sweet meat with the boogers. It does separate pretty easily, but you do need to be a bit cautious.
Once the boogers are removed, you scrape the scallop meat off the other side of the shell and put it in a container with some ice and water. Before you know it, you’ll have your 10 gallons shucked and enough scallop meat for several meals!
Watch the end of this video and you’ll see me go through the whole process of shucking a Florida scallop:
OK, now you have Ziploc baggies filled with delicious scallop meat. What do you do with it?
How to Cook Florida Scallops
Well, most people like to deep fry them. You batter them up just like you would any fried food, using your best “secret” batter recipe, and drop them in some hot oil for a few minutes until their golden brown. If you cook them this way, you’ll know why many Floridians call scallops “sea candy.” They’re so sweet and tender, you’d swear you were eating little bite-sized candies!
Adding them to your favorite pasta dish is another very popular method for cooking scallops. In fact, this is my son’s favorite way to enjoy these tasty morsels!
The last way that we fix scallops (and certainly not the least) is by making a ceviche. Ceviche is a seafood salad that is popular in Latin countries and regions. The dish is typically made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices, such as lemon or lime, and spiced with chili peppers. Additional seasonings, such as chopped onions, salt, and cilantro, may also be added. Everyone has their own secret ceviche recipe. Experiment with flavors and seasonings to your liking and develop your own special recipe. Ceviche can be eaten alone, in a salad, or our favorite way is as a dip for chips!
Are you ready for your own Florida summer Easter egg hunt? Get out to the Florida Gulf coast and discover your own hidden treasure hidden just below the surface of the waters! Scallop season in 2016 runs from June 25 to September 24 and will be similar dates, every year. Let us know if you go and share your favorite Florida scallop recipe in the comments, below!