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Downeast Dayboat Maine Scallop Facts

  1. The pure/clean growing environment for Maine (your) Scallop? Why is it so important?

Oyster connoisseurs understand that where an oyster comes from is an essential part of its flavor.  The temperature of the water, the currents, the runoff from the land… all of these factors contribute to the type of plankton, trace minerals and elements in the water column.  This, in turn, helps create the unique flavor profiles (and even colors and textures) of the filter feeders that grow in that area.

Some oyster growers buy inexpensive oysters from less desirable areas and then “finish them off” by keeping the in the water in a more respected growing area so they can charge more for them.  They do this because place matters.

It’s long been accepted that provenance is important with oysters.  But we haven’t made the logical next step, which is to realize that provenance is equally important with other filter feeders.

You’ve heard of “terroir” in wine production: where the grapes grow contributes to the quality of the wine.  There is a similar term in shellfish: merroir (from the French word mer, which means sea or ocean).  Where a shellfish grows contributes greatly to what it tastes like.

Gulf of Maine waters are pure and pristine relative to other water bodies because the state of Maine and the Canadian Maritimes are pure and pristine relative to other areas. We have miles and miles of forest: 89% of Maine consists of forests, which is the highest amount of any state in the US.  That means our rivers run through forests, not industrial parks.  The waters they deliver to the ocean are clean and pure.

The Gulf of Maine has some of the highest tides in the world.  That means the water column over our scallops (and oysters, clams, mussels, etc.) is constantly changing. Our shellfish isn’t just sitting in a stagnant pool of water – it’s growing beneath a constantly moving water body, like a constantly moving river. Nutrients are brought in, and everything is flushed thoroughly twice each day.

It is also important to note that scallops grow close to shore in Maine, unlike in waters to our south, where the inshore waters are generally too warm for scallops.  We have deep crenulated bays, and many of these bays have different qualities.  Different salinities, different acidities, different runoff from the rivers and lands adjacent to them.  This results in different flavor profies of our scallops.  When you buy scallops from Federal waters, they are generally going to taste the same.  They come from indistinct offshore waters.  But we have a variety of flavor profiles because we have the only state with so many distinct bays.

Some of these bays actually produce scallops with different genetic profiles.  A Cobscook Bay scallop will taste different from a Casco Bay scallop, which will taste different from a Gouldsboro Bay scallop.  That’s due to the differences between the water bodies, but it’s also due to differences between the scallops themselves, which have evolved within those water bodies.

 

  1. What is fresh-day-boat scallop?  Why is it so important for the flavor and the meat size?

Ninety-five percent of US sea scallops come from trip boats that fish Federal waters (3 to 200 miles offshore).  Their operations are designed to efficiently harvest large amounts of scallops on long trips offshore. They stay at sea for an average of a week at a time.  As scallops are caught they’re stored in cloth bags and buried in ice.  That ice melts over the course of the trip and is absorbed by the scallops.  That adds water weight and dilutes flavor.  So you’re paying MORE for a scallop that tastes LESS.

In Maine, our fishermen can only harvest 10 gallons (90 pounds) or 15 gallons (135 pounds) per day (depending on where they fish: 10 gallons in Cobscook Bay, 15 gallons everywhere else). Compare that to the thousands or even tens of thousands of pounds that the Federal trip boats bring in.  Our Maine boats measure their trips in hours, not days.  And because they only fish in winter, they don’t have to store their scallops in ice.  They shuck them into 5 gallon pails and store them on deck.  If it’s a warm day, they will put ice over the whole bucket, but the ice can’t get through to touch the scallops (there’s a bucket between the scallops and the ice, not a thin piece of cloth).

 

  1. Why your scallop tastes better compare with other North American scallops?

The information I listed in response to questions 1 and 2 are the first reasons our scallops taste better.  Our waters produce better tasting scallops to begin with, and then the way they’re harvested means they get to shore much faster and in much better condition.

The second reason our scallops are better is the way our scallops are treated on shore.  Most scallop dealers store their scallops the same way they’re stored on the boats: in cloth bags, buried in ice.  Some soak them in water or in chemical solutions such as sodium tri poly phosphates (or other newer, less detectable solutions) so they absorb more water weight.

In the US, the term “dry” is not enforced when it comes to scallops. Anyone can call a scallop dry, even if it’s been soaked.  But when you taste a Maine scallop that’s been properly handled (as we will do), you will immediately taste the difference.  And you can also substantiate this if you put them in a moisture meter.

 

  1. What spices is your scallop? Why is it better than others?

I assume you want information on the flavor?  The flavors vary, but they are all cleaner and purer in flavor than the scallops you will get from other areas.  Casco Bay scallops have a more pronounced flavor and are denser; Cobscook Bay scallops are softer and subtler and to me taste a bit more muddy.  Jonesport scallops are dense, but they have the sweetness of a Cobscook Bay scallop.