Walking down Edisto Beach at low tide, you would think that the seas were once brimming with sharks, so numerous are their fossilized teeth, said to be between 7 and 20 million years old. Unchanged through the millennia, sharks have cartilaginous skeletons and an osmotic relationship to sea water that set them far apart from the rest of the fishes. The teeth, which fall out when loosened or damaged, are quickly replaced. Less salty than the water in which they swim, sharks would lose their water by osmosis to the sea if they didn’t make urea to provide an osmotic balance. The urea (essentially carbon dioxide and ammonia) is released into the blood of the shark and accounts for the ammonia smell of the flesh. Properly handled shark is a true delicacy. As with most game, however, the field dressing is the primary determining factor concerning its flavor. Shark should be bled immediately upon capture: cut off the tail of the shark and bleed it overboard. If you are hunting shark, the blood will simply attract more. If there is an acrid smell to shark meat, try soaking it in buttermilk or lemon juice (which is acidic and can neutralize the ammonia) before putting it on the grill or into a chowder, or dust the buttermilk-soaked shark in seasoned cornflour and fry in hot grease until golden brown.
© 1992 All rights reserved. Published by UNC Press.