a fish is great sport, but
converting a prize catch into flavorful fillets, steaks or pan-fried
is just as challenging and awesomely rewarding.
fish flavor doesn't begin at
home, or even at the campfire, however, but as soon as the catch is
from the hook.
are only two ways to keep your
catch impeccably fresh: by keeping them alive or by keeping them on
explains Minnesota fishing guide and chef Ron Berg in Northwoods
and live wells are of limited
value in keeping fish alive, especially when the surface water is warm.
The fish are soon floating belly up and your fine meal is well on its
to being ruined."
recommends killing fish as soon
as they are landed and putting them on ice in a cooler. The optimum
for fish storage is just at freezing.
gutted and cleaned, the preferred
storage method depends on how soon the fish will be cooked and
days: wrap loosely and store under
refrigeration (30-34 degrees F)
days: wrap loosely and store in
ice under refrigeration in a self-draining container such as a colander
set over a bowl, replacing ice as it melts
days to 3 months: wrap tightly in
plastic wrap and aluminum foil -- as airtight as possible -- and store
in a freezer. (Freeze lake trout no more than 1 month.)
Fish Cookery, Berg offers
instructions for water-glazing fish
freezer to protect them against freezer burn as well as recipes for
frozen breaded fish that can be deep-fried directly from the freezer.
way to keep fish for long
periods of time is by drying or smoking the meat. "Food smoking is a
invention. No other species on the planet incorporates any similar
into its food gathering, preparation, and strategy for survival,"
John Manikowski in Fish
Grilled and Smoked.
preserves fish by reducing
moisture content, thereby retarding the growth of bacteria.
are still heat-resistant microorganisms that survive the smoking
like Clostridium botulinum,
causing food poisoning.
To stay safe, refrigerate smoked fish.
smoking process consists of five
basic steps -- cleaning the fish, brining the fish, drying the fish,
the smoker, and smoking the fish.
1. Cleaning the Fish
on the species to be smoked,
fish may be: (1) dressed in the round (whole); (2) gutted, split, and
(3) filleted; (4) halved; or (5) cut into pieces with or without the
For smoking in the round small fish are best. Large fish like king
do well when filleted. Mullet can be halved at the backbone, and
are best smoked with the body skinned but intact. Fish should be
and scaled immediately after removal from water. They may also be
and frozen for later smoking.
2. Brining the Fish
two, brining the fish, means
steeping fish in a solution of salt, water, and spices. Brining is
for two reasons--it helps firm and preserve fish by removing moisture,
and it adds flavor to fish flesh. Fish may, however, be smoked without
salt curing, in which case they are cooked but have no keeping quality.
(That is, they are cooked and have good smoke flavoring but must be
immediately to prevent spoilage.) There are as many brine recipes as
are individual tastes. The strength of the brine (salt content)
the type of cure the product receives. One gallon of brine using 12
salt is enough for about four pounds of fish. Here's a basic brine
whole cloves (optional)
ingredients well. Place cleaned
fish in an enamel, earthenware, or glass container large enough so fish
lie flat and straight. Submerge fish in brine solution and refrigerate
12 hours. Remove fish from brine and freshen under running water for 10
3. Drying the Fish
brining comes step three, drying
the fish. Pat fish dry with a cloth, then place them on a racking the
and drain one to three hours. Drying increases keeping quality and
development of the Apellicle, a glossy finish of dissolved proteins on
fish surfaces which gives them the desired appearance, retains natural
juices, and helps spread smoke evenly.
4. Building the Smoker
may be designed
from a large cardboard box, a metal oil drum, a wooden barrel, an old
or even plywood.
cardboard box is perhaps easiest
to obtain; it should be 30 inches square and 48 inches high. Here are
Remove one end of box to form bottom
Unfasten flaps at opposite end
so they fold back and serve as a cover.
Strengthen box, if necessary, by
tacking 0.75 inch strips of wood on outside of vox--vertically at
and horizontally across sides.
Cut a door 10 inches wide and 12
inches high in bottom center of one side. Make one vertical and one
cut, so uncut side serves as hinge.
Suspend several rods or sticks
(iron or wood) across top of box. Cut holes through box, so rods rest
wooden strips. A rack of wire mesh (0.5" or 0.25" mesh hardware cloth)
may replace rods. Refer to diagrams at right.
5. Smoking the Fish
is the final hurdle before
tasting that anxiously awaited fish treat. Here are the simple steps to
Arrange fish on rods or rack so
they do not touch. Fish may be hung on "S"-shaped hooks, strung through
gills by rods, split and nailed to rods, or simply laid on rack. Use
nails, 8 or 10 guage steel wires, S-shaped iron hooks, or round wooden
Build fire on level gound with
nonresinous (hickory, oak, maple, apple) wood chips or sawdust to
light, constant volume of smoke. Soft (resinous) wood gives an acrid
and odor to fish. Never use wood containing pitch, such as pine. Liquid
smoke is also less satisfactory.
Center smokehouse over smoldering
fire and close flaps. Danger of fire is minimized if ventilation is
to promote smoke rather than flames. Alternate method: fire may be
in covered pit or trench outside chamber. Smoke is conducted into
of smoking chamber via tile or stovepipe. Outside
fire can be controlled
without disturbing chamber, and provides cooler smoke supply.
Put fish in smoker at inside air
temperature of 100°F, where fish flesh will be about
fish temperatures by inserting meat
thermometer into fleshiest part
fish.) Maintain this temperature for well-kippered fish.
Smoke four to five hours. Don't
overcook fish. Fish well-smoked have a glossy, brown surface. Flesh
flake easily from bones and be moist and tender. Allow fish to cool a
hours before eating or storing. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate or
freeze for later use.
Polytechnic Institute and State University
to Keep Your Catch Fresh
Catching your fish and getting it from the water to the table, while
keeping it fresh, is essential to enjoying the great flavor of fish.
Here are some simple tips to keep in mind the next time you go fishing
for your dinner. Click
Grilled and Smoked
Recipes for Cooking
Rich, Flavorful Fish on the Backyard Grill, Streamside, or in a Home
by John Manikowski
I believe to be an exciting new fuel for smoking fish, a fuel easily
in any farm supply store, hardware store, and even supermarket," writes
outdoorsman and author John Manikowski. "It's inexpensive too. Corn.
whole corn kernels."
In the pages
how-to guide and recipe book, Manikowski reveals the secret of his
smoke” method using dried corn that can make a fish smoker
out of almost
step-by-step illustrated directions for building three separate
a streamside smoker, a home smoker, and a large backyard
species of fish to smoke—bluefish, yellowtail, whitefish,
lake trout -- and provides recipes for curing solutions and special
cook a fish than smoking it, of course, and Manikowski covers most of
basics, from directions on cleaning fish, techniques for boning and
and advice on wine pairings.
recipes in the
book include main dish meals like Striped Bass with Cattail Shoots and
Morels, Grilled Butterflied Trout, and Grilled Small-mouth Bass Wrapped
in Corn Husks.There are also recipes for side dishes using wild
grilled eggplants and tomatoes, as well as an assortment of condiments,
sauces, and desserts.
and Corn Chowder
lay a 1-pound salmon fillet and two fresh ears of corn, husked, on the
oiled grill. Cook 6 minutes, then turn and cook 5 minutes more. Cool,
slice off corn kernels; cut salmon bite-size. Set aside.
oil in a 4-quart pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup finely chopped
and 1 diced Yukon Gold potato. Cook, covered, 10 minutes.
Add 2 cups
1 cup light cream, 1/2 stick butter, and 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
Simmer 10 minutes, then stir in corn, salmon, 1/4 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon paprika, salt and pepper. Simmer 5 minutes.
Monte Burch explains how to safely prepare and serve fish and shellfish
in this guide to the most commonly caught and consumed gamefish. Both
and saltwater species are included, from whitefish and clams to
northwoods-style cookbook range from quick-and-easy fishing camp meals
and homestyle family dishes to elegant entrees and showcase creations
top Minnesota resorts and restaurants.
from a brook or a local market, this book shows how to convert it into
panfried fillets, grilled meat or smoked fish. Some of the fancier
with Green Chile
Grilled Lake Trout
with Smoked Yellow Pepper Remoulade wand Tomato-Basil Salsa
Roasted Salmon with
Sesame Crust, Ginger Beurre Blanc, and Tomato Concasse
Salmon with Fresh
Basil and Four-Cheese Alfredo Sauce on Spinach Fettucine
Cilantro-Ginger Beurre Blanc
recipes are for walleye,
Minnesota's premiere game fish, but there are also presentations of
northern pike, muskellunge, lake trout, bass, stream trout, splake,
and cookbook author Ron Berg includes information on how to catch,
prepare and cook these fish. He devotes one chapter to "Camp and Shore
Cookery," giving instructions and recipes for cooking over a campfire,
and another chapter on "Fishing Camp and Cabin Recipes" that features
and easy recipes to prepare while staying in a cabin "up north."