Looking after your fish fillets
Once upon a time, back in the bad old days, we used to put the fish we caught into sacks. Wet ones but still sacks. Then we moved up market to keeping them in a plastic rubbish bin. After filleting, the fish we stored was put into plastic bags, probably after being washed in fresh water, folded and put in the freezer. Thinking about it, we would have processed a few thousand fish that way. Hard to believe now.
Because we are restricted to (in my opinion) an unreasonable 7 each (10 I I could live with), it means we have to make use of every single fillet and I want every one of them to be in pristine condition.
At this time of year in particular, we freeze a lot of fish. Close family get fillets but we eat a lot of fish (two nights in a row as I type) and it becomes essential to have some packed away as the weather reduces our chances (being we have a small boat) of regular trips after July, through until the equinox winds start to ease.
I love this time of year as the snapper fillets start to drip with fat, the fish are enthusiastic to bite and they tend to be of a bigger size. It’s now we fish more baits than lures.
I’m not going to cover filleting (that’s done pictorially in the book- www.howtocatchfishandwhere.co.nz) but it’s how we handle the fish that I get pedantic about.
This is the process –
1/ Fish are spiked as they are caught. They go straight into the insulated fish box where I have a bag of saltwater ice plus reusable Techniice sheets (highly recommended, just watch for spikes from the fish).
2/ Before heading in we fill the two 10 litre containers we have, specifically for the purpose, with saltwater.
3/ Back on shore the fish are filleted and boned. By this stage, the cat will be biting my ankles until he gets his bits. The frames go into the fish fertiliser drum. Nothing is wasted. The boned fillets are put into a bin full of saltwater. Halfway through I shift those fillets into a fresh container of saltwater. The second half are then processed and also get the second wash.
4/ All the fillets get one final wash in another fresh lot of saltwater (I told you, pedantic).
5/ The fillets are then carefully packed into a bin on layers of saltwater ice then topped with more salt ice.
6/ The bin heads to the beer fridge for the night (cold beers may need to be put to good use if more room in fridge is required!)
7/ The next morning the fillets are separated into meal lots, bagged then vacuum packed and sealed.
Done this way I know that if we have a bad winter, with few fishing opportunities, any fish I’m still eating in November, that is caught this month, will be indistinguishable from fresh to most people. Definitely way ahead of fresh from the supermarket and light years ahead of how we used to handle it in the days of sacks and rubbish bins.
Every step of the process is important to the final outcome but the most important are a/ no freshwater near the fish ever and b/ the setting of the fish fillets in ice overnight. It’s probably like aging beef. No matter, I can’t impress on you how big a difference it makes to the final results, to the point that we seldom eat fish the day we catch it now, it’s much better after this process.
Try it and see for yourself!
How to Catch Fish and Where by Mike Rendle – to read about filleting your fish, catching fish and much, much more!
How to Catch Fish and Where by Mike Rendle