…in a good way…for preserving our fish!
Life just seems to ebb and flow around me, and so since the last entry there has been a lot that has happened. I shall reserve these goings on for another couple of posts, so this one doesn’t get too cluttered and I stay on track with this fishy tale.
The aquaponics system is almost three years old now, and although I have suggested on many occasions that we might want to harvest some of the fish more regularly, Chris has been reluctant, and with good reason. They grow in fits and starts: Winter sees them lose their appetite a bit, which they more than make up for in the other seasons, but up until now they were typically around the 400 gram mark.
At this size, the only practical way to cook them was to bake them whole. We have done this (and I have blogged before) but at a Christmas get-together in November, we were asked to bring a dish to share. We arrived with three scaled and cleaned fish in a pan, all the makings for a Japanese inspired dressing, and a rather delicious miso/ginger/soy dressed slaw. Our home grown Jade Perch were quite the centrepiece, although, admittedly, a bit boney.
By mid December we were starting to think about next steps. You see, when we take fish from the system, we put them into an esky of very icy water, as neither Chris nor I feel compelled to kill them any other way, and it seems madness to do this for one or two fish at a time. So at the end of December we harvested and cleaned five good sized fish (for the record they were: 781, 676, 659, 571 and 544 grams), and decided to smoke them.
We had done our homework on various dedicated smoking apparatus, but before we spent some reasonable cash on a new piece of equipment, we decided to give it a go in the BBQ. We used Mesquite and Alder chips bought from a local hardware store (we have since found we can purchase something similar—Hickory—at the supermarket down the road), and after brining the fish overnight in the fridge (in a super concentrated salt/sugar solution) we patted them dry, arranged them on a rack in the BBQ, got the chips smoking and closed the lid. There was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing and checking and relighting and such for the next two and a bit hours, but the BBQ maintained a reasonably even 200 degrees (Fahrenheit) and by the end , the fish seemed well and truly done.
Success! They tasted wonderful and it was easy to remove both the bones and skin from the flesh. We used the smoked fish in a couple of recipes (a pasta dish and a dip) and gave a couple away to friends and family.
Given the slightly fiddly nature of using the BBQ—it doesn’t have adequate ventilation nor accurate temperature control—I think we are in line to buy a dedicated smoking box in the not too distant future!