I’ve got a mate, well I’ve got a few, who like to go fishing, in particular sea fishing and he text me other day asking if I wanted a few Mackerel as he’d had a good session out on the pier and had a few spare. Snapped his hand off and he brought 3 decent sized fish over much to the dismay of Mrs Hiker who does not like fish, apart from fish and chips but she always complains about the smell…even when they don’t smell!
I put them straight in the freezer before Mrs. Hiker came home from work so she couldn’t complain. She found them a few days later but couldn’t complain as they were frozen and smell free.
A few days went passed and what I was looking for was a day of good weather, this was because I was wanting to smoke at least one of the fish and my smoker is at the allotment. Now, I have usually looked at weather Apps in the past when I wanted to know the weather…obviously. In fact, I might do a weather App blog one day as I do use them quite a bit.
Anyway I digress, I checked the weather App that’s been pretty much spot on over the Virus period and decided the day after I would get a bit of fair weather. So I had to cure the fish before I smoked it, now I use a very basic cure recipe and have done for some time. Basically, I use half salt and half brown sugar and just a few turns of cracked black pepper into the mix. I put the cure mix into a click lock plastic box and with the fish and give it a good shake, making sure the fish has a good covering. Pop the lot into the fridge overnight to draw the moisture out.
Back to the cure mixture, like I said I’ve used this mix for a few years and not had any problems. I have an old war buddy who lives in Japan who owns a curing and smoking business and I ran the mix passed him and he said it’s basically the same as his mix, apart from he uses some expensive sugar which smells like treacle, but apart from that, basic is best.
Next morning I retrieve the box from the fridge and open. The mixture should have set firm with the moisture from the fish and the fish should be a little more rigid than when you put it in. Wash the fish thoroughly to get all the salty mix off as much as you can. Wrap the fish up in a bit of tin foil and Bob’s your uncle.
Like I said, my smoker is at the allotment so I packed up the fish and some Jack Daniel’s smoking chips that I was just about to use the last of. I’ve had a bag for some time and were still kicking out some great smoke. I took, what I call my Bushcraft bag, and me and the dog walked to the allotment.
My smoker is a very basic contraption. I think I bought it from Aldi years ago, it’s one that is also a pizza oven and BBQ. It’s bent to buggery with over use and from having roaring fires in it in the winter, but with a bit of brute force the doors can still be closed to keep in the smoke. I set a small fire away in the smoker to get a good pile of embers going for me to sprinkle my smoking chips on. I also threw a couple of apple wood split logs on for extra flavour. I did a few odd jobs about the plot until the wood burns to nice silver and red embers then I sprinkled the rest of the bag of chips onto the smouldering pile. I placed the fish onto the upper tray in the smoker and closed the chimney and the doors at the front of the smoker. Almost immediately I could smell the chips smouldering away and hopefully smoke getting into the knucks and crannies of the Mackerel.
After about ten minutes I struggled to open the vent on the smoker, I told you it’s bent to bits, and I could see the fish turning a lovely brown tint. I left it a few more minutes and then open all the vents. Oh the smell, the smell!!! The plot was full of a mixture of smoked mackerel and the apple wood, shame I couldn’t capture for smell a-vision!
I carefully picked the fish of the rack and placed it into some fresh tinfoil. By this time the dog was going crackers with the smell, he was almost humping me trying to get at the fish.
I did a couple more jobs just so the rest of the embers were out and I didn’t miss one and burn the site down, the rest of the plot holders wouldn’t appreciate me cooking all their veggies in one go!
Back at home I striped the fish away from the bone and skin, which was easy as it was nicely hot smoked and the flakes of flesh were dropping off. Now I didn’t weigh the fish at the start so couldn’t really say how much meat I got off but it was a good old mug full. I put the fish into my food processor and added about ¾ of a pot of Crème Fraiche and a squeeze of lemon and blitzed it, purposely leaving some flakes of meat visible for texture. No seasoning need as the curing process does slightly season the fish.
I pinched a half pound jar out of Mrs. Hiker’s preserve store and scooped it in. To give you an idea of how much it makes, it covered 6 slices of bread spread thickly. I cannot tell you how long it lasts for as I’ve usually eaten it all within the week…easily!