Archives

Category Archive for: ‘Fish’
Cross Shrimp Off Your Party List

I just read a disturbing report titled “5 Reasons To Never Eat Shrimp Again” From Prevention Mag’s blog.

Shrimping has changed

Mostly gone are the days of Bubba Gump’s shimp boats with nets.  Now, picture huge nets in the ocean supported by colorful plastic boxes, or even more commonly, dozens of rice paddy like ponds filled with shrimp.  Easy catch, easily processed by hundreds of underpaid, government subsidized workers.

shrimp-farm  Shrimp farm aerial original.jpg  shrimpfarms608

This process is known as shrimp farming.  Farming shrimp began in the 1970 and has grown rapidly mostly in Asian countries such as Thailand.  Here in lies the problem.  The majority of shrimp purchased in the US has been imported from these overseas farms.  Because the shrimp are “farmed” in foreign countries, the US has little or no control over the conditions the shrimp are raised in and ultimately the quality and safety of the shrimp.

Chemicals

In order to increase the profitability of the farms, shrimp are packed into shallow ponds while ingesting their own waste materials.  Complete “crops” of shrimp can be lost to disease or parasites.  To prevent these expensive loses farmers dose the ponds with high levels of antibiotics and pesticides.  These chemicals, many times, are ones currently banned for use in the United States.  If you are counting on the FDA to protect you, think again.  According to a 2011 report, only 1% of imported seafood is tested for these chemicals.

Feed Lots

Do these methods of growing protein sound familiar?  They do to me.  It is exactly like cattle fed lots and fowl houses.  Animals are packed into small areas where they graze, walk and even feed on their own waste.  When conditions cause disease, no problem, just dose them with antibiotics and when the feces attract flies, tics, fleas, lice, mites and other disease carrying pests, again, no problem, just spray them all with pesticides.

cattle-feedlot-002 cattle-feedlot-spray Chicken-farm-11-29-111 Chicken spraying

Global Warming

You may wonder, as I did, how shrimp farming can contribute to global warming.  It seems that since the 1970’s shrimp farming has proven so profitable that the major farming countries, Thailand, Ecuador, Indonesia, China, Mexico and Vietnam have been cutting down their mangrove forests to make room for more ponds.  Mangrove forests absorb more carbon dioxide than any other ecosystem in the world, including the rain forests.  Not only that, but mangroves are breeding grounds for all types of sea creatures and their extensive root system prevents erosion during storms.

The Wild-caught Alternative

So, I will just eat wild-caught shrimp, just as I only eat wild-caught salmon.  Not so fast.  Wild-caught shrimping is extremely wasteful.  For every pound of shrimp caught, there can be as much as 5 pounds of by-catch, which are other species caught in the nets.  Much is written about the endangered turtles being killed by these nets so I won’t go on.  Looks like I will be giving up shrimp all together.  Crayfish are almost the same thing and can be farmed in the US.  Crayfish are bottom feeders and live in fresh water.

We Need To Stop Eating Sea Food

My job is to point out to you the problems I find.  Your job is to prove me right or wrong or ask me enough questions to more deeply explore the problem.  I have pointed out that the problem is little or no regulation on imported sea food of all kinds to this country.  I’m telling you to stop eating all imported and wild caught sea food.  Your turn. – jughandle

Do your own research, prove me wrong, please prove me wrong, because I’m seeing this as a serious problem!

 

 

staph in meat | Bacteria-Infused Meat Found in Grocery Stores | Rodale News

This isn’t another push for you to buy organically grown meats, or is it?  You be the judge.  Just the one fact that chickens, pigs, cows, turkeys and other food source animals are injected on a regular basis with antibiotics and other drugs to make them healthy should make you join the parade.  Those are the same antibiotics we use, and when we eat them in our food we they become useless to us over time.  Read on – jughandle

 

Bacteria-Infused Meat Found in Grocery Stores

I’m sorry for this image, but I need to get your attention

 

 

 

  MRSA antibotic resistant staff infection

 

BY LEAH ZERBE

Handle with care: A study found that supermarket meat can house bacteria that could infect your skin.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Previous studies have detected nasty, food-poisoning bacteria in supermarket meat, but a study published Friday in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases sends the queasiness factor to a whole new level: Half of the U.S. supermarket meat sampled contained staph infection bacteria, including the hard-to-kill and potentially lethal MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection.

The researchers ID the overuse of antibiotics in industrial agriculture as a factor in the rise of superbugs in our grocery store food.

THE DETAILS:

Researchers tested 136 total samples (80 different brands) of ground beef, chicken breasts and thighs, ground pork and pork chops, and ground turkey and turkey cutlets purchased from 26 retail grocery stores in five U.S. cities: Chicago; Washington, DC; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Los Angeles; and Flagstaff, Arizona. Although previous studies have found a strong link between antibiotic-resistant germs and factory farms, this study traces the dangerous bacteria into the food chain. Nearly 80 percent of the turkey products sampled contained staph bacteria; 42 percent of the pork harbored staph, while 41 percent of the chicken and 37 percent of the beef suffered staph contamination. Nearly all of the contaminated meat harbored staph bacteria resistant to at least one human antibiotic.

WHAT IT MEANS:

At the end of 2010, the Food and Drug Administration released a first-of-its-kind agency report, finding that factory farms use a whopping 30 million pounds of antibiotics each year. But even before the release of that report, scientists and doctors had been waving red flags regarding the overuse of antibiotics in farming, and how that, in turn, is threatening human health. In 2009, Prevention magazine published a special report, “The Superbug in Your Supermarket,” which found similar problems with your standard supermarket-bought meat. While MRSA was previously linked to hospital-acquired infections, a new source emerged in 2008, and it was linked back to huge hog farms. The good news is that cooking meat kills MRSA. The bad news is just handling the raw meat can give you a serious skin infection, particularly if you have a cut on your hand. And nose pickers, take heed. Wash your hands well after handling meat because MRSA loves to hang in your nasal passages.

Find out more about how to protect yourself from superbugs in food.

• Steer clear of CAFO meats. CAFO stands for concentrated animal-feeding operation, a nicer word for factory farm. These industrial facilities often use antibiotics to speed growth and prevent disease in their crammed conditions, which is what scientists say accelerates the rise of superbugs. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that industrial farms account for 70 percent of the antibiotics used in this country. That heavy use is making vitally important antibiotics work less well on humans.

To find safer forms of meat, check out our Guide to Buying Grass-Fed Beef, or visit LocalHarvest.org or EatWild.com to find organically raised, pastured meat. It’s likely more expensive, but it’s also more nutritious. If you’re strapped for cash, pastured eggs from hens that ate organic feed is a great option—way cheaper than buying four grass-fed Porterhouse steaks!

• Practice nontoxic, commonsense food safety. No matter where your food comes from, it’s always in your family’s best interest to practice good food-safety advice. However, don’t turn to toxic antibacterial soaps and sprays to disinfect. They’re also linked to the rise in superbugs. These stories contain safer alternatives:

via staph in meat | Bacteria-Infused Meat Found in Grocery Stores | Rodale News.

Killing to Eat

I never really intended to write a post about killing animals for food, but while perusing the blogs I like to read, I came upon a great article written by one of my favorite bloggers, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook’s, Hank Shaw.

Hank’s blog discusses in detail the natural way of procuring his food.  Hank is “old school” in that he hunts, fishes, gardens and forages for his food.  Hank doesn’t waste anything.  His recipes include vegetarian dishes, because naturally we don’t always have game around and we need fiber in our diet too.

As you might be aware for almost 3 months I’ve been experimenting with a completely plant-based diet with some success.  As I try to explain to curious meat eaters that question my choice, I am not doing this for any reason other than my personal health.  There are a number of reasons to not eat meat, from religious to ethical and I even know a person who doesn’t eat anything with a bone in it or attached to it because they are just plain grossed out by it.

I wanted to pass along Hank’s article on killing, because, as he points out, 98 per cent of the people who eat meat have never killed anything larger than an insect unless it was an accident. Many don’t consider that they are killing by proxy when they eat meat from the store or drive there in their car with leather seats or even put on their leather shoes or belt.   I’m not a hunter, but I’ve done my share of fishing and I don’t have a problem with killing animals for food.  I do detest sport killing though.  I have a feeling that animals were a gift to mankind and should be respected and treated as a gift, not to be abused or wasted.

Come to Grips

On Killing” deals with the emotional aspect of killing an animal.  A smart hunter does not kill without thinking about the consequences of their actions.  My wife’s family and extended family are big hunters, but not one of them takes it for granted.  A skilled hunter is in touch with nature and knows the game laws and knows that “harvesting” game is important to the welfare of the species.  The days are long gone when teams of men would shoot buffalo from the windows of a passenger train and leave the animal to rot on the ground.  The hunters I know thank the animal and God for providing food for their table and family.

The Blog

by Hank Shaw

UPDATEI want to thank everyone who has responded to this post, both below in the comments section and to me directly via email. More than one of your responses has been so moving it’s stopped me in my tracks. And Zane from Cleveland, your letter choked me up pretty bad. It is rare for me to write about such things; doing so feels like opening a vein in public.  I am glad to know that I am not alone out there. Thank you.

I have been dealing a lot of death lately. I’ve hunted five of the past eight days, and have killed birds on each trip. My larder is filling, and Holly and I are eating well. Lots of duck, some pheasant and even a little of the venison I have left over from the 2010 season. That is the good side of all this, the side of hunting that most people can embrace. I hunt for a lot of reasons, but for me the endgame is always the table.

It is the journey to that table that can sometimes give people pause. What I do to put meat in my freezer is alien to most, anathema to some. In the past seven years, I can count on one hand the times I’ve had to buy meat for the home. This fact alone makes me an outlier, an anomaly. And that I am unashamed — proud, really — of this seems to cause a lot of folks I meet to look at me funny: I am a killer in their midst.

Not too long ago, I was at a book signing event for Hunt Gather Cook when a young woman approached me. She was very excited about foraging, and she had loved that section of my book. Then her face darkened. She told me she’d also read my section on hunting. “How can you enjoy killing so much? I just don’t understand it. You seem like such a nice person, too.” It took a few minutes for me to explain myself to her, and I am grateful that she listened. She left, I think, with a different opinion.

A few weeks later, I was at the University of Oregon talking about wild food to some students. When I mentioned hunting, I could feel the temperature in the room drop. It occurred to me that no one there was a hunter, nor were they close to any hunters. I called for a show of hands. One guy raised his. I asked him briefly about his hunting experience, and it was obvious that it had been traumatic for the poor kid. I let the topic slide and moved on to mushrooms.

When I was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I spoke with more than 100 diners during my book dinner at Craigie on Main. Only four were hunters, although a few more wanted to start. Over the course of the night, I fielded weird question after weird question from diner after diner. Have I ever shot someone? Did I actually eat what I shot? Wasn’t I afraid of diseases? It was a stark show of ignorance. Not stupidity, mind you, just an utter lack of knowledge of what hunting is all about.

To be sure, these encounters were in college towns among a certain set of people. I had some book events, notably those in Montana, Pittsburgh and Austin, where most everyone who attended either hunted or was at least familiar with it. And in most places I could be assured of a healthy smattering of fellow hook-and-bullet types or farmers, who are equally familiar with the death of animals.

But the fact remains: Most people reading this have never killed anything larger than an insect, and among those who have it’s usually a been fish, or an accident — like running over someone’s dog. Most people have no idea what it’s like to take the life of another creature, let alone why someone would actively seek to do so. Let me try to explain to you the way I did to my young foraging friend on book tour. Let me tell you what it means to kill, at least for me.

To deal death is to experience your world exploding. It is an avalanche of emotion and thought and action.

Armed with a shotgun, it is often done without thought, on instinct alone. A flushing grouse gives you no more than a few seconds to pull the trigger before it disappears into the alders. A rabbit can leap back into the brambles in even less time. Unless you are perfect in that split second, the animal wins. And being human, we are far from perfect. Even with ducks, where you often have plenty of time to prepare for the shot, their speed and agility are more than adequate defenses. We hunters fail more than we succeed.

This is why we will often whoop it up when we finally bring a bird down: We are not being callous, rejoicing in the animal’s death. It is a hard-wired reaction to succeeding at something you have been working for days, months, even years to achieve. In some corner of your brain, it means you will eat today. This reaction can look repulsive from the outside.

Should you arm yourself with a rifle, you then must wrestle your conscious mind. Buck fever is real. A huge set of antlers will hypnotize the best of us, man and woman alike. Even if the animal lacks antlers, as mine often do, you have to contend with The Twin Voices: On one shoulder sits a voice shouting, Shoot! Shoot! You might not get another chance! On the other shoulder sits another voice, grave and calm: Be careful. You must not put that bullet in a place where the animal will suffer. Better to pass a shot than wound an animal.  A wise hunter does not kill lightly.

In that moment when the game shows itself and you ready yourself to shoot, all that matters is that you do your job correctly. And that job is to kill cleanly and quickly. The animal deserves it; we would want no less were the tables turned. And make no mistake: A great many hunters, myself included, do this mental table-turning with some frequency. Seeing animals die so often makes us think of our own death, and I can assure you most of us would rather die with a well-placed shot than wither in a hospital.

sharptail grousePhoto by Hank Shaw

We also know all too well that we are fallible creatures. When we fail to kill cleanly, when we wound the animals we seek, it is our duty to end their suffering ourselves. If there is a moment in this whole process that breaks my heart, it is this one. Everything wants to live, and will try anything it can to escape you. We see ourselves in this struggle, feel tremendous empathy for the struggling bird, the fleeing deer. It is a soul-searing moment where part of you marvels at the animal’s drive to live — to escape! — at the same time the rest of you is consumed with capturing it as fast as possible so you can end this miserable business. This internal conflict is, to me, what being human is all about. A coyote or a hawk has no remorse. We do.

I am not ashamed to tell you that I have shed a tear more than once when I’ve had to deliver the coup de grace to a duck. I’m not sure what it is about ducks, but they affect me more than other animals. I always apologize to it, knowing full well that this is a weak gesture designed mostly to help me feel better. But it does help me feel better. At least a little. So I keep doing it.

As the moment of killing fades, death rides home with you in the back of the truck. Once home, you must transmogrify the animal you killed into meat. The transformation is a mystical one, and every time I “dress” game — such a pleasant euphemism, that — I marvel at how fast my mind toggles from hunter to butcher to cook.

It is a necessary process, and one that is vital to why I have chosen this life, why I am a hunter.

I look down at my keyboard and see death under my fingernails. I smell the fat and gore and meat of dead ducks upon me; it’s been a good week of hunting. And because I eat everything on a duck but the quack, I have become intimate with the insides of waterfowl. Over the years, I’ve gutted and taken apart so many animals that I know the roadmap blindfolded. And that road leads to meals long remembered. I reach into a deer’s guts without thought: I want those kidneys, and that liver. I turn my arm upwards and wrap my fingers around its stopped heart, slick and firm. It will become heart cutlets, or jaeger schnitzel.

Photo by Hank Shaw

Once plucked and gutted, I can take apart a duck in 90 seconds. Maybe less. My fingers intuitively know which way and how hard to pluck each feather from a pheasant’s carcass. I know just where to put my boning knife, sharp as lightning, to slice the tendons that hold a hog’s tongue into its head. I use the same knife to caress its hind legs, separating the natural muscle groups apart along each seam. Some will become roasts, others salami. Animal becomes food. The pop of a goose’s thigh bone disjointing from its body no longer sickens me; all it means is that I need to slip my knife under that bone and around the coveted “oyster,” the best bite on any bird.

Wasting meat is the sin I cannot forgive. When I kill an animal, its death is on my hands, and those animals to whom I’ve had to deliver the coup de grace are especially close to me. There is a bond between us that requires that I do my part to ensure they did not die for nothing. This is why I spend so much time creating recipes for every part of the animal. Nature wastes nothing, and neither should I. It pains me to know that some hunters do not share this feeling, that they care only for backstraps or breasts — and while I know that coyotes and buzzards will eat what we do not, I do not hunt to feed those creatures.

You might ask me that with all this, why bother eating meat at all? Why deal with all the moral and emotional implications? In the face of such constant death, is it not better to be a vegetarian?

For me, no. It is a cold fact that no matter what your dietary choice, animals die so you can eat. Just because you choose not to eat the flesh of animals does not mean that their homes did not fall to the plow to become acres of vegetables and soybeans, wheat and corn. Habitat, more than anything, determines the health of a species. The passenger pigeon may have been snuffed out by hunting, but it was the massive destruction of virgin forest — forest cleared to grow crops — that brought the pigeon to the brink. I have nothing against vegetarians, and the vast majority I’ve met understand what I do and respect it. But to those few who do not, I say this: We all have blood on our hands, only I can see mine.

It all boils down to intimacy. Hunting has created an uncommon closeness between the animals I pursue, the meat I eat, and my own sense of self. There is a terrible seriousness to it all the underlies the thrill of the chase, the camaraderie of being with my fellow hunters and deep sense of calm I feel when alone in the wild. I welcome this weight: It fuels my desire to make something magical with the mortal remains of the game I manage to bring home. It is a feeling every hunter who’s ever stared into the freezer at that special strip of backstrap, or hard-won bird or beast understands.

Meat should be special. It has been for most of human existence. And no modern human understands this more than a hunter. I am at peace with killing my own meat because for me, every duck breast, every boar tongue, every deer heart is a story, not of conquest, but of communion.

 

Conclusions

I conclude that Hank is a thoughtful conscientious human being and I wish more people would put the thought he does into their meals and where they come from and at what cost.  All of that is kind of the point of this blog. – jughandle 

Marinades, Brines and Rubs

Marinades

Marinades are flavor-infusing liquids best suited for tougher cuts of meat. In addition to herbs, condiments, spices, and oils, marinades typically include an acid, like lemon juice, wine, vinegar, even dairy.

Adding sweet ingredients to the marinade can help form appealing caramelized, crispy coatings on grilled meats.  The acids in the lemon juice, wine, vinegar, butter milk, etc will actually cook the protein in the meat by chemical reaction.

Always marinate in the refrigerator. And remember, if you’re basting with a liquid in which raw meat marinated, do not apply it during the last three minutes of grilling.

The good news:

Chicken, turkey and fish will take on marinade flavors much more quickly and effectively than red meats.  Fish only need to marinate for 30 minute to an hour.  Chicken and turkey 2 to 3 hours.  Red meats need at least 24 hours to work at all.  The more acid in the marinade the better and quicker it will work.

The bad news:

Marinades only penetrate the meat 1/8 inch at the most no mater how long you soak them.  Think of marinades as a sauce and don’t waste money on expensive ingredients for your marinades.  If you use sugar the sugar will tend to burn on the surface of the meat.  If you like charred meat, fine.  Don’t use alcohol either.  The alcohol will only cook the surface of the meat sealing it from further penetration of the other flavors.  If you use salt in the marinade then you are actually brining your meat.  See Brines below.


Brines

Brines are salty solutions that help lean meats hold their moisture so they stay juicy and tender during grilling.Brining is a popular method for preparing poultry, particularly turkey, and lean meats, like pork, that tend to dry out on the grill. Sugar, spices, and herbs are sometimes added to the liquid as well.Soak meats in a container large enough to submerge the meat completely without allowing it to float in the solution. Store in the refrigerator.

Before grilling, rinse brined meat to remove excess salt and dry it with paper towels.

Remember high school chemistry? Yeah, me neither.  But I do remember something about osmosis.  But I remember that in osmosis through a semi permeable membrane like the flesh of the meat, water or other liquid will flow from a lower concentration of salt to a higher one, back and forth until the concentrations are equal.  So first water flows out of the meat and salt flows in which starts to break down the proteins in the cells.  Additonal water will flow into the meat as the protein breaks down causing the meat to be more moist.

The brine can also be used as a vehicle to carry other flavors into the meat with the dissolved salt.  Hence the sugar (to balance the salt) and other flavors that will dissolve in water.

Obviously, there’s more going on than simple osmosis. It is true that salt enters the meat (it tastes more salty after brining). But why is it also more juicy? Well, when water flows out of the meat, salt flows in and begins to break down some of the proteins in the cells. In the broken down state, the molecules become more concentrated and the solute levels rise within the meat. This causes additional water to flow into the meat.

How Stuff Works has a short article describing osmotic pressure with a diagram that may be helpful to visualize the water flow.

What has happened is that through brining, we’ve caused a state change in the cells so that they will draw and hold more water than before. As we cook the meat, the heated proteins will begin to draw in tighter and squeeze out water, but, hopefully, enough water will remain to produce a juicy, tender piece of meat.

Always start with a cold brine.  Refrigerate or ice the meat while brining to prevent bacteria from forming.  Brine for 2 hours per pound of meat and cover the meat with a solution of 1/2 cup of salt per gallon of water.  The other stuff like sugar and herbs are just bonus flavors.

Rubs

Rubs are seasoning mixtures rubbed on meats before grilling to add spicy or smoky flavors. The best rubs enhance the flavor of the meat without being overbearing and are often blends of strong and mild spices and herbs. When oil or another wet substance is included, it is called a wet rub. A little moisture helps the rub adhere to the meat.

Rubs are an easy way to infuse the surface of your grilled meats with exciting ethnic flavors–from Cajun to Korean.

Setting aside rubbed meats for anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight allows the spices to permeate the meat as much as possible.

Rubs are most effective when used on slow cooking meat as opposed to a fast grilling method.  Slow cooking allows the meat’s juices to blend with the rub while high heat grilling only burns the rub on the surface.

 

Good luck with your flavoring methods.  Here at the Fat Farm we almost always use either McCormik’s lemon/pepper or just plain salt and pepper.  We let the meat speak for it self – jughandle


Seafood: The Good and the Bad

Most of us are aware of the chemicals and polutants found in the flesh of many of the sea foods we are offered at the store.  But do you know that there are still many “super green” fish and shellfish that we should and can be eating?

Green

What do I mean by “Super Green”?  First of all a SG food must be healthy, and sustainable.  “Farming” or raising these food sources must also be good for the environment and not add to the problems we already face with depletion of our natural resources.

 

Good Fish and Shellfish and Why

  • Albacore Tuna that is Troll or Pole Caught in the U.S. or British Columbia – This fish is only SG if it is troll or pole caught because these methods catch fish smaller than 20 lbs which have a lower continent of mercury and are caught in the colder waters of the US or British Columbia making them higher in omega 3.  The hard part is how to determine if the fish you are looking at meets those standards.  Read the labels or look for Blue Eco Label of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). 
  • Mussels and Oysters that are farm raised – These shellfish pack a large amount of omega-3s and oysters are high in iron.  But what makes these SG are that they both feed off the natural nutrients and algae in the water, filtering the water, thus improving water quality.  It is more healthy to eat these shellfish cooked as the raw shellfish, especially from warm waters may contain harmful bacteria.
  •  Pink Shrimp ( wild-caught in Oregon) and Spot Prawns (wild-caught in British Columbia) – Again, look for the MSC-certified  Blue Label sticker.  The U.S. has strict regulations about net caught anything.  The reason being is that nets drag the ocean floors and damage the coral ref which are the habitats of most of the oceans fish.  The best source of shrimp would be from Oregon and the Pacific Northwest where the shrimp are caught in traps  Avoid imported shrimp, farmed or wild net caught.
  • Rainbow Trout (Farmed) – I know it is hard to remember that one farmed fish is bad and another good but again, look for the blue label.  Lake trout are available in some parts of the country but they are very high in contaminants.  Almost all trout you’ll find in stores will be rainbow trout which are raised in freshwater ponds and protected from contaminants being fed a fishmeal diet designed to conserve resources.
  • Salmon (wild-caught in Alaska) – Salmon in Alaska are very well managed.  Their numbers are tracked and monitored to keep from over fishing during a particular season.  Also the natural streams the fish spawn in are checked regularly.  These fish are a great source of omega-3s and have very few contaminants.  Avoid at all costs the farm raised salmon because the pens they are raised in are full of parasites that threaten the entire salmon population, wild and raised.
  • Sardines (Pacific – wild caught) – Here is one you might not have thought of.  Sardines have more omega-3s than salmon or tuna and are high in vitamin D.  They reproduce quickly and therefore are sustainable with the new regulations.

 Fish to Avoid

  • Bluefin Tuna – This fish is threatened.  Because it is still prized for culinary uses it still can sell for over $150,000 per fish.  Bluefins are high in mercury and also carry an EDF health alert. (Environmental Defense Fund)
  • Chilean Sea Bass (also marketed as Patagonian Toothfish) –the sea bass has been prized on menus for years.  That is one of the problems.  These fish can live over 50 years but are very slow to reproduce, thus making them easy to over fish.  There is only one well-managed fishery the is MSC-certified.  Look for the blue sticker.
  • Grouper – These are huge, delicious fish that live to be very old.  Because they live so long they are high in mercury and are also on the EDF health advisory list.
  • Monkfish – this is one of my favorite fish.  It used to be cheap and was marketed as imatation crab and lobster because its texture resembles lobster.  Alas, it too became popular and is now over fished.  Monkfish is making a come back because of strict netting regulation, so look for the MSC label.
  • Orange Roughy – Now here is a fish that, like the grouper, is very long lived but reproduces slowly making it vulnerable to over fishing.  The Roughy can live to be over 100 years old, so it has high levels of mercury and is also on the EDF health advisory list
  • Salmon (Farmed) – as I explained before, the farm raised salmon are raised in pens in the ocean and are tightly packed.  These pens are treated with antibiotics and full of salmon threatening parasites.  Farmed raised salmon are on the EDF list also.
These are all fish that are either over fished are high in contaminates or both.  Go to The MSC certified “fish to eat” page to see pictures and updates on the available seafood.
Soft Shell Crab

One of the best things to eat are soft shell Crabs.  I just love the flavor of a nicely sauted crab and the way it’s naturally sweet sea food flavor is enhanced by the melted butter and herbs.  But my favorite is a soft shell crab Po Boy sandwich.  The crispy fried legs sticking out of  toasted French bread or hoagie roll and smothered with Tartar sauce.  Delicious

Season

Soft shell crabs are in season from May until September, but if you aren’t near the beach, and even then, you’ll most likely be eating a frozen one.  Freezing is not quite as good if the chef doesn’t dry the crab out before cooking.  I’ve only had fresh soft shell crab once and it was amazing.

About the Crab

The crab is a Blue Crab that is molting (shedding its shell) in order to grow larger.  The crab farmers only have a 1-3 hour window of opportunity to harvest the crabs in the “soft” form by collecting the crabs just before they molt and watching them until the perfect moment.   After that the new shell starts to harden.  The hardening process can be slowed for fresh soft shells by putting them on ice, but freezing obviously stops the process completely.

How to Clean

  

To clean the crab before cooking all you need is a sharp pair of scissors.  First turn the crab over and find lungs (left picture above), which are a fibrous like tissue right where you might think they are supposed to be.  Cut them off.  Then look for the apron which is also on the bottom and is hard, cut it and anything that seems too hard to eat off.  Finially flip the little guy over  (right picture above) and cut off the head and eye section.  Pat him dry and you are ready to go.

Buying the Crab by Size

Look in the frozen sea food section of your store or ask the fish monger, they will point you to the right spot.  Many stores carry pre-cleaned crabs or the fish monger can clean them for you.  The Prime size is good for sandwiches, but any size will do.  The larger ones are easier to clean.

 

If you can’t find them at your local store, you can also buy 2 dozen small crabs from our Fat Farm Store , or here at the store for 12 crabs totaling 1.5 lbs and have them shipped to your home.

Look for several recipes from frying to sandwiches under the recipe tab – Jughandle

 

 

 

How to Cook Fish

Believe it or not, according to Cook’s Bible there are 9 ways to cook fish.  I’m going to give you the short course on all 9 today.  Selecting and storing fish is another story all together and we’ll tackle that another day.  I will only tell you that the best way to select a fresh fish is to stick your finger into the meat.  If the flesh does not spring back to its original shape or if it exudes water, that fish has been out of the water too long or was not properly handled.  Fresh fish are like “Friday Night Lights” in that they should have “clear eyes” also.

1. Braising – Braising is a method of cooking in a liquid.  For fish the proper cut to braise is a steak.  Saute the fish steak on both sides with olive oil in an oven safe skillet or Dutch-oven.  Remove the fish and reserve it for later.  Add onion, garlic, shallots or similar ingredients to the pan and saute them for about 5 mins, separately from the fish.  Then add to the pan about 1/2 cup of your braising liquid of choice, which could be anything from water, stock, vinegar, or olive juice to wine.  Bring to a simmer and improve the mix with capers, anchovies, olives or other such stuff.  Return the fish to the pan and put the whole pan in a 400 deg oven for 8-10 minutes per inch of fish thickness.

 

 

2. Steaming – Stove top steaming can be accomplished in a “steamer” purchased for just that purpose or in any deep Dutch-oven or pot that can handle the size of the fish.  Into the deep pot add about 1 inch of water and arrange along the bottom something like cookie cutters or cooking rings or anything heat safe that will hold your fish above the water.  We are trying to steam the fish not poach it (see #3).  You can then put your fish on a plate or pan that will fit in the pot and let it rest on the cookie cutters above the water.  Bring the water to a slow boil and put the lid on the pot.  Steam the fish for roughly 10 mins per  inch of fish.  Most whole fishes will cook in under 15 mins. The picture to the left shows a couple of nice slices of fish in a bamboo steamer.  The cook has placed ginger and herbs on the fish while steaming.

 

 

Oven steaming can be even easier to do.  Place you cut of fish on a large sheet of heavy aluminum foil.  Season fish with salt, pepper or other spices or peppers and herbs.  Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon or lime, or wine on the fish (about 2 tablespoons).  Then fold the foil together over and over from the top, then both ends to create an air tight package, leaving a little space above the fish for steam.  Put the foil fish package on a cookie sheet and into a hot oven, 400-425 deg, for roughly 12-14 mins or until the package puffs up.  Carefully open the foil and serve.  This method is good for fillet or small fish steaks.

 

 

 

3. Poaching – Poaching as opposed to steaming cooks the fish in the liquid but more gently than braising and in more liquid.  While braising is good for fish that has a stronger texture, like swordfish, poaching is great for light flesh or flaky fish such as salmon.  For this reason, the poached fish is more easily handled if you wrap it in cheese-cloth for the poaching.  Place your fish in a large pot capable of holding the fish and liquid.  Cover the fish with your poaching liquid, which could be water, stock, wine or any combination.  Add your flavorings, such as, lemon, lime, bay leaves, parsley, salt, pepper, celery, cilantro etc, etc. Bring the liquid to a rolling boil then turn the heat off, cover the pot and let the fish poach in the hot liquid for 10-15 minutes.  Then remove and serve.  (This is where you thank me for the tip about the cheese-cloth.)

 

 

4. Pan-frying – Pan frying fish is just what it sounds like.  I fry everything in olive oil, both for health and flavor reasons.  Put 1/2 cup of oil in a frying pan.  Bring to a med-high heat (about 375 deg).  Meanwhile dredge the fish in beaten egg then in a combination of flour and cornmeal or Panko breadcrumbs.  Some people use cream of wheat.  Then fry in the hot oil for a few minutes per side or until nicely browned.

 

 

 

 

5. Sauteing – Sauteing is best accomplished with a fish fillet in a hot pan of butter and olive oil.  A small amount of olive oil is added to the butter to raise the smoke point of the butter.  Coat the fillet with seasoned flour or breadcrumbs or some combination of coatings, then saute in a about 1/4 inch of the butter/oil until brown and crispy.  Cook quickly and hot.

 

6. Broiling – This is by far the simplest method of cooking fish.  Just brush the fish with oil or butter and cook the fish in a oven safe pan in the broiler of your oven for 8-10 mins.  You don’t even have to turn over a thin piece of fish.

 

 

 

 

7. Grilling – This is the hardest method of cooking fish.  With sticking a problem, fish can fall apart, so select a nice firm fish such as swordfish or use a grilling basket to hold the fish.  Sea foods are nice to grill.  Shrimp is easy in the shell and lobster is amazing.  The problem with grilling is the heat.  You need a med heat to cook fish, which is hard to accomplish on the grill.  Remember to remove the fish when it is slightly under-cooked to allow the residual heat to finish it off.  Tuna is nice on the grill (see the picture on the left).

 

 

 

8. Roasting – Roasting is the best way to cook a whole fish.  Place the fish on a roasting pan in a hot (450 deg) oven and cook until done, basting with hot oil or butter during the roasting process.  The fish is done when the skin easily peals off or the tip of a sharp knife can easily pierce to the bone.

 

 

 

 

9. Marinating (Ceviche) – Yes, this is a cooking method.  Marinating fish in a acidic liquid for a period of time actually cooks the flesh.  Because no heat is used, you should only try this method with very fresh fish and shell fish.  Cut the fish into small 1/4 -3/8 inch cubes and marinate in the refrigerator covered in vinegar, lime or lemon juice for 4 to 24 hours.  Combine with other flavors and serve.

 

 

 

 

Enjoy your new skills.  Let me know what you’re doing – Jughandle