Smoked bluefish

Another full day of gardening. It’s the time of year when the weather is perfect, lots to pick and lots being planted. I needed room for another carrot patch so I pulled the jalapeno pepper plants. There were a fair number of peppers still clinging to the branches but they had quit putting out new blossoms so their end was close in any event. I was a little surprised to find enough after gleaning to make another 6 pints of pickled peppers. That brings the total close to 20 pints for the season, from 4 plants. I know my neighbor picked a few too so that’s a good calibration point for the future – better than a pint per plant per season. My rate of eating is maybe 2 pints a month so there’s plenty of overlap season to season. By that I mean we’ll be pickling next years first batch in June before finishing the last of the 2012 jars.

Today I planted 4 rows of Bloomsdale spinach, a classic heritage variety; 4 rows of Harrier beets, and 5 rows of Nantes carrots. These are crops that yield lots from a small garden area. I’ve never had much luck with beets and this is a new variety for me to try. I read that they like bone meal mixed in the soil so I’ll give that a go if I can find any. So far, none in Pierson but I know I can pick it up at Lowes.

I have to sadly report another crop failure. The bugs got the butternuts. Damn, I hate that. All I have to do is spray the plants on a regular basis from when they emerge to when they’re done but I just hate spraying insecticides. I’m convincing myself that with hard skinned veggies, it’s OK to spray so the spring crop will be another shot.

The big project for the day is smoking bluefish to generate the base material for fish dip. I have to defrost and fillet the fish first. (Wonder if the fish carcasses count as bone meal? For sure they are going to be strategically buried in the garden.) The process involves soaking the fish in a brine for a day before smoking so it’s a two day venture. The brine is a fairly complex mix of water and spices. After removing the fillets from the brine they have to be air dried on a rack for 3 to 5 hours. That’s what you see in the pic. I have just enough rack space for the number of fillets so just as well I quit keeping fish when I did. They say this is a very important step because if the fish is wet, the smoke doesn’t work. The smoking itself is a little different from that I’ve used on meat. The instructions are to smoke it for one hour at 200 degrees then drop the temp to 150 degrees for two hours using a strong scented wood such as mesquite or hickory. Turns out that I’ll have no idea what kind of wood chips I’m using. When Tom got me the smoker for Christmas, he also bought a variety of wood types so I’d be equipped to handle anything. Problem is that the labels have all faded away so there’s no way to tell which is which. My smeller has long since left so I can’t take a whiff so whatever it is, it is.

Fillets ready to smoke
Fillets ready to smoke

Results – The fillets were definitely cooked but still moist. I was thinking they might end up with more like a jerky texture. The 16 fillets yielded four 10-12 oz bags of shredded smoked fish, all in the freezer. A bag should mix with an 8 oz block of creme cheese and assorted other ingredients to make a bowl of dip. There are many recipes but the creme cheese base seems to be the most common.

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