Monday, September 14, 2009

Freezing Fish for Long Term Storage

Fishing is a great survival skill and something everyone should spend a little time doing. After all, practice makes perfect and there aren’t too many things that are more fun to practice than fishing, unless of course you’re pumping a few rounds through your 12 gauge shotgun. The main problem is that when you become proficient enough to catch a lot of fish; you can’t eat it all and need to put some up for later. One of the best ways to preserve your extra fish you’ve caught for later use is by freezing.

Fish won’t keep very long when frozen if you don’t take a little time to do it right. Just wrapping it in tin foil (save that for your hat!) or plastic wrap isn’t going to do you or your fish a lot of good. After a couple of months, it will hardly be worth cooking because much of the moisture and a lot of the flavor will be gone. This is due to the fish drying out because of what is usually referred to as “freezer burn”. The technical term for this is called sublimation.

Now if you weren’t paying attention in high school chemistry class you probably don’t remember what sublimation is all about. It’s simply a process where ice turns to water vapor without becoming water first. This is made even more difficult to control when freezing fresh meat items because most modern day freezers now have automatic defrosting mechanisms.
It’s not really a big secret on how to properly freeze your fish for long term storage and the technique can be used for other types of fresh meat as well. Simply clean, fillet and skin them as you normally would and it’s best to remove the heads and tails also. Then using a proper storage container for freezing food items, which can be easily purchased most anywhere, you are ready to freeze your fish.

The trick is to completely cover your fish with water in an appropriate container. Leave a little space at the top but make sure your fish are completely covered with water. You may want to tap the side of your container to make sure there aren’t any air bubbles trapped inside your container with the fish. Then freeze your storage container. It’s that simple! Your fish will be frozen in a solid block of ice that will prevent moisture lost, or freezer burn, and you will have fish that will retain its flavor for a year or more when frozen in this manner.

To prepare it for cooking simply let it thaw at room temperature in a colander or strainer which will allow the water to drain away as it thaws. After your frozen fish has completely thawed, simply pat it dry with some paper towels and prepare it according to your favorite recipe.

Staying above the frozen water line!



Bellen said...

Thanks for the info. Next month when hubby turns 65 he will not have to pay for a fishing license - fresh or salt water. We will supplement our protein stores this way.

idahobob said...

We vacuum seal ours with the ol' Food Saver.


The Other Mike S. said...

Great tip. I remember as a kid catching stringers of blue gills and freezing them in cut-off cardboard milk containers.

Like idahobob, we now use the food saver. This past weekend, I just discovered some trout from 2 years ago that we vacuum sealed. It was perfect!

riverwalker said...

To: Bellen

My grandmother used to store shrimp in old waxed milk containers this way. It's cheap, easy and doesn't require any special equipment.

Thanks Bellen!


riverwalker said...

To: idahobob

Vacuum sealing works to solve the freezer burn problem and is a great way to accomplish the same thing. Just need the right equipment!

Thanks idahobob!


riverwalker said...

To: The Other Mike S.

Be careful or you'll give away your age! It's funny the way you remember things your parents and grandparents did when you were a kid and now find yourself doing much the same thing.

Thanks for the compliment!


Did it MY way said...

My grandfather taught me well to. Still use the water trick today, but sadly no cardboard milk containers.

May join the vacuum seal crowd if I can find the right equipment. But gramps would say it's a waste of money.

SciFiChick said...

Now you have me wanting to go "practice" fishing!

riverwalker said...

To: Did It My Way

Do you remember when milk came in glass bottles with the paper seals. there was a time when you could get milk delivered straight to your door in those little quart bottles and glass jugs. Times are surely changing!

Thanks my friend!


riverwalker said...

To: SciFiChick

My daughter is an avid fisherman (oops!fisherperson?) and has gotten extremely good at it. no reason why you can't become good at fishing as well.

You can even use bacon for bait!

Thanks SciFiChick!


Mayberry said...

I do this with ziplock bags. Works great. I've eaten fish after six months or more (back when I used to get the big'uns!) and it was just fine. Mmmmmm, wahoo steaks....

John Wesley said...

I know what you mean about the texture and taste changing if fish isn't frozen correctly. I remember having frozen fish at my grandparents' place one time that tasted pretty bland. They may have frozen fish and done it right more often than not, but that one time is what sticks in my memory.

riverwalker said...

To; Mayberry

You just need to watch out for air in your ziplock bags. Don't want to let that fish get ruined after you went to all the trouble of catching them!

Thanks Mayberry!


riverwalker said...

To: John Wesley

Sometimes food will lose its flavor, no matter how well you try to keep it properly stored.

Thanks John!


tatonka said...

Hi folks, 1st off let me say this blog is a good source of info.

I've been freezing fish in water for years but after about six months the fish will sometimes take on a white tint, making me think it's freezer burned. Has anyone else experienced this and is it OK to eat? I normally try to eat the fish within 6 months of freezing it.


Mayberry said...

Tatonka, I've never seen that happen, but then again, most of the fish I catch here have white meat. I have frozen blackfin tuna this way, which has reddish flesh, and not noticed any whitening. But blackfin doesn't last six months in my freezer anyways, I eat it too fast!

tatonka said...

Thanks for the reply Mayberry. The fish I am concerned about are freshwater yellow perch. The meat when fresh is slightly gray. When/if it turns white, it's really white. I usually just toss it at that point. I think I'll start freezing smaller quantities and then vacuum seal to see if it lasts longer.

I don't think I've ever had Blackfin Tuna. Bet that doesn't come packaged in little tins at the supermarket :-)

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