Do you love big bluegill?
You know how some fish are just calling out to be eaten? You know, these are plentiful fish that bite reliably, are usually always around and which are just the right pan size. But no one keeps these fish for eating, because they have a "muddy" or "weedy" taste. I'm thinking of fish like bullheads, certain catfishes, carp, and even largemouth bass, at times.
Much of this has to do with the waters they come from, of course. But some fish are reputed to just be not worth eating, for that strong muddy taste they develop. If you've ever wished that you could change that, here may be your answer.
I was recently researching carp, and found an obscure method for preparing them. This "secret" trick was said to remove any objectionable taste they might have. making them sweet and crisp to the palate. SO what is this miracle method?
It's real simple - soak the cleaned fish in lemon line soda pop! Whether filets or skin-on-whole, letting them steep in a bath of 7-UP takes the bad taste away!
And it works with the cheap stuff as well as the premier brands. just soak the fish for 45 minutes or so and pat dry before cooking in your usual way. Our own Mike Stacy tried it today, panfrying bullhead Southern-style. Here's what he says:
Good post man, I cant stand to eat a strong flavored fish & have been try'n to look up something like this very thing, definately try'n it.
Not to long ago while diggin around on a survivalist forum they got on the subject of eat'n carp, from a survivalist veiwpoint it makes sence because ther in every body of water in the U.S. & the numbers are off the chart.
Sevral had eat'n them and to many peoples suprise said they were good table fare, you just have to cut out the dark strip of meat along teh sides (lateral line I'm guess'n) and fix teh way ya want, some did soak in milk/butter milk beforefry'n & some done them up in patties.
The lateral line, and to a lesser degree the backstrap and belly strips, yes. These take on importance once the fish gets above a certain size. In general, you want to remove darker colored flesh from these areas when you find it. The oils that concentrate the off-flavors are strongest in this dark flesh.
The milk soak is another method that has been time tested. The proteins in the milk bind with the off-flavored oils and when you toss the milk - out go the "icky" tastes. The problem is, milk is well over $3/gallon now and expected to rise. Tossing it out seems kinda wrong, somehow. With lemon/lime at less than $2/gallon, it just makes good sense to go that way.
You may not know it, but carp were introduced in the US as a food fish in the late 1800's. The fish was seen as a way to feed an ever increasing population, and indeed, they are eaten all over the world. Their introduction here came as a result of studies done by a commission appointed under Ulysses S. Grant.
I tried to eat a carp when I was about 12, and it was my first experience with the "Y" shaped lateral bones that certain fish have. I didn't fillet the fish properly at all, but I know the trick now. I don't remember the fish tasting particularly bad, but it was so full of fine bones I only had one bite!
'Y' bone type fish can be steamed, and the meat will lift in strips on a knife blade, and the row of fine bones can be scraped away. Bonefish were always one of my favorite meals when I was living in Hawaii, and this method is probably the ONLY way to eat a BONEfish.
My next carp will come out of the Sprite, and go straight into the steamer. Billions of Chinese can't be wrong... carp is all over the menu there!
I've got a picture of a 30 lb grass carp that bit on my ultra light bream rod in my photo section. They ARE everywhere... I remember guys fishing for them with corn in Pennsylvania. I don't think they were after food, just the thrill of fighting a BIG fish, and they DO fight!
And throwing out milk is wrong. Making hush puppies with it doesn't make sense either, if it's loaded with the gamy flavor from the soak. SODA! It works. Promise!
There is a way to remove the bones from a carp, before cooking, but I don't remember what it is. Can you describe it?
I used to fish for them, too, when I lived in WI. We didn't eat them then, either, it was just for something to do. And they were F-U-N to catch. While not bluegill, they can make for a good combo fishing trip... sort of a one-two angling punch.
Its worth remembering that the lemon/lime soak was first brought to my attention as a way to prepare carp for the table. The way it was described, the person was doing it to prepare the fish for frying as you did. By his report, it turned out as well as yours.
I'm most familiar with carp being poached the way you described. I think it is the most common way. Once de-boned, the pre-cooked meat is used to make fritters, sandwich filling, even eaten like shrimp cocktail.
I found this - its long and I had a little trouble following along.I'm no carp expert:
If your family insists on fish with no bones at all, with a little more work you can remove all the bones from a fillet.The shape of the meat that results is different from what most people are familiar with, but the taste is excellent.You should start with a fish of at least 8 pounds, at least until you are familiar with the technique.
Start with the top half of a fillet. Lay the fillet on your cutting board so that the outside of the fish is up.With your fingers, feel for a hard portion on the first inch of the filet.There are a couple of unusual pine cone-shaped bones in the first inch or so of the top half of the fillet.These make bone removal from that section impossible. Starting behind this hard section, holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, cut a long strip of meat from the top of the fillet, exposing the Y-bones (6).This will result in a boneless piece of meat about as thick as a crappie filet, but about two inches wide and very long.
Using shallow cuts, free the meat from above and below the exposed Y-bones (7).
Turn the fillet over.You will see a row of white dots that indicate where the point of the Y-branch of the bone nears the cut surface of the fillet.Make a cut parallel to and right above the row of dots (8). Cut down until the knife contacts the main shaft of the Y-bone.Cut and scrape sideways with the knife to remove a long, rope-like piece of boneless meat.
Repeat step 3,making your cut just below the row of dots (9) and removing the remainder of the usable meat from the top half of the fillet.
Now de-bone the bottom half of a filet (10).You have already de-boned the meat from the rib cage section when you left the ribs attached to the skeleton. Cut the ribcage section off and put it with your boneless meat. Now repeat steps 3 and 4 with the remaining portion of the bottom fillet. The bones lie very near the surface of the meat on the bottom half of the fillet, so there is no need to repeat steps 1 and 2.
Repeat above with the other side of the fish. Once you become proficient, it takes about 20 minutes to completely de-bone an Asian carp. That may seem like a lot of work, but if you can generate 3 pounds of bluegill fillets in a similar time, you are faster with a fillet knife than Zorro with his sword.
Another way carp are prepared (I've eaten them cooked this way in Asia) is to fry them in such a way that the whole fish is rather crispy, and the bones (even the larger ones) become crispy and edible. Don't know what the technique is (I'll ping my wife, she might know), but I had a carp once at a restaurant in Yokohama's China Town that was cooked that way, and it was excellent.
When watching an episode or River Monsters, she saw those carp that jump out of the water when a boat goes by and wished she could catch a few. She also wouldn't mind living in a state with snakeheads. They, too, are a prized food fish in Asia and I can testify that they are, indeed, delicious. If you catch a snakehead, don't just toss it aside. They're great eating.!
I used to fish alongside some elderly Filipino folks when I lived In Key West. This was waaaaay before I knew about the lemon-lime soak. We always seemed to be in the same places, and eventually became fast fishing friends. I remember once the wife got after me for tossing back the little fish -
"Why you always throw fish back? Give 'em to me - I eat everything!"
And it was true, she kept everything that I can remember. You should have seen her excitement when schools of squid would come around the dock lights at night. I thought she was gonna dive in after them, a couple of times. And God help the skate or ray that got hooked when she was around.
That taught me a couple of things - you really can eat anything and we are way too picky.
We fish for sport, of course. Our little hooks and fancy lures are as much a billion dollar industry as anything. Even those of us that eat what we catch probably aren't depending solely on them for food.
But around the world, many fish we turn our noses up at are highly prized as sustenance. Those silver carp that jump out of the water when startled? They "strike" me as a great food source, if we only brought ourselves to eating them.
Your stomach doesnt care what your mind thinks of it. I've made it my quest to try and follow that example.