By Debbie Bier, Publisher and Editor of this blog
My household has recently completed 12 weeks of local pick-ups from the Gloucester Community Supported Fishery (CSF). I can honestly say that before this, I have never eaten fish before.
Oh, I had eaten plenty of things that purported to be fish, some of which was from some pretty upscale seafood establishments. But the stuff we received from the CSF was unlike anything else I've ever eaten. This stuff was ambrosial, delectable, fabulous... and just nothing short of remarkable tasting. Even cooked leftovers the next day tasted more wonderful than any other fish I've ever eaten.
And the scent! You know the saying: fish shouldn't smell fishy. The only thing these fish smelled of was ocean breezes and salt water. I had no idea this was possible!
To say it was fresh does not bring things to a fine enough point, because what truly fresh fish means was hitherto unknown to me. It's not just that these fish were out of the water often less than 24 hours -- which was amazing in and of itself -- but that they were delivered to subscribers largely whole.
That minimal processing is what seems to have made much more difference than I could ever have imagined. During the processing, the exposure of the fish's flesh to air, moisture and bacteria seem to decay it amazingly fast. Instead, I would cook whole or fillet (and sometimes skin) and cook a large fish -- which always arrived gutted -- within no more than an hour of that home processing. Small fish came ungutted, and those I would gut, cook whole or fillet and cook just as quickly.
Even a first-rate fish store or restaurant must first fillet, skin, and/or cut its fish into serving pieces hours earlier than we did at home. It's not generally possible for them to process and cook their fish in what is basically the one fell-swoop that we did. What an amazing difference this made!
These are the types of fish we received: cod, pollack, haddock, cod, flounder, monkfish, cod, and whiting. Oh, yes -- and also some cod. It's worth reading in their newsletter (http://namanet.org/files/csf/CAFC_Sep_newsletter_final.pdf
) how and why they choose the species they select for the day's catch. We're very impressed that they seem to be careful to look at the entire ecosystem's health for their choices, which doesn't seem to be the norm. It's too complex to go into here, but it's worth reading.
Now, is this CSF stuff for everyone? I'd say, quite decidedly: no. The first person we were supposed to split our share with was grossed out by the fish not arriving neatly pre-processed like it would from a fish store or supermarket. The second -- and final -- person we split our share with loved every bit of what she got and never, never complained of its rustic qualities.
There is also a learning curve involved. It took me maybe 3 deliveries to respectably get the hang of filleting. And I didn't realize how much our knives needed sharpening until our first delivery -- if you do this, make sure you have really sharp knives first!
There is also some time involved in the handling of the fish each week. By the 12th week I was able to get filleting and skinning and cleaning up after a 7-8 lb cod down to 20-25 minutes. But earlier on, it was much, much more time consuming! But the time devoted was entirely worth it to us. Just know to leave aside at least an hour the first time or two you do this.
And let me say something about the quantity of fish we received: it was A LOT. In the end, 5 people ate very well for 2-3 days from the full share (I think they're now referring to this as a "double share"). This was amazing bounty -- at a very good price. But a bit daunting sometimes! However, we somehow managed to rise to the occasion and enjoyed every morsel.
Starting in early December, we'll start participating in another share, and we've chosen the option to have fish one week, shrimp the next. For more info, see the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance website: http://namanet.org/csf/cape-ann-fresh-catch
We're thankful to ConcordCAN
for helping us become aware of this program.