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Into The Outdoors: Ways to Freeze Fish

Recently, I referred to ticks in a column. Well, my son found out the hard way that they around. Last week, he noticed an itchy spot on his leg. At first, both he and I dismissed it as just a mosquito bite. As time went on, however, the welt got worse and worse, and became hot. So, off he went to the emergency room, where they told him that, it was, indeed a tick, and the welt indicated lyme disease. Fortunately, he sought medical attention in time, and was placed on an antibiotic. He hadn’t been in the woods or in the weeds. A tick found its way to him anyway. Watch out.

At this time of year, fishing is at its height. A lot of anglers are catching a lot of fish. Sometimes, those of us of the catch and eat group, find ourselves with a lot of fish on hand. Sometimes, especially with panfish, you wind up with a very large quantity of filets, and must freeze some. This week, let’s take a little look at various ways to freeze fish, starting with the poorest and working up to the best.

First of all, it should be understood that air is the number one enemy when it comes to freezing fish, or, for that matter, any food. What’s commonly known as freezer burn is not really burn at all, but drying out. The key to successful freezing is the removal of air. Therefore, the worst way to freeze your filets is to just toss them bare into the freezer. They’ll dry out in no time. If you choose to use plastic bags, remove as much air from the bag as you possibly can. You won’t get it all, but some is better than none.

For many years, I would freeze filets in a solid block of ice. This actually works very well. The ice, of course, keeps the air away from the fish. Using this method, I was able to keep fish in good shape for a very long time. There are a few drawbacks, though. For one thing, it’s a fair amount of work. Also, you have to find containers. Back when I first started doing this, paper milk cartons were still widely available. I would simply cut them down and use them for freezing fish. Nowadays, you have to buy plastic containers, or use those that contain whipped cream, cottage cheese, or similar products. Third, the containers take up a good bit of space in the freezer. Despite these problems, this is still the method of choice for a good many anglers.

A few years ago, I decided to give vacuum sealing a try, and I’m really glad I did. With this method, you just put your filets, or whole fish into a specially constructed plastic bag. Then, with a vacuum sealing machine, you draw all of the air out of the bag. The machine also seals the bag with heat. This method effectively removes all of the air from the bag. It virtually makes freezer burn a thing of the past. There are lots of these systems on the market, for a wide variety of prices. I have found the Food Saver brand to be far and away the best. I currently have an upright model that just about does everything for you, except for putting the fish in the bags. The bags are an expense, but not a bad one, and they take up very little space in the freezer. It should be noted that this method works equally well with meats and vegetables.

There are few things tastier than a nice batch of filets in the dead of winter. I hope this column proves useful to you.


Chris Henderson email:

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