The mackerel have been running lately, and we have been enjoying a nice catch of these beautiful fish with iridescent blue-green bodies, silvery white underbelly and black bars across the top half of their body. The Atlantic mackerel is one of the most common of the Scombridae species usually found in large shoals migrating toward the coast to feed on small fish during the summer.
The efficient spindle shape of the mackerel body and their strong tail fin give this fish the ability to move swiftly through the water. They overwinter in colder waters, but move inshore to feed as the water warms. Here in Crocket Cove, they have been running in schools with the incoming tide. We fish with a hook and line from the boat, or sometimes even off the pier.
When raw, the meat of the Atlantic mackerel looks greyish and oily, and when cooked, it becomes off-white, flaky and moist. Mackerel is extremely high in Vitamin B12 and is an excellent source of omega- 3 fatty acids. Nutrition research has shown that consumption of omega-3 fatty acids helps maintain a healthy heart and cardio-vascular system, prevents diabetes, and slows the growth of cancer cells in the body.
Mackerel has been an important food source for Mainers for generations. Old time cookbooks have recipes for pan fried mackerel dipped in cornmeal and fried in bacon fat, mackerel baked in vinegar and butter, potted mackerel, mackerel stew and Spanish mackerel. My latest culinary adventure was layering mackerel filet with sliced orange and chopped fennel in an aluminum foil packet and cooking it on the grill. The oil of the fish was the perfect complement for the juice of the orange, resulting in a moist, tender and flavorful dinner.
Our favorite way to preserve mackerel is to smoke them and freeze in individual packages to share with family and friends. One fish yields about four ounces of meat, enough for an appetizer plate for four people. Smoked mackerel also makes tasty pasta with cream sauce, and a delicious sandwich.
A note to my readers: Looking for recipes to can mackerel. So many folks have shared that they remember their grandmothers canning mackerel and enjoying it the winter, but have no recipe. I’m interested in all mackerel recipes…..and I’ll share them and the dish with you! You can email me here.
Smoked Mackerel with Horseradish Cream
- 4 ounces smoked mackerel
- 1 European style seedless cucumber
- 2 ounces goat cheese at room temperature may substitute cream cheese
- 2 teaspoons horseradish or more to taste
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt or sour cream
- Fresh dill
- Sea salt and fresh pepper
- In a small bowl, combine the goat cheese and horseradish. Add enough plain yogurt to make a spreadable “cream” and season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper. Slice the cucumber into rounds and spread a small amount of horseradish cream on each slice. Top with a piece of smoked mackerel and garnish with a sprig of fresh dill. Makes four appetizer or first course servings.