I over ordered slightly this weekend and was left with half a dozen mackerel at the end of the day. I love mackerel, I could eat them every day. They're an incredibly versatile fish and while I've tried my hand at most things, from ceviche to escabeche, I'd never got round to pickling them.
The thought of soused seafood can be off-putting enough for some people, but knowing it's been done by an eccentric amateur can really add to the concern. Still, I thought I'd plunge in with two very different techniques: one Japanese, one Scandinavian.
The Japanese shime saba is possibly the best thing I've ever done with mackerel. It's super easy, pretty quick and the melting texture and subtle flavour are really quite something. Please do give it a go, it will blow your mind.
At the time of writing, I still haven't had a chance to try the Scandinavian pickle (it's still ruminating in the fridge). But will do a 'how to' in a couple of days (once I can guarantee it's deliciousness).
Shime Saba (Japanese cured mackerel)
Enough for 4 as a starter
I once ate mackerel raw, on a boat, seconds after dispatching it. It was great. According to the Japanese, that's the only way to do it. As soon as the fish has been landed, they wouldn't dream of eating mackerel as traditional sashimi, it's always cured before it is made into sushi (new to me too).
Mackerel deteriorates quickly and within a few days, it can become quite pungent and fishy. This ancient curing technique is used to prevent that. Obviously, the freshness of the mackerel is key here. If you got it from us, then obviously, it's probably still gleaming. If you're not a member of SoleShare however, go to a local fishmongers, this time of year, they should have some.
A cup of rice vinegar
2 tsp Sugar
1. First off, fillet your mackerel (don't know how, join us for a filleting workshop). Make sure to remove the rib bones from the side of the fillet, don't worry about the pin bones running down the middle though.
2. Lay the fillets on a rack and salt generously on both sides. Pop this on top of a dish (the salt will draw water from the flesh and it'll drip). Leave the fillets to cure for an hour. Once they're done, they will be noticeably firmer to the touch.
3. After they've cured for an hour, gently rinse the salt from each fillet under a cold tap. Pat the fillets dry with kitchen towel and pop them in the ziplock bag.
4. Using a potato peeler, pare off a few strips of lemon rind (half a lemon's worth) and add them to the ziplock bag as well.
5. Pour in enough rice vinegar to cover the fish and lemon and sprinkle in a couple of tsps of sugar. Seal the bag and pop it in the fridge for 45 minutes.
6. After 45 minutes of marinating, the acid from the vinegar will have cooked the outside of the fish and it'll look opaque. Lay the fillets on a chopping board and gently rub the corner of the shiny side, until the skin starts to come away. Pinching it, gently pull the skin from the fillet lengthways and discard.
7. Most sources I checked suggested removing the pin bones that run along the middle of the fillet. I skipped this step (by this point I was ravenous) and didn't notice them.
8. Finely slice the fillet into equal portions about a centimetre in length. Try to do this at an angle. The rack I used to cure the fish left some handy indentations which I used as a guide (see above).
9. Plate up, skin side up and serve with soy and wasabi. Prepare your mouth for a flavour bomb.