Nov 26 2020

Whitefish Fishing 3: Grilling

Published by under Foods

Grilling is my favourite way of preparing whitefish, and this method also works well for other fatty trout species.

First part of the process is to cut slits in the skin (and a bit into the flesh) all the way along on both sides. This will make the fish grill much more thoroughly than if the skin was left intact. Cut the tail off as well, as this is where the stick will enter.

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Enter the stick along the spine up to the head, making sure the stick does not come out into the body cavity or out through the skin. This method will make it far easier to turn the fish while you grill it, than if you had threaded through the cavity. You can do the aforementioned cutting in the skin after threading the fish if you find that easier.

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The fire should preferably have burned down to mostly coals. I don’t like grilling over flames because it burns more easily and turns black with soot. Cook the fish on both sides until golden. The fins might burn off and that is fine. Also grill a bit inside the cavity to make sure it cooks through.

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There you go, very easy and fast way of grilling fish. And far superior taste to all other methods I have tried. I use this method both with fresh and salted whitefish.

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Nov 25 2020

Whitefish Fishing 2: Preparing the Fish

Published by under Foods

The European whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) is a salmonid and largely has the same bone structure as the other in the genus. Unlike brown trout and arctic char it has large scales, so it needs more preparation before cooking than the aforementioned. Removing the scales is mainly a matter of cleanliness as they tend to make an unappetising mess out of any dish.

It is helpful, but not necessary to have a board when scaling whitefish. The scaling can be done with a sharp bone like here or a dull knife. Too sharp knives can easily dig into the skin and will be annoying to work with. Scrape the fish as fresh as possible. Any dryness of the skin will make it significantly harder/impossible to scrape them. Also, scrape them before gutting, otherwise it will be next to impossible to scrape the belly portion of the skin in the belly section.

The fish is held by the head and scraped against the scales. Do this until the fish is virtually scale free.

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If you want a cleaner job, you can rinse the fish free of scales before you continue, but I often only rinse after having both scaled and gutted. Start by inserting the tip of the knife into the anus and cut up the belly up to the throat.

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The last part towards the throat is ripped apart and the gills are separated from the flesh portion of the fish.

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If I am working as speedily as possible and not saving any of the guts, then I will omit these next steps and just rip out the guts including the gills from the front, but since I am here taking care of a few things, I disconnect the anus to make for easier access.

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Next I remove the liver, taking care to pinch off the gall bladder.

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If there is sufficient quantity of roe or milt (as in this male fish) I pull those out as well.

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Sometimes there is a lot of white fat stuck to the guts. If there is I pinch that off as well. If the fish is large I might cut open the stomach and clean it (tastes like squid) and also save the heart.

Next I pull the guts out. In this particular case I removed the swim bladder first and then pulled the guts out the front. However, I often do both at the same time, pulling towards the back.

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The black portion along the spine (the kidneys) is scraped out with my thumbnail.

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Last the fish is rinsed in water. This is most easily done many fish together in a willow basket. It can now be cooked, dried or salted. If they are to be frozen, they keep better only scraped, not gutted. Short term storage in a plastic bag or threading the head onto a thin tree branch is unproblematic. Especially in cold conditions.

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This might seem like a long process and as you are learning it it might take a while. However, since I have prepared thousands of fish this way it takes me probably less than a minute in total per fish. If I don’t save any of the innards, then probably around 30 seconds.

From lakes with little parasites I often eat the innards raw. This particular lake has quite a bit of parasites so I fry them first. I discard all livers with discolouration.

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Nov 24 2020

Whitefish Fishing 1: Fishing

Published by under Catching Animals,Foods

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Late autumn is the primary time for fishing European whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) in these parts. They used to river spawn in a big river connected to this lake, but some stupid and unnecessary decisions in regards to some hydroelectric stuff destroyed that fishing. Currently they can thus only spawn in the lake itself.

This lake could sustain a fishing of 30 tonnes whitefish a year, but I doubt more than a ton is fished every year. Despite this, the fish is of fair size and quality, however probably gradually decreasing.

The local saying is that when the snow is on the ground the fishing is the best. This year the snow is quite late, but the fish are still spawning. However, not in the sheer numbers we might get later and which we also saw last year when snow was on the ground. Water temperature is the trigger and although I don’t know the exact temperature, we generally have the best catches between 2 and 5 metres depth at this time of the year.

At other times you might need to go a lot deeper, except in a few special locations, where they appear to go shallow pretty much all year.

We set the nets from land and out. Catches are often poor closest too land and in deep water, but we always diversify a bit in case there has been a change in water temperature.

There is not much else to be said for this fishing other than that the nets are set overnight and taken up in the morning. When the fishing is prime we can get 50kg a day or more, depending on how many gill nets we use.

Side catch in this particular lake is brown trout (Salmo trutta) and arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus). They have their own special seasons, but occasionally appear in whitefish catches, very much dependent upon locality.

The catch is given away, eaten right away or salted for future use.

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Nov 23 2020

Splitting Planks 2: Making Wedges

Published by under Wood Working

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Wedges sound like the easiest thing to make and yes, they are simple. However, there are as usual some consideration. The wood exerts a lot of pressure on them and the mallet will give them a heavy beating. So they should not be too small or made out of weak wood. The best woods are hardwoods, in this case I am using downy birch (Betula pubescens).

A normal firewood piece that has a bit of length and width to it will suffice. It is also an advantage if it splits reasonably straight. This one spiraled a bit, and that is taken out first. Take out the spiral in the direction of what will become the tip of the wedge.

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Next you hew the other side. Hew it pretty much to the top to get the most working part possible. You don’t want to go too thin as it will make the edge flimsy and it will blunt easily.

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Then make a secondary bevel, so it will penetrate the crack more readily.

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Finally you round off the edges to decrease chances of pieces splitting off when taking heavy blows with the mallet.

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They can be used fresh, but strength and durability increases a lot when they are dried properly.

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Nov 18 2020

Splitting Planks 1: Making a Mallet

Published by under Wood Working

Having a heavy wooden mallet is very useful when splitting planks. Especially when using wooden wedges it is virtually a must. You can use the hammer on your axe, however this tends to split and destroy them relatively quickly. Good wedges are valuable assets and they represent a fairly big time investment in construction as you need so many. Because of this you might want to have a system to make them last longer.

This particular blank is not ideal; the handle could have been straighter onto the trunk, but the handle and trunk was the right thickness, so I deemed it to qualify. It is downy birch (Betula pubescens) which has a good hardness and strength for this task

After the tree was felled, the ends are cut with an axe. The business end should preferably be axed off and not sawn. The axe compresses the grain when it cuts and will make the end somewhat harder, soak up less moisture and be less likely to split. The same end also has the corners shaved off. This greatly reduces likelihood of splitting the mallet during usage.

The bark was shaved off on the whole mallet, to make the tool dry faster. The birch bark could have increased the resilience of the hammer itself if left on, but it would dry out more slowly. The bark on the handle should be removed to improve grip on birch, but this might not be critical on other species.

I will let the tool dry at least for a bit before using it. Drying adds a lot of compression strength to the wood and it is also a bit on the heavy side in the fresh state.

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