Every time our meager Food Over 50 crew packs up the gear and flies over to Scotland to shoot some on-location production segments, I'm pretty much guaranteed that there's going to be some eye rolling and chuckles on the plane. That's because they know, first thing, that I'm going to insist the camera equipment gets weatherproofed and we crowd into the sturdy little boat to go fishing. It has become one of their little jokes at my expense.
The North Atlantic mackerel, Scomber Scomrus, is one of the most prolific finned fish in the ocean and the bay next to our remote production center in the Outer Hebrides is positively stuffed with them most of the year. Also known as Boston Mackerel, Norwegian Mackerel and even Scottish Mackerel, these silver-blue beauties average about 12" in length, a pound in weight and offer a bounty of nutritional value in their sleek but meaty physiques.
Have you happened to view episode #3 - Omega 3's: Are They A Fish Story? If so, you've seen us hauling these slippery rascals in with a hand line, or filleting the catch in order to hot-smoke them on the barbecue on the beach. Rest assured, the species is safe from Food Over 50's piddling predation. One healthy female mackerel can produce 450,000 eggs and despite an annual commercial catch of 1 million tons, the global biomass remains very sustainable. In fact, the International Union For The Conservation Of Nature ranks the Atlantic Mackerel at the bottom of their watch list, marked "Least Concern."
We chose to prepare Smoked Mackerel Pate as one of the seafood recipes for episode 3 because it's extremely tasty, loaded with B-vitamins, Selenium, Niacin, and directs a little attention to the fact that Mackerel is woefully underused as a healthy protein source. When most people eat fish the choice is salmon, tuna or cod. That's it. However smaller and more oily fish like mackerel and herring are far more sustainable, not anywhere near as 'fishy" as people think and contain nearly double the healthy Omega 3 fatty acids as salmon.
There is an old Hebridean saying about Mr. McMackerel that everyone abides in The Isles. "Never let your catch see another tide." This means don't let the fish sit around for long once it's in the boat. Clean and cook it, freeze it, smoke it or can it quickly, before the abundant fish oils go rancid and the taste suffers. It's wise advice because freshly caught mackerel compares with any other fish in the sea, taste-wise, if it's fresh. Quickly cleaning and smoking the mackerel is one of the best ways to lock in the underlying fresh fish taste when it too needs to travel.
So next time you're thinking about preparing salmon pate or tuna salad, give mackerel a try instead. Whether it's freshly caught - if you're lucky enough to do the catching - or smoked and packaged from your favorite grocery store, it's delicious, it's sustainable and it's the highest source of healthy Omega 3's you're ever going to eat!
Oh, and as for our production crew and their inside joke about getting dragged out in the boat every time we hit the Isle of Lewis, you should know that our remote location cameraman is a landlubber who gets seasick. So who exactly gets the last laugh?