General Rules for Freezing and Storing Fish and Shellfish

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fish-and-shellfish_cFish should be no more than 24 hours old when frozen, and shop-bought fish is rarely suitable except for the smoked varieties. Fish should only be stored for the minimum time in the freezer. White fish (cod, plaice, sole, whiting) will keep for a maximum of 6 months; fatty fish (haddock, halibut, herring, mackerel, salmon, trout, turbot) will store for 4 months; shellfish for no longer than 1 month. But smoked fish will keep up to 12 months.

Cooked fish is hardly worth freezing, since reheating will spoil its flavour and rob the fish of nutritive value, and fish should never be overcooked. Dishes such as Fish Cakes are, however, useful for quick meals.

Cleaning the fish

Fish for freezing should be scaled if necessary, and the fins removed. Small fish can be left whole. Large fish may be left whole without heads or tails, or can be divided into steaks. Flat fish and herrings are best gutted, and Hat fish are easier to cook later if skinned and filleted. Fatty fish should be washed in fresh water, but other fish should be washed in salt water removing all blood and membranes.

Dry pack

This is the most commonly used pack for fish. They should be separated by a double thickness of cellophane, then wrapped in freezer paper, foil or polythene, or put into cartons. The wrappings must be close to the fish to exclude air which will dry the fish and remove its flavour. Freeze quickly in coldest part of freezer.

Brine pack

Fish prepared by this method should not be stored longer than 5 months; it is not suitable for fatty fish. Dip the fish into cold salted water (1 tablespoon salt to 1 quart water), drain and wrap in freezer paper, foil, polythene or cartons. Freeze quickly after packing.

Acid pack

The colour and flavour of fish is preserved by citric acid, and the development of rancidity is retarded by ascorbic acid. Fish can be dipped in a solution of 1 part ascorbic-citric acid powder to 100 parts water before draining and wrapping. This powder can be made up by a chemist.

Solid ice pack

This method saves wrapping material, but the packs may take up more freezer space. Fish should be separated by double paper, then packed into refrigerator trays or loaf tins covered with water, and frozen into solid blocks. This can be used for a quantity of small fish, steaks or fillets. The fish can also be frozen in water in large waxed tubs, covering the fish to within 1/2 inch of the top and crumbling a piece of cellophane on top of the fish before putting on lid.

Glazing whole fish

Large whole fish such as salmon, salmon trout, haddock or halibut can be glazed. The fish should be cleaned, then put against the freezer wall in the coldest part of the freezer without wrappings. When the fish is frozen solid, it should be dipped very quickly in cold water to form a thin coating of ice. After returning the fish to the freezer for 1 hour, repeat the process, continuing until ice is 1/4 inch thick. The fish can be stored without wrappings for 2 weeks, or can be wrapped in freezer paper or foil for longer storage.

Thawing and cooking

Fish should be thawed slowly in unopened wrappings, preferably in the refrigerator. Allow 6 hours in a refrigerator or 3 hours at room temperature for 1 lb of fish. Complete thawing is not necessary, except for frying and frozen fish can be used tor all types of recipes.

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