Mackerel -

The Common MACKEREL, considered by many the most beautiful of all fish which find their way to our markets, make their appearance in early spring in immense shoals or "schools" off the coasts of Virginia and Maryland. Striking northward, they visit successively Cape May, Sandy Hook, Block Island, Cape Cod and various other points. They can be traced as far as Labrador. How much farther they go, no one can tell. They are, for the most part, caught in drift nets, shot into the sea from fishing smacks, but seines or single nets are often used.

The MACKEREL ranges in length up to seventeen or eighteen inches, the average market size being twelve inches and the weight from three-quarters of a pound to one pound. It varies in color from multi-hued to white, with dark-blue stripes on the back. It is full grown at about four years. The young fish are known as "spikes," "blinkers" and "tinkers." "Spikes," the smallest marketed, are five to six inches long and five to seven months old. "Blinkers" are a size larger. "Tinkers" are those approaching, but under, nine inches in length and are supposed to be about two years old.

The fresh fish is in season only from April to about September, but the greater part of the catch is consumed salted, smoked and canned - whole or filleted, "soused" or pickled, in oil, wine sauce, etc.

Salt MACKEREL are shipped first in barrels, to be later repacked according to the demands of the trade. They are carefully graded for the market as 1, 2, 3 and 4. No. 1 quality must not be under thirteen inches, free from taint, damage and rust, and fine, fat fish. No. 2 must be fat and free from rust, and not less than eleven inches. No. 3 consist of the best left after the selection of Nos. 1 and 2. No. 4 is the result of the three preceding assortings, but must be entirely free from damage or taint to pass muster.

The location in which MACKEREL are caught has an influence in determining their commercial value. The finest European catches are those taken off the coasts of Ireland and Norway. The best sold here are from the New England shore waters, the June catch being considered superior to the spring and fall crops.

In addition to the home supply, from twenty to thirty million pounds are imported annually, principally from the United Kingdom, Norway, Canada, Holland and Sweden.

The packing and re-packing of MACKEREL is an extensive business, and the result of the repacking is not always satisfactory to dealers or consumers. A barrel of MACKEREL should weigh two hundred pounds. Two half-barrels, then, should weigh one hundred pounds each, but it happens sometimes that half-barrels, scale fifteen to twenty pounds under that amount. The same remark applies to repacking in smaller quantities. A "kit" is a fifth of a half-barrel and ought to contain a full twenty pounds. Retailers should carefully weigh packages or contents and refuse their custom to firms which violate the principles of business honesty.

The MACKEREL is much esteemed, its flesh having an agreeable flavor, but, as usually prepared for the table, it is not readily digested on account of its large proportion of oil. This difficulty vanishes with proper cooking - by simmering it after boiling for a considerable time - three or four times as long as for any other fish, except salmon. In preparing it for cooking, it is nearly always preferable to wipe it dry with a clean cloth instead of washing it.


Arround Mackerel in The Grocer's Encyclopedia


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