Celebrate Earth Month with Fresh Local and Seasonal Seafood!

It’s still Earth Month, food nerds, and we’re back with our second and final Q&A featuring Monique of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association. For those who are unfamiliar, MCFA works to enhance the sustainability of Maine’s fisheries by advocating for the needs of community-based fishermen and the environmental restoration of the Gulf of Maine.

Following last week’s Q&A, we received many questions about how to buy local seafood, the best way to store it, and of course how to cook that seafood once it’s in your fridge or freezer. We’ll let Monique fill you in!

Q: Monique, what does “local seafood” mean to you?

For coastal states, local seafood is a little easier to comprehend and access. Local, in coastal states, means shellfish and seafood that came out of the water close to home. But for inland states, how do they find local seafood?

The good news is, these days, you can find pretty much anything on the internet, and that includes seafood. But it’s necessary to perhaps expand the definition of local as it pertains to things like fish, shellfish, and sea vegetables like kelp. I live in Maine, but I love salmon from Bristol Bay Alaska; it is healthy, delicious, filling, cooks up great using sous vide, and buying it helps support fellow fishing families in the United States. Perhaps it’s not local in the way we have become familiar with the term local as it pertains to fruit and vegetables over the past decade but buying salmon from Alaska is the most local option I can find for that product. 

For the middle of the country, the same definition would apply. You can find local Iowa potatoes, but I think you might be hard pressed to find local Iowa… clams? Lobster? Fish? All of the above. But that absolutely should not prevent people from Iowa from seeking out local American seafood products.

In the past decade, fishing businesses in North America have also developed business plans modeled after community support agriculture (CSAs), called Community Supported Fisheries (CSFs). This is an amazing option to find family owned and operated seafood businesses that are providing “local” seafood across the country. They are a great option to learn more about where your seafood comes from, to get know your fisherman, and to buy seafood when it is in season. (Which is often less expensive.) Good news is, seafood stores and freezes amazingly well. Check out our recommend spots to get local seafood: Maine Seafood and Ready Seafood.

What’s most important is to eat a variety of seafood and ask questions if you’re unsure. Like most foods, the closer to home you’re able to purchase your seafood, the better off you’ll be both in regards to sustainability and flavor.

Q: How do you recommend storing seafood?

Storing seafood is easy but it is not throw-in-the-fridge-and-forget-about-it easy. Here are a couple of tips that might help you feel better about your seafood storing skills.

  1. Fish needs to remain under 38 degrees Fahrenheit (32 is recommended) in cold storage from when it leaves the boat to when it gets to your plate. The average refrigerator temperature is also 38 degrees which means that your fridge is likely the warmest place that your fish is going to be stored since it was harvested. To keep it cold, put your fish (wrapped in plastic, a silicone bag or in a container) in a tray of ice to keep it colder in your refrigerator.
  2. Most fish freezes really well and can be cooked from frozen. If you are not going to eat your fish within three-to-four days, just freeze it. Portion it out so that when you are ready to cook it you can just throw it in a baking dish or tray with some butter on top. Adjust your cooking time a bit to include time for the fish to defrost. Putting fish in a vacuum sealed bag to store is also a great way to get it ready to go in the Anova Precision® Cooker hot tub.
  3. Smoke it! Everyone loves a good smoked pork butt or smoked chicken, try fish, too! Mackerel is good, but smoked mackerel is outstanding. Smoked seafood also lasts a bit longer, and it makes a really tasty, healthy, and satiating snack. Also, smoked fish tacos. 
  4. Freeze fish in milk. This is an old-timer trick. You can either use fillets or leftover fish trimmings. Put all the fish in a bag, dump some milk in, freeze. When you want to make a chowder just pull out your fish-in-frozen-milk and put it in the pot, then add your other ingredients. The milk helps maintain the texture of the fish and makes for a good chowder base.

Q: Any other tips and tricks you want to share?

Lobster: Lobster is best cooked the day you buy it. If you need to store if for a few hours you can do so in the crisper drawer. If you can get your hands on some seaweed and cover the lobsters with it, that is helpful. Plus, then you can use the seaweed in the pot when you cook the lobsters. Mainers steam their lobsters; we don’t boil them. You should only have a couple of inches of water in your pot and throw the seaweed in to keep the lobsters out of the water, or steam them in the Anova Precision Oven!

Oysters: You can keep oysters (in the shell) for quite a while if you store them in a paper bag in the coldest part of your fridge.

Scallops: One of my favorite types of seafood to freeze is scallops. They are only available through the winter in Maine and part of the spring, but I love to eat them during the summer. I buy scallops by the gallon (s) and freeze them in 1 lb. packages so I can enjoy them whenever my little heart desires.

Thank you and happy seafooding!

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