It may sound surprising but fish too have seasons. August is traditionally the month in which the fish mackerel or scomber scambrus in Latin comes to Irish shores. But why is this? Mackerel is fished throughout the year in the whole of the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the Irish Sea and the English Channel. For the winter months this fish lives in the depths of the sea but from March to mid-October they migrate to the surface making it easier to catch. Another typical behaviour of the mackerel is that every year it appears around the same periods in large shoals in particular places, around the coast of Ireland in Mid-August.
In Ireland you can find two main species of mackerel;the common mackerel with its silver, long,rocket- like shape or the horse mackerel with a wider body and a skin with a silver and green shine.
In my free time I love walking along the piers of Dublin Bay and sometimes I’ll throw a line into the sea and fish for mackerel but rarely get any, local fishermen and their small boat would tell me “…the fish is getting scarce now, the big boats take everything…” I see myself believing it as mackerel is becoming very scarce close to the shore as a result of over-fishing.
Mackerel is classified as an oily fish that means oils are distributed throughout the flesh of the fish. The Macronutrient content of mackerel per 100g of flesh is 64% water, 18.7% protein, 16.1% fat (which 3.3% polyunsaturated and 1.8% omega 3 fatty acid which are known to beneficially influence cholesterol level in the blood). It provides 220Kcal/100g.
Mackerel has a delicate flesh that does not support well, slow cooking or being maintained at temperatures around 130-140 degrees F/ 55-60 degrees C. These methods activate protein-digesting enzymes present in their flesh that tend to make the fish mushy. Therefore it makes grilling, pan-frying or baking the best ways of cooking mackerel. In my native France a very traditional way of cooking mackerel is using acid and alcohol such as a white wine-based marinade which is slow cooking, but wine, vinegar or lemon juice seem to destroy those enzymes using this process. And like all oil-rich fish mackerel is an excellent fish for smoking.
I would very much like to smoke my own mackrel. But do not know anything about its preparation such as smoking temperature and time? Thank you.