Pickled and soused

Pickled and soused

By
Nathan Outlaw
Contains
6 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781849493727
Photographer
David Loftus

My first encounter with pickled seafood was on Hastings seafront in East Sussex with my dad and granddad. All along the Old Town there were stalls selling pickled cockles amongst other seaside classics like rollmops, jellied eels, pints of shrimps and prawns and those god-awful crab sticks. The pleasure of sitting there, watching the waves and listening to the seagulls whilst eating our pickled cockles, is one of my earliest and fondest childhood memories.

For centuries, pickling and sousing have been used as ways of preserving fish. Probably the oldest and most common sousing is found in the classic soused herring, which dates back to the Middle Ages – in Dutch, German and Swedish culinary traditions as well as ours. The best time for sousing herring is from the end of May to early July, when the fish are rich with oils and haven’t yet started to develop their prized milts (roe). Jars of rollmops – which are simply rolled soused herring – are a British tradition.

Fish is well suited to pickling and sousing. Whether it’s in a light sousing vinegar or a heavy pickling one, the acidity always seems to work well with the fish. Shellfish too – particularly scallops, oysters and lobster – can be enhanced beautifully with a light pickling liquor.

So how do pickling and sousing differ? Well, for pickling, the fish are immersed in a cold acidic liquid (usually wine vinegar), with spices and/or other aromatics added. Sousing is similar, but vegetables are added to the pickling liquor and it is added hot to the fish. It goes without saying, but I will say it: always use the freshest fish and shellfish for these techniques.

What I like most about these techniques is the scope they offer for experimenting. By using different vinegars (or other acidic liquids) and varying the herbs, spices and vegetables, you really can create your own take on pickled fish.

Herrings are my favourite fish to pickle – you’ll find the recipe in my first book, Nathan Outlaw’s British Seafood.

The way I like to souse fish is to take something like mackerel (my firm favourite) and fillet it nicely, making sure all the pin bones are taken out. I slice a red onion and sweat it in a little olive oil with some garlic, bay leaves and thyme for a few minutes, then add some cider vinegar, a pinch of sugar and some dry cider and simmer it for a couple of minutes before pouring it over the mackerel. I leave it in the fridge for a day, taking it out half an hour or so before needed, to bring it to room temperature. Before eating, I warm it slightly under the grill and serve it with a fresh apple and horseradish yoghurt. Delicious.

Best seafood for pickling and sousing

Scallops, mackerel, horse mackerel, herring, sea trout, bream, bass, prawns, salmon, farmed halibut, clams, cockles, oysters, grey mullet, gurnard, mussels, lobster, red mullet, razor clams, sardines.

Accompaniments and garnishes

Horseradish yoghurt, fennel marmalade, beetroot chutney, cucumber, dill and caper salad, potato and spring onion salad.

Recipes in this Chapter

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