Eel (Anguilla anguilla)
Protein-18.44%, Fat-11.66%, Water-68.26%
The eel has an elongated snake-like body, tapering almost to a point at the tail. Although the eel is very slimy and appears to be scaleless, scales are deeply embedded in some parts of the skin. There is a pair of pectoral fins just behind the small head, and there is a small gill opening just in front of each fin. The back fin and the anal fin are very long and merge with the tail fin to form a continuous soft-rayed fin fringe. Eels generally range from 15” (40 cm) to 30” (80 cm) and 8 oz (250 g) to 2.2 lb (1 kg) in weight.
Killing and Cleaning
The simplest method of killing eels is to put them in a deep container and rouse them with salt; leave them for up to 2 hours to kill them and to remove much of the slime. They should not be completely buried in salt; a good sprinkling is sufficient. They may lose up to 5 percent in weight during this stage. Another method of rapidly removing slime is to immerse the eels in 1 percent ammonia solution, made by adding one part of ammonia liquor to 100 parts of water. Newly killed eels should be washed thoroughly in clean water; up to half an hour in cold water, followed by very careful scraping. It is recommended to scrub the skin to give a good appearance to the finished product.
Eel is a fatty fish and is an absolute delicacy when smoked. The fish is very slimy and the best way to remove this sticky substance is by wiping it off with sand, sawdust, newspapers or paper towels. Rinse with water. Slit the belly 1 inch (25 mm) or so beyond the vent in order to remove the kidney; scrub the gut cavity and wash it out carefully to remove all traces of blood from the backbone and throat, and then rinse the eels again. Heads are not removed. Immerse eels in 80° brine for 15 minutes (275 g salt per liter of water, or 2.2 lbs of salt per 1 gallon of water). Excessive salting results in white spots appearing on the skin of the fish during smoking. Thread the brined eels on 1/4” (6 mm) diameter rods or speats by pushing the pointed end of the rod through the throat from front to back. Place small lengths of stick between the belly flaps to keep them apart; this allows smoke to penetrate the belly cavity.
Preheat the smokehouse and smoke the eels:
- 1 hour at 90° F (35°C).
- 1 hour at 122° F (50°C).
- 1 hour at 185° (85)°C.
Cook the fish until the belly opens wide and there are no red areas. To check whether the fish is cooked, press on its sides and the meat should separate from the backbone. A few little perpendicular wrinkles should appear behind the head. The eels should lose about 15-20 per cent by weight during the smoking operation. Cool and cut into smaller sections.