Where the Buffalo Roam

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Published on: Oct. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

side of the fillet.

  • Slice the fish diagonally just behind the gill cover until the knife blade touches the backbone.
  • Cut fillets from the sides of the fish by turning the knife blade and slicing along the backbone toward the tail. When cleaning large fish, You may have to saw through the heavier rib bones, or you can cut around them.
  • Lay the fillets skin side down and cut the ribs away from the rest of the fillet.
  • While rinsing the fillets in clean water, feel for scales that you may have missed.
  •  With the skin side down, score the flesh by slicing down to, but not through, the skin. Make the slices about 1/4-inch apart. Scoring the flesh breaks up the bones so they'll soften in hot cooking oil. That's why one of the best methods of preparing carp, buffalo and suckers is deep frying.
  • OZARKS FRIED FISH

    Your fish cooker should have a frying basket and be capable of heating at least one gallon of cooking oil to 375 degrees. Other handy items include a few large bowls or pans and a roll of paper towels.

    Mix yellow cornmeal (about a pound for each three pounds of fish), salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Don't add flour. It might prevent the fish from cooking properly. Use yellow cornmeal for a golden crust.

    Apply the cornmeal to the fillets just before putting them into the cooker. When coating the fillets, work the cornmeal into the scored slots with your fingers. This helps the hot oil reach the bones so it can soften them.

    Heat the cooking oil to 375 degrees. Make sure the oil is several inches from the top. You don't want the oil to boil over when you immerse the fish in it. If using peanut oil--my favorite--raise the cooking temperature to 400 degrees.

    Place a few fillets in the wire basket and lower them into the hot oil very slowly. Don't try to cook too many pieces of fish at one time. They will cool the oil, and your fillets won't come out crispy.

    Cook the fillets until they float in the oil and turn golden brown. This usually takes less than 10 minutes. Place cooked fillets in a pan lined with paper towels.

    If you've cleaned and cooked the fish properly, the fillets will seem bone-free or, at worst, you might notice just a few large bones.

    CANNING CARP & BUFFALO

    Canning also softens the many small bones of carp and buffalo. For canning, you'll need a pressure cooker, pint jars with lids and rings, salt and vinegar.

    Fillet the fish, removing all rib bones and skin. Pack fillets tightly into clean pint jars to within 1 inch of the top. Add a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of vinegar to each jar. Fill jars to within 1/2-inch of the top with clean water. It may not take much if you have packed the fish tightly. Clean the jar rims with a clean wash cloth. Place lids on the jars and screw the rings over the lids hand tight.

    Place jars in a pressure cooker and pour enough water in the cooker so that the jars are mostly submerged, but the tops remain uncovered by the water. Place the lid on the cooker and heat slowly, keeping a close watch on the cooker, until the pressure gauge reaches 10 to 12 pounds. Adjust heat so that the pressure remains constant within this range.

    After cooking for 90 minutes at this pressure, turn off the heat and let the cooker cool before opening it. Properly sealed jar lids will be slightly concave after cooling. Occasionally jar lids will not seal. You should refrigerate these jars and eat fish from them within a few days. Store the sealed jars in a cool place and use the canned fish to make fish patties or fish casseroles.

    Additional tips and recipes for preparing non-game fish can be found in "Cy Littlebee's Guide to Cooking Fish & Game." This book is available for $3.50, plus tax and shipping, from the Nature Shop, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, email <Estore@mdc. mo.gov> or you can call, toll-free, (877) 521-8632.

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