Tuesday, July 24, 2018

What to do with those buckets of capelin

This pair found a quiet spot along the beach at Middle Cove, despite the crowds. (Photo on Saturday, July 14, 2018).
As many Newfoundlanders know, July is the time to watch the capelin roll. These small, sardine-like fish swarm the beaches in early summer to spawn. Crowds gather to collect the fish with buckets and nets. As a come-from-away who has been offered capelin from the freezer of more than one friend, I wondered; what’s the best way to cook capelin?

From the looks of it, simple, pan-fried capelin is best. Barbara Noel Drover out of Mount Pearl said:

I like to clean and then dust with flour and fry with a little bit of fat back ... leftovers clean and freeze in small batches.

Another option is to cook them right up over a fire on the beach, or salt them for later. Robin Dooley said:

I cook them fresh on a stick around a campfire with lots of friends of course lol, I also roll in flour, salt and pepper and fry in oil on the stove for a brunch or breakfast.

Some people salt or smoke and dry for preservation, and I especially like these on a stick over the campfire. I don’t know the exact method but I’ve been told the gist of it; you add fresh water to a big bucket, add fisherman’s salt until a potato floats in the briny, buoyant liquid and then add your capelin until the eyes turn white. Then arrange on a flake, in a good breeze to keep the flies away. They are ready when they are dry but still pliable. We store these in the freezer in bags to keep fresh, but some leave in the cupboard! *eww, I’m a wuss for botulism*

In these photos, shared by Scott Sparks, you can see that not much has changed since the 1950s down at Middle Cove during the capelin run. Sparks’ father, William Sparks (pictured below), was the school principal at Earnest Harmon Air Force Base from 1957 to 1960.

William Sparks and friends at Middle Cove Beach in the 1950s. (Photo courtesy of Scott Sparks).

William Sparks collecting capelin at Middle Cove Beach. (Photo Courtesy of Scott Sparks).

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