Fish should be cleaned and refrigerated as soon as possible after catching. Filleting should be done on a clean surface using clean tools. Handle fish carefully avoiding pressing, tossing or moving it from one container to another.
Cold chain guarantees freshness
The cold chain keeps the fish fresh all the way from producer to consumer. Immediately after catch, the fish should be cooled to 0–3°C (32–37°F). The fish should be transported in the cold chain from the fisher to the store and kept refrigerated at home. The producers and marketers of fish are responsible for its quality with authorities controlling the functioning of the self-inspection.
Marks of fresh fish:
- It is clean and fresh-smelling.
- Eyes are bright, moist and bulging. Its colours are bright.
- The whole fish is somewhat shiny and covered evenly by a thin protective layer of slime.
- The meat is firm and elastic, firmly attached to the spine. Rib bones are well adhered to the meat.
- The gullet of a bled fish shows a cross slit. Bleeding enhances preservation, taste and appearance.
- Gills are bright red. The gills of a bled fish are pink.
- When refrigerated, the gills turn greyish red.
If catching your own fish, be sure to handle and prepare it correctly
Fish is stunned by a blow behind its eyes. Lactic acid will build up in the muscles of a fish flopping around in a boat impairing the quality of its meat. A stunned fish is bled by sticking a knife from the side into the gullet. Next, the fish is cleaned. Gills and entrails are removed, as they are the first to spoil; scales are removed if necessary. Finally, the fish is rinsed and cooled.
Careful preparation will help to avoid harmful substances and parasites
- Raw-curing of fish does not kill parasites. You can get rid of parasites by freezing your fish before curing.
- Grilling, smoking or roasting at an open fire causes the formation of PAH compounds that are harmful to human health. Many harmful PAH compounds can be avoided by not eating the skin.
- The older a herring, salmon or a freshwater fish is the more contaminants it has accumulated. Small-sized fish is preferable, especially when it comes to Baltic herring.
- Some of the accumulated dioxins and PCB compounds can be removed by skinning the fish and removing the skin before preparing the fish.
- Filleted Baltic herring generally means big fish which is under the restrictions added to fish consumption advisories (1–2 servings a month).
- It is recommended that fish be frozen before or after curing to destroy any parasites.
- For the same reason, roe should also be frozen. The roe of freshwater fish, such as whitefish, vendace or pike, should be frozen prior to consumption without adding any salt. Roe should be kept at a freezer temperature (-18°C/-0.4°F) for at least 24 hours.