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Buy local catfish, get better taste
September is National Catfish Month…
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Catfish is high in protein and low in saturated fat, making it healthy and delicious.
Mark Peterman, an aquaculture associate with the Mississippi State University Extension Service based in east Mississippi, said all of Mississippi’s catfish must pass a minimum of three sensory taste tests before processing plants will accept delivery.
“Fish tend to adopt the flavor characteristics of what they eat,” he said. “U.S. farm-raised catfish are fed a scientifically formulated diet of high-protein pellets that float on top of the water. This feed has a consistently mild, slightly sweet flavor, which the catfish, in turn, absorb.”
Eating catfish is considered part of a healthy diet.
“Catfish is a lean fish and is a moderate source of polyunsaturated, or good, fat,” Peterman said. “According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, moderate fish consumption -- one to two meals a week -- may cut the risk of sudden cardiac death in half. The results show that any kind of fish, including U.S. farm-raised catfish, can make a difference.”
Jimmy Avery, Extension aquaculture professor at the MSU Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, said consumers should look for fresh fish that have moist flesh, firm texture, and no discoloration or dryness.
“When touched, the flesh should spring back. Flesh that looks dull could mean the fish is old,” he said. “Fresh products should smell fresh and mild, not fishy, sour or ammonia-like. If purchasing frozen product, choose individually quick frozen fillets that do not have any dry-looking white portions, which might indicate freezer burn.”
Once fresh catfish has been purchased, it should be placed on ice, in the refrigerator or in the freezer immediately. Avery said if vacuum packaging equipment is not available, use heavy-duty freezer bags or moisture/vapor-proof plastic wrap.
“Place each fillet in a separate freezer bag or wrap individually in plastic wrap without adding water,” he said. “Eliminate as much air as possible from the freezer bag or wrapped fish. Recommended storage times for fresh catfish are one to two days in the refrigerator and three months in the freezer.”
Fresh catfish should be refrigerated up until the point of preparation. Avery said catfish is extremely versatile, mild flavored and difficult to overcook in the kitchen.
“Thaw frozen catfish in the refrigerator or soak in lukewarm water until soft to the touch; do not refreeze,” he said. “Before using, rinse under cold water and pat dry. The firm, flaky texture lends itself to grilling, baking, broiling, frying and many other preparation methods.”
For recipes, visit The Catfish Institute’s website at http://uscatfish.com/recipes.