What is there about our fish camp that leads me to experiment with all kinds of different foods, like now, as I turn my attention to jelly fish?
This fish camp is centered upon the kitchen. Warm bread beckons, pot lids are lifted, cookie jar is tested. Cooking several times a day for 7 people, I utilize a wealth of seafood, wild salmon, crab, halibut, and sometimes a sea cucumber in all kinds of recipes. Some dishes are terrific. Some not so great.
There is no question that I cook to chase away boredom and fuel good feelings with tasty food. I use the items on the menu board to entertain and give the camp something new to talk about as we are far off the grid and even farther from a road of any kind.
I had eaten jellyfish in China in a dish that looked like translucent, brown spaghetti noodles waiting for sauce. The stands of jellyfish clung together, tasted like soy sauce, and contained the mouth feel of very stiff gelatin, not quite as tough as a rubber band. Still, I wasn’t eager to turn my attention to jelly fish but, being surrounded by an adventurous family and crew removed the last bit of hesitation.
Jelly fish float in the water column, drifting into our commercial salmon nets. Most are the pink, purple and red kind with long stinging tentacles but a few are clear moon jellies. Reading on the web, I learned that alum removed the sting from jelly fish making them edible but I had been stung enough by the colorful lion mane jellies while commercial fishing, so I preferred to try the moon jelly fish, a bland clear jelly which didn’t sting.
So Heather collected a one for me which I washed. I trimmed out the 4 gonads under the center and was left with a clear mantle about 1 inch thick.
I had decided to experiment with two recipes so I cut the mantle into two. One half I sliced into strips which went into a heat proof bowl. I poured in boiling water to cover and let this sit for 15 minutes. The strips all but disappeared into small worm like morsels.
The other half, I cut into squares, dipped into seasoned flour and fried. The pieces being wet and jelly like spattered alarmingly when they hit hot oil. Then, the oil simmered down and the pieces browned with a crisp crust.
In tasting the final products, the water cooked jelly strips contained a congealed texture which was not acceptable. The fried squares fared better as each piece yielded a crunch and a brief flavor of the sea.
About half of the camp tried both. All of us talked about it. Neither recipe inspired me to keep jelly fish on the menu beyond this experiment.
Still, perhaps if I had a different recipe…on a different day, with a new crew, I might try it again because this animal lives in our bay, is some sort of food, is eaten in a far away culture, and gives our camp a camaraderie. Sort of like, ”Jellyfish came to our table and we survived.”