Flying Home with Flying Fish

Swordfish - trimmed and ready to be frozen
We always try to bring home fish when we come back from Barbados.  I thought I would share with you our process in getting fish home.

We like to visit the Bridgetown fish market because they tend to have more variety.  (However, I will say that the fishmongers in Oistins do a better job of cleaning and filleting the fish).  We checked out a few stalls to see what was on offer.  When you are there, ask if the fish is fresh - give it a once over. Are the eyes clear?  Does the fish look intact?  Are the gills bright pink?  If you can't see the whole fish, ask if it's been frozen.

This time we decided on the following:  shark, marlin, swordfish, flying fish, a whole kingfish and a whole Mahi-Mahi.

I asked for the whole fishes to be cleaned and filleted only.  I prefer to portion them myself before freezing.  I asked for two pounds each of the others and one package of flying fish.

We used to have access to a Food Saver, however, it died a slow death and had to be put down.  We discovered the Ziploc freezer bags which come with a pump to remove the air.  You can buy these at Massey grocery stores.  These bags work great and we have had frozen fish in them in the freezer for up to one year without any loss of seal.  I've not yet been able to find them here in Ontario.

Ziploc Vacuum bags with Pump.
I portion off the fish (for two servings at a time) and put them into the freezer bags, suck out the air (the instructions are on the bags), then it's ready for the freezer.  Don't forget to label each type of fish - trust me when I say that you will not remember which piece is which after three months in the freezer - they all start to look the same.  I also label some bags as 'trim' to be used in a stew later.

One boned side of Kingfish.

Kingfish portioned

It takes about two days to freeze the fish solid, so give yourself enough time.  The day of departure, we put the fish into a thermal bag, then nestle the bag amongst clothing (sometimes wrapped in a towel) for the journey home.

Before sealing

After sealing.  Air is removed by placing the pump on the 'circle' and pumping it out.
It takes about two days for the fish to freeze solid.  About thirty minutes before we're ready to leave, I pack the fish into a cooler bag we bring from home, then pack it in our suitcase.

Freshly sealed packaged ready for freezing.

Two days later frozen and packed in the cooler bag

Ready for the suitcase

Ready to be zipped up and put in the car. Layer some laundry on top for more insulation
On the plane, when filling out your Canada Customs declaration form, be sure to declare your fish.  You are allowed to bring fish back, but you have to declare it.  There is a section to declare meat, fish, seafood, eggs, cheese etc.  When it was our turn to speak to the Customs Officer, he asked what I had, I said frozen fish fillets and then we were on our way.  No secondary inspection required this time.

14 hours later (still frozen) and the fish has arrived safely to its new home - our freezer in the basement.

3:00 am and in our freezer at home
The shark, mahi-mahi, marlin, swordfish and kingfish were $7/lb BBD (~$3.50 USD).  The flying fish were a little steeper this time at $25 BBD per pack - usually $15 per pack.  This batch of fish cost us about $112 BBD for 16 pounds of fish plus $25 BBD per package of 10 flying fish fillets for a total of $137 BBD (~$ 70 US).  This would cost me considerably more at home and I find it difficult to find kingfish where I live.  So, for us, it is definitely worth the process.

Small fishing boat with fish cleaning facilities in the background - Martin's Bay, St. John

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