As the old saw goes, "There is more than one way to skin a cat."
I don't think the perpetrator of that notion was talking about skinning
catfish, but that is my topic for today.
Aside from the fact that more and more anglers are discovering that
catfish can be turned into boneless filets just as their flatter brethren
are made ready for the pan, there are two methods of "cleaning" catfish.
They are either scalded or skinned.
Either method will do the job, but I prefer skinning because it does
not pre-cook outer surfaces of the fish.
In my opinion, the stage is set for a scrumptious fish din-din by the
way catfish are "cleaned" (dressed, or undressed as the case may be).
Getting a catfish--any catfish--out of its slimy suit here in Indiana,
as in many other Midwestern states, applies to flathead, blue and channel
catfish, and their smaller brethren, the bullhead family--yellow, brown
How to catch catfish is another story--several other stories. Right
now we are concerned with "cleaning" catfish.
Here's how I do it:
"Cleaning," as most Hoosiers know, is the process of transforming recently
killed or caught game or fish into a state that will lend itself to being
prepared (most often cooked) for the table. For example, in most cases
the various species of game birds and animals are cooked. On the other
hand, wild green onions may be used raw in salads or cooked in many ways.
But even wild onions, like many other products of nature, must be cleaned
before we cook, or otherwise use them.
Frankly, I do not look down my nose at a well-browned catfish and ask
whether it was skinned or scalded. But when I clean catfish, I skin them,
even though scalding is much easier and infinitely faster. My rule of thumb
for those who scald, is: leave them in the boiling water for as short
a time as possible--just long enough to make the outer skin scrape off
easily. It is best, I think, to dip one fish at a time.
The skinning process is much the same for catfish of all sizes, the
chief difference being that it is best to handhold fish of up to a pound
or two. Larger fish probably should be nailed (through the head after they
have been killed) to a solid object like a tree trunk. The skin of larger
fish is much thicker and more difficult to remove. The job may require
To handhold and skin the smaller fish, I grasp the fish with my left
hand, the top of the fish's head in the palm, and my thumb and index finger
resting behind the pectoral spines on the two sides of the head. This leaves
my right (dominant) hand free to alternately wield a sharp knife or a pair
of blunt nosed pliers.
Holding the fish in this manner, I make a crosswise cut (just through
the skin) from one side of the fish to the other. This cut can be made
before grasping the fish to avoid the possibility of cutting the hand.
Then by grasping the loose skin with the pliers and pulling toward
the tail of the fish, I work the skin off. This will require grasping the
loose skin at several places from one side of the fish to the other. It
also will leave a "V" of skin on the belly of the fish. This "V" of skin
can be grasped with the thumb and knife blade (or with the pliers) and
When the body of the fish is free of skin, the head is cut off, the
entrails removed, and the body cavity washed out with cold, running water.
Tail and dorsal fins may be left intact or may be cut off with a sharp
knife. If the dorsal is to be cut away, make the cut from back to front
end of the body.
The dorsal fin can be more completely removed by cutting along both
sides about half an inch deep and pulling it out with pliers. I prefer
to leave the dorsal fin and use it as a guide to the two sides of the flesh
after it has been fried.
MOREL MADNESS--Cooler weather--B-R-R-R,
even spitting snow--last weekend sidetracked the fast-advancing spring,
and put a temporary hold on the riot of wildflowers that was about to pop.
Some--not a lot but some--finds of small morels (probably blacks) were
reported in the southern third of the state (primarily the strip-pit country
of the southwest). But the morel picture was a bit out of focus recently.
However, a return to spring will solve that problem. If that doesn't
happen, bundle up and go mushroom hunting--especially in the southern half
of the state. Soon you will be greeted by wildflowers and that is the green
light for morels.