Although the pesky, needle-like bones in the flesh of suckers discourage
many Hoosiers who otherwise are good fish eaters, Ol' Puckermouth still
is one of the tastiest of our piscatorial citizens.
It is possible to eliminate the bones by cooking them into submission.
A big platter of deep fried sucker filets starts with the so-called
Start by scaling the fish and leave the skin (without the scales) on.
Shave the filets off both sides of the body leaving the spinal column bones
attached to the head.
Wash the filets in cold, running tap water and allow them to dry. Then
place each filet skin-side down on a cutting board and score each crosswise
with cuts about 1/8 (one eighth) inch apart from one end of the filet to
the other. Cuts should be made almost to the skin, but not quite . . .
the skin holds the filet together. (Click here
to see example.)
With scored filets meat side up on a cookie sheet, salt and pepper them
liberally, then shake each filet in a grocery or plastic bag with a mixture
of finely-rolled crackers and flour (50-50).
Place dredged filets meat side up on a cookie sheet and freeze them
solid. Filets then can be stored in plastic bags (wrapped tightly in two
or three thicknesses of newspaper. This helps curb freezer burn.
When you are hankering for a fish dinner, get the cooking fat hot and
drop the filets in a few at a time.
When they float, they are done, but it is a good idea to let them turn
The hot cooking oil will render the needle bones crisp and you will
not know they are there. But it still is a good idea to eat some bread
along with the sucker filets. And it is not a good idea to allow children
to eat them.
Okay, so you don't like the deep fried sucker route. Well, you can can
suckers (sounds like some kind of dance, doesn't it?) with a pressure cooker
(10 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes) and they will be much like a can
of salmon--great for snacks with crackers, fish cakes, or fish loaf.
Just scale them and chop them into golf ball-sized chunks, with or without
the skin and the spinal column bones.
Wash pieces in cold running water, drain them well and stuff them in
pint canning jars with airtight lids. When the tightly-packed jar is half
full, sprinkle half a teaspoon of salt over the chunks and fill the jar
almost to the top before adding another half-teaspoon of salt. A few pinches
of mustard powder--or other seasonings of your choice--may be added.
Turn jar tops hand tight (don't force them) and place jars in pressure
cooker with enough water (and maybe a little vinegar) to keep the cooker
steaming for 90 minutes.
Cool cooker gradually, and do not open cooker until there is no inside
pressure. Then open cooker, tighten jar lids a little more and store the
jars of fish in a cool, dark cupboard or cabinet. If a jar is opened and
there are leftovers (fat chance), the jar with lid tight should be refrigerated
until used in the next day or so.
Canned suckers can be substituted for any other fish for fish cakes
or fish loaf, or simply used on a relish tray with crackers, sweet or sour
pickles, veggie chunks and other goodies.
Pressure-cooking canning will render big bones crunchy and hide little
Canning also is a good way to process small bluegills and other small
fish, even larger fish. Just scale them cut off heads, remove entrails,
cut them in chunks, and stuff them in jars for cooking.