Thursday, May 22, 2008

Handle Shellfish My Way

There is an increasing number of seafood lovers who cannot resist the taste of seafood and its flexibility in preparation. Even though the seafood taste is special and cannot be replaced by any other food products, it cannot be denied that there is the problem of fear of food poisoning. Among the various seafood varieties, the shellfish is one of the better known type as it is quite easy to catch and absolutely delicious to consume. But the risk of food poisoning as a result of eating shellfish is also high as it can be rather difficult to clean them, so proceed with caution when consuming shellfish.

Cooked Blood Cockles and Clams

The place to purchase
It is very hard to find shellfish that is fresh nowadays. Even though some of the shellfish might appear to be fresh and newly caught, there might still be harmful microorganisms inside it. In order to find shellfish that is both fresh and not filled with dangerous organisms, you can approach the local fishing department authorities and find out which fishing area are approved by them to be safe from contamination. Some of the fishermen's harvest might be from fishing areas which are deemed too contaminated by various pollutants such as raw sewage and also other sources of bacteria outbreaks. When purchasing shellfish, ask for the fisherman's official shipping number or their tag which is issued when they are catching fish on legal safe areas out in the sea. If the area you live in is not located near any saltwater fishing hotspots, then you can try and visit the local fish market but make sure the fish stock turnover rate is high so there are always fresh fish around when you go there.
How to differentiate fresh shellfish from the old shellfish
When purchasing shellfish, you will need to look for signs of freshness and safety when going through the stock. The most obvious and easiest sign to catch is the look of the shellfish. The outer part of the shellfish must be fresh and the shell part must be tightly closed. This works for most types of shellfish such as scallops, clams, mussels and oysters. When testing prawns, try and press the body to see if it will spring back when you release. Another important factor to consider is the smell of the shellfish itself. When you smell a strong scent of ammonia, that tells you the pile is well past its fresh days. The proper smell of fresh seafood products should be the smell of the ocean or more particularly, the smell of sea water. By checking and following these signs you can ensure that you will always buy seafood that is always fresh.
Storage container
Some contamination can occur during the storage time. The best way to preserve certain shellfish varies with the type of shellfish being stored. The golden rule is that the seafood should not be kept for more than a day or two before being cooked. This action limits the chances of bacterial contamination. An airtight container filled with ice is the best place to keep the crustaceans until one gets home. Disease-producing contaminants flourish in warm temperatures hence the container will reduce the risk of these pests thriving. The refrigerator must be at a low temperature. For storing live oysters, mussels and clams ensure that the container is well ventilated and that a damp clean towel covers the top of the lid.
Cooking and preparation
If defrosting is required before cooking, then do it by placing the shellfish under a running tap. Make sure you cook the shellfish until there aren't any raw parts left so that you don't face extensive risk of food poisoning. Start the preparation process by first cleaning the outer shell of the seafood. Scrub off the dirt, gravel and stones by using a small brush or the blunt part of the knife and wash it thoroughly after that. When cooking the food, make sure you are watching the cooking process of the shellfish carefully. When the shellfish's shell starts to open it means that it is almost cooked so just leave the shellfish there for another two to three minutes so any leftover bacteria is killed off. If you are cooking the seafood using the steaming method, try and steam it for as long as possible without ruining the food so that the extreme temperature can kill any bacterium living in the shellfish.
If you plan to cook seafood dishes for your next family dinner then it is necessary to sanitize and clean the kitchen itself and also the cooking and eating utensils that you will be using. Differentiate the utensils that you will be using for preparing the raw food and when you are handling the cooked food to prevent health problems. If the cooked seafood is meant for picnic then separate the hot and cold food and use different containers and storage so that they can maintain their own temperature. Do not let any pregnant ladies or older people make contact with the raw seafood material because they are more prone to be affected by the raw food's bacteria. The safest way to enjoy the taste of seafood is when it is eaten in a clean and non-contaminated environment.
Robert Packer’s favorite pastime is the harvesting of shellfish near the coast of California where he lives. As a seafood lover, he also suggests that people try the food at Fin's a seafood restaurant in Roseville where some of the best seafood dishes can be found.