High in protein and the currently popular Omega-3 fatty acids, wild caught in deep waters, and with a very short list of ingredients, canned Jack Mackerel is one of the best values in emergency (or everyday!) food stocks.
This is some of the cheapest premium-quality nutrition you can get. Prices vary depending on the brand and where you buy it. The best value I found was for the Bumble Bee brand of Premium Select Jack Mackerel at Wal-Mart. It comes in 15-oz. cans for as little as $1.29.
Mackerel, water, and salt. That’s it. Concerns about mercury are for the most part overblown, with the exception of farmed fish, which have higher concentrations of mercury. But it also occurs in wild caught fish. Even fish caught in deep, cold waters far from industrial areas contain minute amounts of mercury. The fact that the concentrations of mercury in these fish have been constant during the last century suggests that it occurs naturally.
Occasionally you will find crystals in the can that look like glass. These are crystals of magnesium ammonium phosphate, commonly called struvite. It’s a naturally occurring mineral in the fish that sometimes crystallizes during the canning process and dissolves in acidic environments like your stomach. If you’re concerned that it’s glass, put a crystal in some vinegar; if it dissolves, you’re fine.
The crystals will also dissolve when you cook the fish.
Mackerel is high in protein and calcium, and is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids. It contains vitamin A and iron in useful quantities. Fatty fish like mackerel are good for long-term survival situations in which fats may be hard to come by.
Taste and Texture
Admittedly, mackerel is “fishy,” but not any more so than canned tuna or salmon. If you like sardines it won’t shock you in the least. One of the great benefits of mackerel is that it contains edible bones with a firm, mildly gritty texture — my children seek them out and eat them separately just for the fun of it. To get the full nutritional value of the fish, don’t discard the bones.
Like all canned goods, they’ll keep for several years if you don’t store them at high temperatures. An unheated basement or root cellar is best, although I have stored canned fish for two years in a 70-degree pantry with no problems. It might have kept even longer, but I don’t know because we rotate our stock of canned goods every two years.
Mackerel Patties — find your favorite salmon patty recipe and substitute mackerel.
Mediterranean Mackerel Sauce — this dish takes me back to my childhood when we were poor. Like, we lived in a house with no running water and had a roofless outhouse. I owned one pair of socks at a time, no kidding. One autumn we had nothing to eat but fried salt pork and tomato sandwiches on white bread. When we ran out of mayo and tomatoes it was just salt pork and bread. Then we came into enough money to buy some groceries and we feasted on this delicious recipe. I’ve modified it slightly with some optional ingredients to account for my current economic condition, but you can keep the base recipe and never regret it. It serves 4 to 8 people depending how far you stretch it with the accompanying starchy dishes.
1 can Jack Mackerel
1 can diced tomatoes
2 T cooking oil
1 whole onion
black pepper to taste
Optional: substitute extra virgin olive oil; add 1 T capers; add 1 T Dijon mustard; add 1 t tomato paste to thicken.
Directions: Dice the onion and saute in oil until translucent. Add the mackerel with all the juice in the can, stirring to break the fish into bite-size chunks. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil, simmer to desired consistency. Stir in optional ingredients and season to taste. Serve with rice, couscous, steamed potatoes, or pasta. Tip: cook it down to a thicker paste and serve on toast or crackers as an appetizer.
Asian Mackerel Appetizer — a wonderful way to start an evening of asian culinary adventure.
1 can Jack Mackerel
3 T ginger, peeled and julienned
2 scallions, julienned
1 T sesame oil
1 or 2 pinches crushed red pepper
salt to taste
Drain the mackerel; discard the juice or save it for a fish stock. Place drained mackerel in a mixing bowl and mash with a fork as you would for a tuna salad — not too fine. You want a little texture, not a paste. Mix in the remaining ingredients. Serve with toast or in small bowls over shredded cabbage.