RUFFIN-IT: AND NOW ONE FOR THE KIPPER
As the two of you who religiously read my column will recall, I frequently write about food. I’m either trying to tell you how to cook something or discussing the merits of such American culinary superstars as Spam and sardines.
Listen up: I am going to introduce you to a new healthy snack, which might even be part of a full meal, if you desired to declare it so. Meet the kipper.
The first time I encountered kippers was a long time ago, and the form it came in is not likely to be the same as what you are going to find available for ready consumption here.
I spent two summers taking courses at the University of Southampton in southern England, and during that time I had a lot of exposure to conventional English food. Our breakfasts at the university consisted typically of the sorts of things that they thought American students might like: eggs, bacon, sausage, breakfast rolls, with plenty of butter and milk and orange juice. Frankly, the bacon was woefully undercooked—as if they had dragged the strips swiftly through a flame—and the sausage tasted nothing like what I grew up eating. The eggs? Who can screw up eggs?
During my first summer there, a dock strike occurred, and the supply of fresh food dried up almost overnight. One morning we had bacon, and the next morning we did not. The eggs continued, since they were probably available locally, but in place of bacon we were served pieces of fish that obviously had been smoked and heavily salted.
In addition, we were given bowls of what at first we thought were grits, though one bite convinced me otherwise.
“These are not grits,” a guy from Georgia said, sliding the bowl away. There were mumbles of agreement all around the dining hall.
Nope, not grits. Porridge is was, and porridge ain’t grits. I don’t know whether it was made from oats or millet or what, but it certainly was not made from corn.
But back to the kippers. I found them quite tasty, and I looked forward to having them the next day and the next. Being smoked and salted, they kept for a long time without refrigeration, and the university apparently had a ready supply on hand.
For many years I never gave kippers a second thought. I’m not certain that this country lists them as a food fit for human consumption. I’ve never been to a restaurant that I recall listing kippers, and no women I’ve ever lived with brought the subject up.
Of late I have done a bit of research on these little fish, though, and I’ve come better to appreciate their culinary potential in the American diet.
Like sardines, kippers are of the herring family, and they are found most abundantly in the northern regions of the Atlantic and Pacific. They are larger than sardines, though they likewise generally come in a flat tin, these days with a pull-tab to facilitate access to the delicacy within.
Kipper snacks are available at most supermarkets, but I buy mine (always Crown Prince, the best I’ve found for the price) by the case from Amazon.com. For a little over forty bucks, I can buy a case of eighteen 3.25-ounce tins.
These little filets are packed in what I presume is water (definitely not olive oil), and they amount to only 190 calories per tin, with zero carbs and 19 grams of protein and a healthy dose of Omega-3. Further, because of the feeding habits of herring, there is very little chance of your ingesting an appreciable amount of mercury. The flavor is only mildly fishy, with a delightful tinge of smoke and just the right amount of salt. Kipper snacks, like sardines, have a long shelf life, so you can stock up for the Collapse.
Kippers are fine right out of the tin, with nothing joining them, or you can lightly hit them with coarse sea salt and a thin coating of mayonnaise and serve them on or with Club crackers. This is my favorite way to have them.
Folks eat these little canned fish lots of different ways. They are great in salads or on sandwiches, or you can put them on the grill for a few minutes and serve them with vegetables. Hey, saute them or deep-fat fry the suckers. You’ll like them any way they are fixed.
You know how we’re always being goaded to add fish to our diet, that it’s the healthy thing to do? Well, here’s your answer: kipper snacks. Order you a case from Amazon and enjoy your little fishes. And, uh, throw in a few extra cases on account of you never know . . . .