Gotta love a Mullet. . .the fish, not the hairdo! But if you’ve ever tried to catch one, you know that nabbing one with hook and line is nearly impossible, because they’re vegetarians. As a matter of fact, in the last ten years, I’ve caught only one and even that was a lucky break because I snagged it out of an enormous school at the surface, so it was pretty much like fishing in a barrel.
Fishermen (mainly the commercial guys) generally use cast nets to capture Mullet. You see a lot of this action during the big spawning run in Florida which goes from early November through January, when dozens of small boats along the shoreline jockey for a position to cast their nets over schools of fish. It’s a fun thing to watch — it kind of looks like bumper boats out there.
As for eating Mullet, if you ask a native Floridian, you’ll be told that the best way to enjoy it is smoked. My first experience with smoked fish was several years ago when Brendan brought home a big foil package of smoked Mullet he had gotten from a local fisherman. I had no idea what to do with it, but he knew exactly what he wanted — smoked Mullet spread. This was new territory for me, but I dug in and researched recipes to find out how experienced “spread makers” prepared it. With that first batch (and more since), I’ve tried many combinations, finally arriving at this recipe which has just enough zing not to mask the wonderful smoky flavor of the fish, it’s not too mayonnaise-y, and it has a nice thick consistency. A smear tastes great on a classic saltine cracker (which, by the way, is the ONLY acceptable cracker in our house for fish spread, according to my husband) along with a dab of hot sauce. With this tasty combination, it’s not hard to go through a sleeve of crackers pretty quickly 🙂
Brendan and I recently took a road trip to Ichetuknee Springs, just north of Gainesville, Florida. It’s an amazing 6-mile, crystal clear, cool spring managed by the Florida State Park system and tubing is the best way to enjoy it on a hot day. We took the full route, which was about 3 hours to navigate and it was probably one of the most enjoyable things we’ve ever done. Mullet were jumping around us, turtles were checking us out, lush greenery surrounded us, and ancient cypress trees provided a gorgeous canopy against the sun. Plus, the water is so clear you can see everything. We took full advantage of it by using our GoPro. Here’s an underwater clip of a school of chubby Mullet — aren’t they cute?
On our drive home, we stopped in High Springs because we spotted a tiny sign at the roadside for ‘Smoke Mulet’. Not surprising, the sign pointed us to a small, old-Florida style white clapboard house with a huge smoker in the front yard. We were greeted by an adorable gal named Courtney who told us she caught the Mullet, but her dad was the one who smoked it. We happily paid eight bucks for a package of smoked fish, took some pics and were on our way. Don’t you love the sign? “Smoke Mulet” – old Florida at its best 🙂
P.S. my friend Robin writes a wonderful blog called Authentic Florida and she has a post about Ichetuknee Springs that you should check out if you’re considering a visit.
- 1 smoked Mullet (mine was just under 1 lb.)
- 2 oz. cream cheese
- 1-2 Tb. mayonnaise
- 1 rib celery, cut in chunks
- 1 small onion, cut in chunks
- ½ jalapeno (seeds removed)
- 1 tsp. lime zest
- 1 Tb. lemon juice
- Handful fresh parsley
- Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
- Saltine crackers
- Your favorite hot sauce
- Remove fish from skin and be sure to capture/remove any bones.
- Place cream cheese, mayonnaise, celery, onion, jalapeño, lime zest, lemon juice and parsley in food processor. Pulse a couple of times.
- Add fish and pulse a couple more times, until it all looks blended (tip - try not to create mush - it’s nice to have some texture in the spread).
- Add salt, pepper and a bit more lemon juice to taste.
- Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.
- Serve with saltine crackers and a dash of hot sauce.