How to Get Cheap Clean Fish

Fish was and still is a common food in the bible lands, one that Jesus ate with his disciples on numerous ocassions, even in his resurrected body.  It was the main course of the meal that Jesus miraculously multiplied to feed thousands of people on two occasions.  He even refered to it as a “good gift” to give your children when they ask for something to eat.  (Matthew 7:10-11)

Sadly, though, it is an unforetunate fact that our waters, particularly lakes and rivers, are becoming more and more polluted and so is our fish supply.  I grew up on river fish that my Dad would catch fresh for our family and I remember loving it.  We even used to eat the catfish (not in the category of clean fish described in the Bible) which are bottom feeders and scavengers.  I remember we stopped that when an article had come out about how drug dealers had dumped their drugs in the Potomac River to avoid being caught and then the drugs started showing up in the catfish...yikes. 

The bummer of it all is that fish is such an excellent brain food.  It is a great source of easily digestible protien, minerals (notably iron, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus), vitamins (especially A and D), and omega-3 essential fatty acids (EPA and DHA).  Also, fish has been shown to be an important part of the diet of many long-lived peoples around the world.  However, because of polluted waters, many fish are contaminated with dangerous levels of mercury, lead, PCBs, BPA and other contaminants.  Even before chemical pollution was a problem, God gave His chosen people dietary guidelines about what seafoods were good to eat. 

Deuteronomy 14:9-10:
These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins and scales shall ye eat. And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye may not eat; it is unclean unto you.

Today, scientists have discovered that fish with fins and scales have digestive systems that reduce the absorption of poisons and toxins from their enviornment into their flesh.  The safest fish for consumption are wild caught deep sea fish with fins and scales.  If you know the water quality of a fresh water source near you is good (by testing), then by all means enjoy fresh caught fish from it.  For those who don’t have access to good fishing sites, I have compiled a list of commonly available ocean fish that are biblically specified “clean” and shown to have low or moderate amounts of mercury.

Lowest Levels of Mercury

(Recommended 2-3 servings per week
or no more than 2 for pregnant
women and children

Moderate Levels of Mercury

(Recommended no more than 6 servings
per month or 3 orless for
pregnant women and children)

Croaker (Atlantic)
Haddock (Atlantic)
Mackerel (N. Atlantic, Chub)
Perch (Ocean)
Shad (American)
Sole/Turbot (Pacific)

Bass (Striped, Black)
Cod (Alaskan)
Croaker (White Pacific)
Halibut (Atlantic)
Halibut (Pacific)
Jacksmelt (Silverside)
Mahi Mahi
Sea Trout (Weakfish)
Tuna (Canned Chunk Light)
Tuna (Skipjack)


If you’re land locked like me, finding good quality fish is very difficult.  Most fish available in the store is farm raised (like Talapia).  Farm raised fish are commonly fed unnatural diets of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and are notoriously contaminated with antibiotics, unnatural hormones and synthetic dyes.  There are only two seafood markets in my area that fly in fresh ocean fish.  When I went to check out what they sold I had sticker shock!  Almost nothing was less that $15.99/lb (most were over $20) and that included the farm raised fish.

So what’s a single income family of five (all boys I might add) to do?  Well, we could just not eat fish OR you can eat the scraps:)  What?  Eat the scraps?  Yes.  I bought 5 pounds of halibut carcase (fins, bones and head) for only $1.30/lb (some places will just give it to you for free).  Then, I put half of it in my large crockpot with onions, wine and herbs and the other in my freezer for another meal.  I was able to pick out enough tender peices of fish after simmering the stock overnight to make an entire meal the next day with extra stock reserved in the freezer for future use.  Fish stock is amazingly healthful and loaded with minerals (like iodine) in which many people are deficient.  Many recommend supplementing with seaweed to get these ocean minerals, but the problem of pollution is the same with seaweed, except that they are more vunerable to contamination because they don’t have detoxification systems like fish.

Just to warn you, your whole house will smell like fish when you make the stock.  So maybe wait for a day when you can air the house out if that bothers you.  Amazingly, once the stock is boiled down it rarely has a fishy flavor.  In fact, it can be used to cook grains like quinoa or rice with almost no discernable impact to its flavor if you use them in a salad or with other herbs.  It’s an easy, inexpensive and resourceful way to get minerals like iodine, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus, fat soluable vitamins A and D, and omega 3 fatty acids into your diet.

Look at all the fish I got off of just half a halibut carcase.  Then I added lots of veggies and some dressing to make fish salad.  My boys enjoyed wrapping thier “tacos” in iceberg lettuce leaves.  It was delicious!  So many times I have bought frozen fish only to be greatly disappointed by its rubbery texture and strong fishy flavor.

But this fish was mild, buttery and tender, just like I remember fresh fish growing up.  Still concerned about mercury?  If you read my last post you’ll remember that cilantro is a potent mercury detoxifier and it just so happens that it tastes wonderful with fish.  Amazing, huh?  Maybe God designed it that way:)

Here’s the Quick and Easy Halibut Salad recipe I used from Healing Naturally by Bee (www.healingnaturallybybee.com/recipes) © Copyright 2004 Susan Vanamburgh-Garth (www.thenaturalkitchen@yahoo.com).  This recipe is so simple. It takes only 15 minutes to prepare! Serves 2 as a main salad entree, or 4 as an appetizer.

1 pound fresh Alaskan halibut, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups tomatoes (a colorful assortment of yellow, red, and orange), diced
1/4 cup sweet red onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of 2 or 3 limes (about 1/3 cup)  (*I only used 1 lime)
1 teaspoon ocean sea salt
cracked black pepper, optional
1 jalapeno pepper, optional
extra virgin olive oil, optional
1 avocado, diced or sliced, optional
butter lettuce leaves, optional

Heat 1 inch of non-chlorinated water in a medium pot with a lid.  Add a little sea salt to the water once it is boiling and gently add fish.  Turn heat to low and simmer 5 minutes.  Remove fish from water with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a plate. Put the plate into the freezer for 5-10 minutes, until fish is slightly chilled.  While fish is chilling, put onions, sea salt and lime juice in a non-metal mixing bowl, and let the onions soak in lime juice a few minutes. Gently toss fish pieces into the lime juice mixture.  They will fall apart somewhat, but don't worry about that.  It will still be beautiful and yummy! Add the tomatoes and cilantro, and gently combine. Arrange butter lettuce leaves on plates, and divide the fish mixture evenly among the plates. Drizzle any remaining juices from the bowl over the salads.