Holy Mackerel!

Our family recently traveled on vacation to Orange Beach, Alabama. We were able to get all three of our children and their spouses, as well as the three grandchildren together in one place for a whole week. We stayed at beautiful Turquoise Place on the beach, and enjoyed the pleasant temperatures there after our summer heat and drought at home. On one of the days this little fishing party set sail for some gulf fishing.

Their luck was quite good at catching mackerel as you can see in this photo.

My son Daniel will attempt most any cooking challenge, so he took over the chef's duties when it came time to prepare the mackerel for dinner. He used two different methods to cook the mackerel and both were excellent. Some of the fish was dipped in a tempura batter that Daniel made with flour, cornmeal, garlic, soy sauce, and freshly grated ginger, then deep fried - super yummy! He also cooked up some by pan frying in butter, then he made a sauce to pour over the fish using the butter, minced garlic and red wine vinegar - also wonderful! We consumed all the fish we could eat, but with the many pounds that our fishermen caught, a large quantity remained to be cooked.

We also tickled our taste buds at some of the local Orange Beach restaurants. One of the places we visited was Calapso Joe's Caribbean Grill. I had a great Cuban Pork Sandwich with the trimmings and my husband dined on the Rib Eye Steak and Mashed Potatoes. While we were waiting on our orders, the grandchildren were invited to watch the crab races.

Cosmos was another restaurant worth mentioning that we visited on this trip. Fortunately, we arrived early enough that our wait wasn't too long, but it filled up quickly. I had a salmon salad that was topped with julienned apricots, and it was not your ordinary salmon salad. My husband had his usual rib eye steak, and the grandchildren were happy to find edamame and sushi on this menu.

But then, what to do with all that mackerel still left in the refrigerator? No one was now in the mood to eat it, and we were told by the men who dressed it that it did not hold up well when frozen. It seemed like there might be no choice but to trash it, when Daniel came up with the idea to cure it. Apparently curing fish is not a new process and has been done successfully for hundreds of years, but this was to be my first experience with "the cure." The recipe that I used has been modified slightly from the original.

Print Recipe

Gravad Mackerel
2 pounds mackerel fillets
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
5 tablespoons finely chopped dill

In a bowl, combine sugar, salt, caraway seeds, and dill; mix well. Sprinkle the bottom of a large dish with a handful of the mixture. Place a layer of the fish in the dish, then sprinkle with more of the sugar mixture; repeat layers until all fish has been covered in the cure. Cover the dish and place in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. Serve by slicing thinly.

Sugar, salt, caraway seeds, and dill make up the cure. Fresh dill would be nice, but being away from home I used what I had with me.

Spread a layer of the mixture in the bottom of a large dish.

Place a layer of mackerel fillets on top of the cure.

Sprinkle the fish with another layer of the sugar mixture, then repeat the layers until all the fish has been covered. Refrigerate for 1 - 2 days.

The texture of the fish changed considerably after 24 hours. The fish becomes stiff and what I would call "pickled." Instead of being soft and floppy this piece of fish is now completely stiff.

Now that the fish was cured, it could travel home with Daniel and Tiffany to Tennessee. We drained the liquid that had formed in the dish, then mixed up another batch of salt/sugar cure and repacked the fish in layers, this time in zip top bags, then the bags were placed on ice in a cooler.

Our Gravad Mackerel was a success, because I received this picture of the appetizers that Daniel and Tiffany had made after returning home. They sliced the fish to serve on Ritz crackers then topped it off with a Yogurt Dill Sauce that Daniel even included his recipe for.

Print Recipe

Yogurt Dill Sauce

1 cup Greek yogurt
Fresh dill, chopped (about 2 inches of a sprig)
Zest of one lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, combine yogurt, dill, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper; mix well.

Our family vacation this summer was a lot of fun. I forgot to mention the beach, the boogie boards, the crab catching, the swimming, and the souvenir shopping. It's just that trying out new food and cooking ideas are the real adventures to me!


  1. What a wonderful family vacation and everybody together, too!! How clever of you to cure the fish. That sure beat trashing it!! I love how you cleaned your ficus trees, too, Anita. You are on a roll, girlfriend!! I forgot to tell you that I love your new background.

  2. Looks like you had a great vacation! Quite envious of the Gulf fishing! I've never made a gravad or cure fish in any way, but what a great idea!

  3. Looks like you had a great trip surrounded by your family. Thanks for the great recipe. I have never cured fish, bt sure enjoy it! I am a new follower!

  4. Oh my, I love fresh seafood! Of course, I love it in good restaurants too. My kinda vacation! Glad you had a great trip and pickling the fish was unique.