Siren Fish CSF comes to Sacramento

Lingcod is sometimes blue and it is delicious!
Disclosure: I was given a credit by Siren Fish to try their CSF service. 

You may be familiar with the term "CSA", which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Generally it's where you buy a subscription to a local farm or farm group and then on a regular basis you receive a box of fresh, seasonal produce. You help the farm sell what's currently being harvested and are guaranteed the freshest of produce.

The twist to that is a CSF, or Community Supported Fishery. This is where you receive a box of super fresh seafood while supporting local fishermen. In Sacramento, you can get a CSF box from Siren Fish.

Here's how it works:

You sign up and decide whether you want to receive shipments weekly or bi-weekly. You also decide how big a share you want. You can a single share that's good for two people, or a double for four people. You also get a choice of whether you want to receive fish fillets, whole fish, or a variety, which can include both fish fillets and/or shellfish. Finally you choose a pick-up location. In the Sacramento area you can pick up at Broadway Coffee on Wednesdays or at Bike Dog Brewing in West Sacramento on Thursdays. 

A few days before your delivery date, you will get an email telling you what this week's catch is. You can either pick what you want, or you can let them pick something for you. Don't worry, you can also log in a vacation hold if you want to skip a week. Then you just go and pick it up. They will suggest recipes for the type of fish, or you can just cook how you like.

Shares run about $21-$28 each and for the past few weeks it was the equivalent of a pound of whatever fish was that week. Things like rockfish and lingcod are at the lower end and the salmon is at the higher end. What I liked was that for someone who doesn't know much about fish selection besides salmon, trout, and halibut, this gave me a chance to try some other fish and see what they were really like. 

It's also nice to get information about the fishermen you are supporting as well as more information about how the fish was caught and prepared. For instance, this is Captain Anthony Ferrari — a second-generation commercial fishermen who has been joining his father, Lou Ferrari, on the F/V Spellbound since he was nine years old. That week he caught black gill rockfish.
You will notice that the eyes of your Black Gill Rockfish appear to have blown up and then rapidly deflated. You might also notice that these fish appear to have tongues. Both of these strange features result from the rapid change in pressure that occurs as these deep ocean fish are reeled up. The deflated goggle eyes look is common for groundfish and does not indicate poor handling or inferior quality. The “tongue” is in fact an over-inflated swim bladder. Despite these drastic physical changes, it is possible for an experienced fisherman to return a landed rockfish unharmed to the water. They are very resilient creatures.
Another week I got the lingcod pictured at the top of this post. "Some of you may notice that your fish is blue. About 30% of all ling cod are some shade of blue, and this load holds true to that statistic. These blue fish, colloquially called “smurfs” turn white when cook and have no discernible difference in taste." It's nice to know these extra facts.

So I did ask them a couple of questions that were of interest to me. First was regarding whether the fish were frozen at all to kill parasites so I can feel safe eating it raw in something like sashimi, poke, or ceviche. The answer is that the fish are well iced, but they are not frozen. If one wishes to use the fish in a raw capacity, it is suggested that the fish be frozen for at least two days first. 

The second had to do with price. After all, $21 per pound for rockfish is pretty pricey when you can find it for less at the supermarket or at Sunh Fish. Of course there is the fact that this is fish being freshly delivered and that you are helping to support specific local fishermen, but there's more to it than that.

First they say that "72 hours out of the water is our maximum time from boat to door". They aren't negotiating with a bunch of boats trying to get the cheapest catch. Their goal is to work with specific fishermen to buy the catch they caught that day.

"We pay a higher price to the boat for superior onboard treatment. We ask fishermen do go above and beyond with onboard treatment of their catch. We ask for fish to be immediately bled and deep iced when your average load of fish would be stored whole under chip ice. These details improve the texture and shelf life of our fish."

I wanted a little more perspective on all this, so I called an expert, Hank Shaw of Hunt, Gather, Cook. We discussed a bit about how the fish are handled on commercial vessels and price. Basically, you are getting super fresh, well handled fish that could be a step above a really good fish market like Sunh Fish, but definitely a lot better than you would get at a supermarket such as Safeway. He reminded me that you could also go buy a day on a fishing boat at about $120, pull in your limits, and come home with, say, 100 pounds of fish. I chuckled at that. I do plan on going fishing with Hank some day, but for the average Joe, we're still going to get fileted fish from a store. It's just a matter of the quality/price we are wanting or willing to pay.

I will say that all the fish I got was super tasty. I made one of those vacuum sealed frozen filets and it was horrible (I probably didn't do the best job cooking it). But the fish I got in my CSF came out perfectly every time I cooked it. So wonderful!

By the way, I made the Asian Style Baked Rockfish (above) that Siren Fish suggested and it was aromatic and delicious!

Disclosure: I was given a credit by Siren Fish to try their CSF service.