Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Smoked Fish

The electrification of Ocracoke in 1938 (with the accompanying ice plant) is recognized on Ocracoke Island as the catalyst for the blossoming of commercial fishing.  Piloting (from the days of the island's first settlement in the early 1700s) and seafaring (after Hatteras Inlet opened in 1846, and sailing ships began using that inlet) had occupied most island breadwinners until the island was electrified. The ability to make ice allowed subsistence fishing to grow into a more viable commercial venture with markets on the mainland.

In its Final Technical Report – Volume One: Ethnohistorical Description of the Eight Villages adjoining Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Interpretive Themes of History and Heritage (November, 2005) the National Park Service includes this description of preserving fish before World War II:

"[All] homesteads on the Banks...had several out-buildings including smoke houses for ham and fish. To smoke fish, villagers scaled them and layered them in a keg with course salt. They filled the keg with water and weighed the fish down with a brick. They covered the barrel and brine mixture with cheesecloth and left it alone for about a week. Then they removed the fish and washed them in fresh water; the fish were attached through the tail to an opened wire coat hanger and hung inside the smoke house. A large iron kettle was filled with kindling and green persimmon or green oak wood; it was lit and allowed to smolder in the smoke house for two or three days. The smudge was removed from the scales, and the fish would keep for long lengths of time. To prepare for cooking, the fish was soaked in fresh water overnight and then fried." (Jones, Jomi 1973. “How to Smoke Fish.” Sea Chest Vol. 1, No. 1)

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Mrs. Godfrey's ghost who haunts the Island Inn/Odd Fellows Lodge. The story is taken from Chapter Three of my book, Digging up Uncle Evans. You can read the account here:

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