It’s Sunday morning here and that only means one thing – bacon and eggs for breakfast. Cooking Sunday breakfast is Robin’s job and bacon and eggs it usually is, with a cooked tomatoe on the side for me. I asked him today just how many Sunday breakfasts he thought he had cooked over the years. Who knows – but they have all been delicious!
Yesterday a group of keen Menz Shedders and any interested spouses gathered in the rain outside the Levin Eel Trading factory. I can remember eating smoked eel at a rather posh restaurant many years ago, so have long been interested to visit this local business. We were welcomed by the company founder Mark who told us all about the processes involved.
Levin Eel Trading’s contracts fishermen to catch the eels from rivers and lakes throughout the North Island and top half of the South Island. The eels are then transported live back to the factory using purpose built trucks.
A truck full of live eels
Mark built his factory to his own design and utilises gravity to pipe water from one level to the next. We watched as the eels were unloaded from the truck and entered the tanks through large pipes.
Here come the eels
The tanks appears to be boiling with writhing eels, but it is not the eels making all that disturbance. The water is aerated which makes all the movement and the eels slowly move around the tanks.
Tanks full of eels
There are two species of freshwater eels in New Zealand – the short fin eel and the long fin eel The longfin eel is native to New Zealand, whilst the short fin eel is also found in South Australia, Tasmania and New Caledonia. New Zealand freshwater eels are managed through the New Zealand Quota Management System to ensure a sustainable future. The nets are fitted out with escape vents for eels under 300g to remain in the water and larger eels over 4kg are returned to the water for breeding. The eels only breed once in their lives and these larger eels can contain millions of eggs – we didn’t know that.
Mark explained that most of the catch is exported live (chilled) to markets throughout Asia, Europe and North America. All frozen products are blast frozen at -30°C before being stored at -20°C. The smoked eel fillets are manuka hot-smoked with brown sugar brine and salt. This was what I was after and gladly purchased some to take home with me. Plus a little smoked salmon too, I didn’t know they sold that as well.
Yummy – smoked eel and salmon
Like most Kiwi boys, Robin has caught his share of eels as a lad. Cooked and ate them too. But those days are long gone and he wants nothing to do with our purchase of smoked eel. What a shame – I’ll have to eat it all by myself!