National Seafood Month

For local fishmongers, it’s all about getting fresh, local seafood onto plates.
STORY BY LISA STITES PHOTOS BY LISA & JEFFREY STITES

Many of Brunswick County’s seafood retailers and restaurants are part of Brunswick Catch, a local seafood recognition program. The goal of Brunswick Catch is to “sustain the livelihood and heritage of the Brunswick County seafood industry,” according to the website, www.brunswickcatch.com. The group utilizes public education and promotion to increase the demand for locally harvested seafood among residents and visitors, with a long term goal of making Brunswick Catch seafood a recognized brand throughout the eastern United States, the website states.

Participating retailers and restaurants display a “Brunswick Catch” sign, so consumers can easily see where local seafood is available. It’s not just a philosophy, but a way of life for Potter’s Seafood in Southport’s Yacht Basin and Haag & Sons Seafood on Oak Island. Jon Haag has owned the seafood market on Oak Island that bears his name since 1994. He is also currently Director of the Brunswick Catch Board, and is passionate about the cause and the job he does. Haag said he has built his business on selling local fish, but said too many regulations and the difficulty of maintaining clean water for fish nurseries are really affecting the industry. “The Yacht Basin used to be full of boats,” he said. A couple of those boats are run by a family with a log history in the fishing industry. For five generations, since 1899, the Potters have been fishing and selling seafood in Southport, even before the Yacht Basin was dug. “We catch as much as we can ourselves, we also have other Southport fishermen that unload their catch with us,” Potter said. They sell a lot of snapper and grouper and do some inshore fishing when they can, for flounder and trout. “We were part of the group that founded Brunswick Catch,” Royce Potter said. “It’s important to support our local fisher
men, just as we do our local farmers. Local food is healthier and supports the local economy.”He and wife April wanted to help newcomers and visitors better understand the fishing industry. “They see the boats, they sit in restaurants and they think all the fish came from there,” he said.”They assume they’re get
ting fresh, local stuff.” Potter’s staff also participate in numerous area events and camps, as a way to support the community but also to help educate the public. The fishermen work with the Maritime Museum’s summer programs, lead a rope-tying session at the annual Wooden Boat Show in Southport, and
get involved in other events where they can promote their industry. With such dedication for promoting local seafood, what’s the go-to dinner at a fisherman’s house? For these fishermen, the answer was the same, though they have very different ways to prepare it. Shrimp is an affordable seafood that’s an easy pick for dinner, and it’s also an ingredient they recommend for cooks new to seafood dishes. It’s also very versatile, Potter said. “Think Bubba Gump,” he said. Haag said with as much as he has to charge for fish, shrimp has become the truly affordable option. Higher quality frozen seafood has become more readily available, and all too often, fresh, local seafood is considered a luxury purchase. Haag has a somewhat unusual way of cooking his shrimp, although he said he just likes it steamed. It’s what he adds to the water that makes it different. He adds olive oil, balsamic vinegar (sometimes white balsamic vinegar), Swampfire (seafood boil seasoning) and apple butter. Yes, apple butter. He said the spices used in apple butter really make the shrimp delicious. Potter likes his shrimp sauteed and served over rice with spinach and mushrooms. Fresh shrimp should have a mild odor and firm meat. They’re not slippery, and retain their natural color, according to the the Brunswick Catch website. Steer clear of shrimp that are bright pink or red, or that suffer from black spot, a sign of age or poor handling. When shrimp are cooked, they have red/pink shells and meat with a red tint. The Brunswick Catch site has lots of tips for picking out fresh seafood, lists of local retailers and restaurants that participate and more on the history of the effort to promote buying local. Potter’s advice for those who want to add more seafood to their diet is to always buy it fresh. Fresh fish should actually not smell “fishy,” Potter explained. He also said it’s important to not overlook it. Potter and Haag offer more ways to keep tabs on the catch of the day than just stopping by the store. Potter’s has an email list that’s used to tell customers what the boats are bringing in and what time they’ll be there. And Haag & Sons has a Facebook page used for sharing recipes and pictures of delectable seafood meals. Catching and selling fish takes a lot of time and energy, Haag said. But it’s also a labor of love. “When you’re 40 to 50 miles out, and the water is 100 feet deep, and you can see to the bottom…it’s just beautiful” Haag said.


THE PERFECT SHRIMP COCKTAIL Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil, add a pinch of salt and a splash of olive oil to the water. Add in cleaned, shelled and de-vained fresh shrimp. Boil for about 90 seconds. Take out and strain immediately, chill under cool water. Put in a large bowl, toss with a drizzle of olive oil, a splash of fresh lemon juice, sea salt, pepper and Old Bay Seasoning. (To taste) Chill in the fridge or cover with ice cubes for about an hour. ENJOY! Easy Cocktail Sauce: 1/3 C of Ketchup 1 Tsp Lemon Juice Dash of Hot sauce (Horseradish) Dash of Paprika Dash of Garlic Powder – or minced garlic 1 TBL of Worcestershire Sauce A drop of mustard if you like Mix well, chill and serve!

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