Frequently Asked Questions
What are the mercury levels of Sea Harvest South African Hake products?
Sea Harvest is strictly regulated by the NRCS (National Regulator of Compulsory Specifications), the authorized and accredited body tasked with the inspection of fish for both the local and export markets. The NRCS tests for mercury and other heavy metals (including cadmium and lead) in hake, kingklip and other species on a regular basis. Levels detected are well below those required by South African and international legislations and standards, and results have shown that hake and kingklip have low mercury levels.
Species with higher mercury levels than others include shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.
Why are not all Sea Harvest products MSC certified?
All Sea Harvest South African Hake products are MSC certified although not all the products carry the blue MSC ecolabel.
This is due to several reasons. Firstly, in South Africa there is still not much recognition from consumers about what the blue ecolabel means. As consumer recognition for the label grows, it will be included on more product packs.
Another reason is that some products contain fish from other fisheries that may not yet be MSC certified. Sea Harvest is committed to sourcing fish from other responsibly managed fisheries including New Zealand, the USA and Namibia, some of which are already in the process of MSC certification.
Furthermore, since the deep sea trawl industry only applied for MSC certification for South African Hake, other local species are not included in the certification program. This includes species like Kingklip and Sole.
How do I Select Good Quality Frozen Fish?
- Always ensure that the product is completey frozen; never purchase any opened or damaged packaging.
- The packaging should be free from moisture; any soft packaging indicates that it has defrosted.
- Packages should be tightly-wrapped with little or no air space between the fish and the package.
- There should be no signs of discoloration on the fish.
- Fish should smell clean and mild and not strongly "fishy" or rancid.
- There should be no evidence of drying out on the fish.
- There should be no parched white areas indicating freezer burn.
- Too many ice crystals on either the outer pack or the product show that the package has been allowed to defrost at some stage, and the fish has therefore lost its moisture and then been refrozen. The flavour and eating quality will be affected. \
- When shopping purchase your frozen fish last, to ensure that it does not defrost or damage whilst shopping.
What different methods are used to freeze fresh fish commercially?
Plate Freezing: This method of freezing can be done on the fishing vessel or in the shore based factory. The gutted, filleted, and skinned fish are packed in the final product carton either in plastic pouches or between layers of plastic and then frozen with direct contact between the carton and refrigerated iron plates.
Blast Freezing: This method is also used both on fishing vessels and ashore. The prepared fish, wrapped in plastic, are placed in cartons. The cartons are placed within a freezing chamber in which cooled air is circulated rapidly.
Individually Quick Frozen (IQF): This method is done in the same manner as blast freezing. However each individual fish / portion / fillet is frozen separately. Commercial freezing happens very quickly. This is done to minimize the formation of ice crystals, which will damage the texture of the fish. It also "locks in" the flavour and moisture. This is the reason why frozen fish is often "fresher" than "so-called" fresh fish.
Home Freezing: Fish should be gutted before freezing, and wrapped well, as freezer burn will occur if any part of the fish is exposed. The cold air within a freezer will dehydrate the exposed fish and cause a taint in the flavour. Home freezing happens far more slowly that commercial freezing, and some ice crystal formation will occur within the fish. It is always preferable to cook fish from frozen, as moisture will be lost during the defrost process, more so in home frozen fish.
How do I defrost fish /shellfish?
- The safest way to defrost fish in order to keep its flavour and texture is to defrost it in the refrigerator for 12 - 24 hours depending on its size.
- Defrosting at room temperature will deteriorate the quality of the fish and plunging in cold water will result in the further loss of moisture and flavour.
- As with many defrosted food products, refreezing fish is not recommended.
How do I Know it’s Fresh?
- Your eyes and sense of smell are very important when selecting fresh fish.
- Fresh fish should have a mild, salty aroma; if it is 'fishy' it may very well be stale, so steer clear.
- Scaly fish should have a good covering of scales, if they have bald patches and the scales are coming loose it has passed its best before date.
- The gills should be bright red and not pale in colour.
- The tail must be pliable, not dry.
- The eyes should be clear and bright not dull and sunken.
- The flesh should be firm, not soft.
- When buying pre packed and cut portions, e.g. cutlets or steaks, it is very difficult to judge its freshness and the “sell by' or 'best before' date should be checked. Do however ensure that the fish has not discoloured, that there is very little air space between the wrapping and the fish and that there are no pools of liquid at the bottom of the package.
How do I store frozen fish and seafood
Once at home place the Frozen Fish products in your freezer immediately, (-18ºC is the ideal temperature for your home freezer).
Ensure that the freezer door closes properly, and limit opening and closing thereof, as this causes temperature fluctuations.
Never defrost and refreeze any frozen fish.
How do I FRY fish?
Shallow (Pan) Fry - use hot oil for best results. This will ensure a crispy outside with a moist inside. Do not fry too slowly, as the fish will be limp and pale and might fall apart. Cover base of pan with oil. Butter adds flavour, but because it can burn, add a little oil. The frying time can vary from 6 - 8 minutes depending on thickness of the portion.
To establish when the oil is ready for frying, dip a cube of bread in the oil. It should turn light brown in 90 seconds.
Deep Fry – dip fish in seasoned flour, dip floured fish in beaten egg, and then crumb or batter the fish to protect the flesh and seal in the flavours and juices. Fry quickly in hot (180°), deep oil for about 4 - 6 minutes.
How do I BAKE fish?
Dollops of flavoured butter or a little olive oil on fish portions are ideal for baking. Wrap fish portions in foil to keep moisture in - as fish forms its own juices. Open just before end of baking to allow for browning. Fish can also be placed in a suitable oven dish and covered. Baking takes around 20 minutes depending on the portion size.
How do I GRILL fish?
Domestic grills vary so much. Always line the grill pan with foil and brush fish with oil to prevent sticking. For an outside braai, a wire fish grid is ideal. Slash skin of fish and brush well with oil. When marinating fish for grilling, leave to marinate for half an hour to give extra flavour. If marinated for too long the flesh may break up. Grilling time should be about 8 - 10 minutes. All cooking times given are a guideline only as size and thickness of fish portions and cooking appliances vary.
How do I POACH fish?
Pour some water (milk or fish stock can also be used) into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Place the fish, skin-side down into liquid and simmer very gently, to avoid breaking up the flesh, until the fish turns opaque and flakes easily. Other ways to flavour the poaching liquid is to make a court bouillon (or use a prepared court bouillon cube) or add two tablespoons vinegar, a few peppercorns and some bay leaves to the basic cooking liquid.
How do I BRAAI fish?
Place fish in a large piece of foil, shiny side facing inwards. Season fish very well and close foil. Place on braai grid over medium heat coals and turn over at regular intervals. Braai until fish turns opaque and flakes easily. Fennel, dill or thyme adds an aromatic flavour to braaied fish.
How does MICROWAVE cooking differ to other methods of cooking fish?
Texture: Microwave cooking is so quick and great care should be taken not to overcook the fish as it will become “rubbery”.
Starting temperature: Differences in the temperature of the food when placed into the microwave will affect the length of the cooking time required. The colder the food, the longer it will take to cook, so allowances must be made when using food straight from the refrigerator or freezer.
Quantity: The greater the quantity of food placed in the microwave, the greater the length of cooking time required. Similarly, if you use less than the quantities given in the recipes, the cooking times should be adjusted /reduced.
Stirring and turning: Stirring during a heating or cooking process is recommended in some dishes. All foods continue cooking to a degree when removed from the microwave and some dishes will require a standing or resting period to assist with finishing the heating or cooking process.
Salmon Cooking Methods:
- For each 2.5cm thickness of steak or fillet cook at 220°C for 10 minutes from fresh or fully thawed, or 12 - 15 minutes if partially thawed, if frozen cook for 20 minutes.
- Place salmon in a baking dish (or wrap in oiled foil and place on a baking sheet).
- Brush fish with melted butter or olive oil and season with salt and pepper or any other seasoning of your choice.
- Defrost fully and marinade salmon in your preferred marinate.
- Cook Salmon over hot coals on a well-oiled grill, to prevent sticking.
- Baste frequently to ensure that the salmon remains moist and flavourful.
- Turn once halfway through the cooking period.
- Do Not Overcook
- Thaw the salmon slightly and then sear on both sides in a hot pan on a high heat for 30 seconds per side.
- Turn the heat down to a medium low heat and fry gently for ± 4 minutes on each side or until cooked.
- Slightly thaw the salmon and brush with melted butter. Place on a baking tray.
- Grill under a pre-heated moderately hot grill, ensuring that the baking tray is placed 15cm away from the grill (this ensures that the salmon does not brown too much before it cooks through).
- Grill for ± 8 - 10 minutes.
- Poaching liquid can consist of the following: 1litre water flavoured with vegetable/ fish stock and the juice of one lemon or lime. Any herb of your choice can be added to the liquid (parsley/rosemary/ lemongrass/ ginger)
- Bring the poaching liquid to a gentle simmer and place 2 frozen salmon portions in the liquid, cover with a lid and simmer over a medium heat for 8 - 10 minutes.
- Once the fish is poached, reduce the liquid to a ¼ of the original amount and add a tablespoon of cream before serving, serve warm with the poached fish.
- Fill a large saucepan 1/3 full with water.
- Simmer gently and place a colander, which fits snugly, into the saucepan, ensure that the colander is well out of the water.
- Place some frozen vegetables at the bottom of the colander, place 2 frozen salmon portions on top of the vegetables and scatter some fresh parsley over the contents.
- Cover with a lid and simmer gently for 10 - 12 minutes, or until cooked.
- Cut frozen salmon steaks into strips or medium sized cubes.
- Heat butter or oil in a wok or frying pan.
- Stir Fry for 3 - 4 minutes on high.
- Cream can be added during the last 30 seconds of cooking for a creamy sauce, or use flavoured butter and add fresh herbs just before serving.
This is fish caught in the open sea that was allowed to naturally develop and grow without ANY intervention of any kind. Wild caught fish is rich in nutrition and flavour. Wild caught fish is one of the last remaining sources of truly organic protein.
The Marine Stewardship Counsel is an independent, global, non-profit organization which was set up to find a solution to the problem of overfishing. The MSC was first established by Unilever, the world's largest buyer of seafood, and WWF, the international conservation organization, in 1997. The environmental standard for sustainable and well managed fisheries was developed over a number of years to ensure fisheries do not over fish, damage the ecology or damage endangered species. Sea Harvest has been certified by the MSC since 2004.
This is the abbreviation of “Hazard Analyses and Critical Control Points”. HACCP is an international food safety management system that uses process controls to minimize food safety risks.
This is a fish that contains a liver, and therefore has predominantly white flesh that is not oily e.g. Hake, Southern Blue Whiting and Pollock. Historically “Cod liver oil” was produced from the livers of hake, amongst other species.
This is fish that does not have a liver, and therefore stores its oil in its tissue. This results in a darker meat with varying oil content, depending on the specie. Some of the pelagic species available include pilchard and mackerel.
Hake is a white fish specie found along the coast of southern Africa at depths of between 300 and 700 meters. Two species predominantly due to their habitat are found namely Merluccius capensis (shallow water) and Merluccius paradoxus (deep water). Traditionally hake was known as “stock fish” for its use as victuals for passing fleets in the 17th century. Hake is also marketed as “Cape Whiting” and in its smoked form as “Haddock”.
Haddock found in the South African market should not be confused with Haddock sold abroad. In Europe and America Haddock is a fish specie (Melanogrammus aeglefinus). It is caught primarily in the North Atlantic Ocean. The fillet has large flakes and an almost pinkish natural colour. "Haddock" in South Africa is a traditional name. It dates back to the days in which true cold smoked Haddock was imported. However, as this became scarce, and the prices rose, local producers found that Hake produced an excellent, very similar product when smoked, and the tradition was born. The Hake Fillets are placed in a tank containing a brine mixture, which consists of salt, water and a natural colourant, namely Annato (which is produced from the seed of the Bixa Orellana shrub) for a few minutes, then removed and cold smoked. Once processed the Smoked Hake Fillets have a firmer flesh, a pleasant saltiness, a pale orange-white marbled colour and a fresh smoky flavour. This "Haddock", as it is traditionally known in South Africa, is an excellent fish for all occasions, and is often used in the traditional "poached in milk" breakfast serving.
A Kipper is actually a herring, an oily fish type, which is brine-dyed using a natural dye (annato) and smoked. They have many bones of which only the backbone can be removed therefore care needs to be taken to ensure no large bones are consumed. Kippers will always contain fine, hair-like bones throughout the flesh. They are rich in omega-3 oils, vitamins and minerals.
Legally only the backbone needs to be removed from a product to claim it is 'deboned'. Sea Harvest employs numerous methods and systems to remove the maximum amount of bones. A statement that the product is truly boneless can however not be made and Sea Harvest therefore includes the following information on our products: “ although all care has been taken to remove all bones , some small bones might however remain”
Scales are an integral part of many fish species. They are made up predominantly of calcium based salts and are considered harmless. Depending on the specie and the size of the fish, scales can be small and translucent. All efforts are employed to eliminate scales, but given its nature it could be present from time to time in the product.
Ingredients of Fish fingers and Fish burgers:
Contrary to popular myth that these products are made of “rejected scraps of a variety of species”, the Sea Harvest products are made from fresh flaked fish of highest quality to ensure that the integrity of quality has been maintained.
For a product to qualify as a “LOW FAT” the total fat content should be 3.0g or less per 100g.
Best before date:
Sea Harvest product “best before” date will appear on the narrow long side of each carton, and should be purchased on or before this date. You will, over and above this, have time for storage in your own freezer. Refer to “ Storage instructions “
All Sea Harvest packaging provides an indication on the number of portions present per selling unit. Minimum count refers to the absolute minimum number of units to be present e.g. “minimum 4” the selling unit could contain 5 units but never less than 4.
Storage guidelines appears on the short narrow side of the carton. This will indicate the period that you can store the product in your home freezer after purchase, and still enjoy optimum quality and value. Refer to the star rating as determined by your freezer manufacturer as a guide e.g. should your freezer have a 3 star rating (***) and ideally operate at a average temperature of -18°C , you will be safe storing product for a further 3 months from purchase under these conditions.
The best way to prepare:
Should the back of pack suggest more than one method of preparation, the first “cooking suggestion” will yield the best results. This was pre-determined by the Sea Harvest development center, while the other options are acceptable alternative methods should you prefer.
Protein cook out:
This manifests itself in a “white froth” which is indicative of the congealing of protein (similar to what happens to an egg white when heated) This process does not detract from the quality or taste of the product. It might however detract from visual appearance. This happens to all fish species, as they all contain protein , but is more pronounced in Salmon as the natural color (pink to orange) serves as a contrasting background to the white residue. If required the “white froth” can be scraped off and discarded. Protein cook out is directly related to the following factors:
- Age of fish when caught
- Season when caught
- Speed and temperature of home preparation
Polyphosphates are legally permitted additives that are widely used to aid processing or to improve eating quality of many foods, particularly meat and fish products. A phosphate is a salt of phosphoric acid; when a number of simple phosphate units are linked to form a more complex structure, this is known as a polyphosphate. The main value of polyphosphates lies in improving the retention of water in fish
MSG, the abbreviated term for monosodium glutamate, is a flavour enhancer occurring naturally in foods such as tomatoes, certain cheeses and anchovies. It is also manufactured commercially from starches and sugars and added to prepared foods to enhance flavours already present in the food. All food additives are tightly regulated by various government bodies and all food additives have to be listed in the ingredient statement of food products. A high degree of safety testing is enforced to ensure that the food we eat is safe, wholesome and tasty.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish oils, especially from the fatty, cold water types of fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, snoek, galjoen, herring and anchovies. They are believed to lower blood triglyceride levels (another fatty substance in the blood). They also reduce the possibility of blood clotting that can lead to a stroke or heart attack and are linked to the development of brain cells and nervous system.
Emulsifiers are added to prevent oil and water from separating, for keeping ingredients such as spices within sauces evenly dispersed and prevent crystallisation in frozen goods. Without them, sauces and batters would separate and become unpalatable. They are also used in products such as margarine and vegetable shortening.
These are similar to emulsifiers and help stabilize emulsions of fat and water and prevent any unwanted chemical changes causing sauces and batters to separate and disintegrate.
Food manufacturers have a legal duty to consumers to make sure that their food remains uncontaminated up to its "sell by" date. Preservatives slow the development of bacteria and micro-organisms that would make food go off and cause food poisoning. Salt, vinegar, garlic, onion and spices are natural preservatives
True food allergy always involves an immune mechanism and must be differentiated from food intolerances.
These reactions account for about 90 % of the adverse reactions to food but do not involve the immune system. They tend to be caused more from malabsorbtion and/or reactions to chemical compounds in the food we eat.
Gluten is a protein found in various grains including wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat and oats. It is used in conjunction with the raising agent which makes the batter that the fish is dipped in, light and crispy.
Gluten intolerance is different to a wheat allergy. Gluten intolerance is a reaction to a fraction of gluten called gliadin. Many people may think they have a gluten intolerance but it is an extremely rare condition found mainly in people of United Kingdom origin. It is also called coeliac disease or gluten enteropathy. Patients need to avoid all gluten containing foods completely and for the duration of their life.
Cook from frozen:
To ensure that you get the full benefit from your Sea Harvest product, it is essential that the product is used “from the freezer to the pan / oven”. Our processing technology ensures that all the nutrition, texture and taste are captured, only to be released once the home preparation commences.
Your home freezer is designed to keep frozen product frozen, and is inadequate in freezing any product, resulting in a slow freezing cycle, which in turn manifests itself in a breakdown of texture and can yield “pap” fish. Sea Harvest therefore presents the product in an IQF (individually quick frozen) or in an individually wrapped form that allows you to take from the freezer ONLY what is needed, whilst the balance is maintained in ideal conditions.
Is vegetable oil healthy:
Vegetable oil consists mainly of unsaturated fats, which helps lower overall levels of cholesterol. It is essential to have a certain amount of fat in one's diet to help the body absorb vitamins A, D, E and K, which are essential for healthy cell membranes and the production of certain hormones.
Healthy is fish:
Fish forms an important part of your diet.Fish is high in protein in a highly digestible form and contains iron, calcium, fluorine, and a range of B vitamins as well as iodine. White fish is very low in fat and calories, but even the oily varieties contain healthier types of oils and no more fat than the average serving of meat. The oil is rich in vitamins A, D and E. For a healthy diet, 2 portions of fish (approx. 100 g each) should be eaten weekly, of which one should be oil-rich
To Transport frozen fish products:
Great care is taken in processing and transporting Sea Harvest products between the factory and the retailer to ensure the best quality, taste and texture. This is done at great cost. To ensure that you get the full benefit of this process, it is strongly recommended that the appropriate insulated vessel is used to transport product to your own freezer in the shortest possible time.