Sun Dried Salted Mullet Roe is a delicacy of the St David’s Islanders enjoyed for generations every year in November and December when the mullets are fattened to 4 to 7lbs and carrying their roe.
To make Salted Mullet Roe, first the mullets are netted and brought ashore. Then, carefully, with surgeon like precision, the roes are gently removed with a dull knife. Yes, dull to avoid accidentally piercing the roe.
The roes are salted, rubbed well and then compressed between two pieces of wood under heavy rocks overnight. In the morning the roes are washed with pickle brine and hung out on a line to dry in the sun.
Care must be taken to prevent the cats reaching the roes!
At night and when it rains, the roes are brought in. This painstaking process takes two weeks.
Gary “Burp” Lamb, Winston “Sweet Pea” Foggo and “Moose” Pitcher looked forward to November every year. They would go out fishing for 4 days towing their “dinky” with the huge net.
Gary Lamb said mulletting“is like a fever” and Alan “Red Dick” Neasham said, “if you took this away from him [Burp], you might as well shoot him”. To these men however, it was the hunt and the camaraderie that was of equal value to the catch.
Back in 1997 Lamb told The Bermudian, “We used to get 60 to 80 mullets a night, but now they’re getting scarce”. That particular year they netted only two batches of roe. It was a tough year as all the old timers kept calling “Burp” for St David’s Gold but he didn’t have enough. He said, “to get a piece of this off an Islander you’d have to steal it!”
That year the “Gold”, like real caviar, was worth $1000 per ounce due to its scarcity.
To taste Salted Roe, you only eat a small portion at a time, best served on a cracker with mayo and hot sauce. Some say it tastes like soap and others like anchovies on steroids – whatever, the Islanders love it. Some carried it around in their pocket to snack on it all day long.
To learn more about the first 100 years of life in Bermuda and the diverse St David’s Islanders, visit historic Carter House and Museum and experience the unique replica Settler’s Dwelling circa 1612. Open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday (summer) and Wednesday and Saturday (winter) from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Visit carterhousemuseum.org or call 293-5960 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .