Handling Southern Calamari

Southern Calamari - Sepioteuthis australis

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Region of origin

Throughout the Eyre Peninsula Growing Conditions Calamari aggregate to spawn during spring and early summer and their life cycle is complete after spawning.

Sustainability

An excellent sustainable choice – fast growing, short life cycle, prolific breeding. Generally, the Southern Calamari are believed to live, on average, 18 months from birth to death, and are prolific breeders. Fast-growing and short-lived species can sustain high levels of fishing pressure, which, combined with the low impact fishing method (one license, one fisherman with a hand line) delivers optimum sustainability of the calamari of the Eyre Peninsula.

Feed

Calamari or squid are very aggressive and fast moving predators, attacking small fish, crustaceans and molluscs. They are voracious feeders and will eat large quantities of prey, if available, in a short time.

Harvesting method

The principal form of harvesting is hand-jig and there is some caught as a by-catch to the Spencer Gulf Prawn Fishery.

Seasonality

Year round, best volumes and quality May to August.

Size

Calamari taken during spring and early summer tend to be bigger than those taken in autumn.

Methods to market

The premium product is shipped to market fresh, whole. Calamari frozen within hours of harvest retain much of the integrity of flavour and texture of the fresh and are infinitely easier to handle – the skin is removed more simply and there is less chance of ink-explosion, common with fresh calamari. Cleaned tubes (sold with the wings and tentacles) of Southern Calamari are rare and often quite expensive. Trawler packs (typically 5/10kg) from the by catch of the Spencer Gulf Prawn Fishery offer excellent value for ungraded product and is typically smaller than the jigged Calamari.

Handling and storage

At the market, look for firm squid with bright eyes. They should have a certain slipperiness about them but shouldn’t be slimy. Ideally, fresh calamari will have an iridescent translucency and a fresh
‘seaweed’ aroma. Avoid too much fresh water in the processing of the calamari as this can have a detrimental effect on both the flavour and texture of the calamari. Once cleaned, the hood, wings and tentacles should be wrapped tightly in freezer wrap and placed on a tray atop an ice-bed, in a sealed, air tight container – to avoid the absorption of deleterious aromas. Frozen calamari should be gently defrosted overnight in a cool room, prior to processing or use.

Fresh v frozen

Calamari, if frozen from very fresh, is an excellent product. The firm, tight structure of the calamari flesh freezes well, some claim that this process assists in tenderising the calamari. As calamari can deteriorate quickly, especially if it has been subject to thermal abuse or fresh water, freezing is a viable way to ensure a consistent supply of premium quality product. Frozen packs available in 2 x 5kg blocks.

Appearance

The flesh of very fresh Southern Calamari is translucent white, with an iridescent hue. Frozen/ defrosted calamari is pure white. Cooked calamari is snow white.

Bone structure

A central quill runs the length of the calamari body and cartilages connect the wings to the hood.

Flavour

The aroma of Southern Calamari is light and mild, reminiscent of the water in which eggs have been poached with a light iodine/seaspray note. The flavour is equally mild, soft, clean flavour – light
iodine notes with the lactic tang of fresh cream.

Texture

Southern Calamari, if eaten raw/sashimi is meltingly tender, with a rich, mouth filling texture similar to ripe avocado. Cooked quickly/lightly the texture remains medium to firm with a crisp, characteristic bite.

Yield

High – approximately 80 per cent of usable flesh from whole calamari, including the wings, the tentacles and the legs. Yield on the tube alone is approximately 30 per cent.

Culinary applications

Highly versatile, Southern Calamari can be served raw, poached, steamed, grilled, fried or roasted but is best cooked fast and over high heat or slow over low heat with plenty of moisture. The hood, wings and tentacles all cook at different temperatures and this should be considered when designing the dishes. The ink from the Southern Calamari has many culinary applications thanks to its viscosity and intensity. It is easier to extract the ink sack from a frozen whole calamari than a fresh one.

 1 Calamari

1. Check Southern Calamari for quality
– clear, bright eyes, translucent flesh
and no broken skin

 2 Calamari

2. Gripping the head and top of the
quill firmly, draw the head, gut and quill
from the body

 3 Calamari

3. Inserting fingers under the cartilage
connecting the wings to the hood, remove
wings and skin together

 4 Calamari

4. Cut cartilage from wings

 4 Calamari

5. Cut beak and eyes from tentacles
– leaving cleaned hood, wings and
legs