The wealth of the reservoirs of Russia
Before the Great Patriotic War, in the planned economy of the Soviet Union, the main suppliers of fish for the army and the population were the Sea of Azov, the Caspian Sea, and most importantly, the Aral Sea, which in general was an all-Union cage in its abundance and productivity. Before the war, Marshal Voroshilov came to Stalingrad and discussed with the local leadership the possibility of supplying troops of the Caspian vobla from the Volga and the Azov ram from the Don in such volumes that every Red Army man could always pull dried fish out of the bootleg during the foot crossings , as it happened in the First World War. After the war, in all Moscow pubs there were bags of fish, and everyone who bought a beer mug could take as much fish from them as possible. However, already in the 70 of the last century, only submariners and mountain arrows received a dry ration for dry rations.
In the 50-e years of the last century, the rapid development of industry began, all large rivers blocked dams, intensive water intake and pollution began, and the Aral began to dry out quickly, since almost all the water in its basin was taken for irrigation of cotton. Fish catches across the country have decreased dramatically and repeatedly. Then they decided to develop the extraction and processing of ocean fish. They built huge trawlers and fish processing floating bases, the cost of which exceeded even the cost of the navy. After that, we faced a problem: our population at that time was very suspicious of fish and other seafood that had never been seen before. Cookbooks with a detailed description of new types of fish, methods of their preparation and eating were immediately released for sale. At the same time, exhibitions and tastings-sales of specially prepared dishes from sea fish and seafood were held in Moscow and Leningrad.
Then one day, when I was still in fifth grade, my father, returning from a business trip to Moscow, brought a huge fish with almost black skin. It smelled just wonderful! With a pair of forks, he tore it into large pieces. Under the skin was found delicious white, layered succulent meat ... It was smoked cod! I remembered this first cod, and I loved it all my life, but no matter how much I bought the same cod, I never felt the taste equal to the first one: the cooking quality was lower ...
During my army service, boiled cod, as well as her once "weedy" relatives, pollock and hake, were already an ordinary part of the soldiers' food.
Right from my childhood I became addicted to fishing and loved to read on this topic, about the types and properties of various fish, including gastronomic ... And now, reading the Russian classics even from the school curriculum, I often come across information about fish called burbot . In Gogol, for example, it was reported that caviar and especially milt burbot make fish soup especially tasty, while Saltykov-Shchedrin sang liver burbot.
Already being a high school student, I heard the stories of the fathers of my classmates. They worked as shift workers in oil and gas production in Yamal. Visiting those places during the watch, they bought from fishermen from the indigenous population local fish and fish products. In the Yamal deep-sea lakes there are almost 70 percent of all sigon fish stocks in Russia, and it is there that such super-delicacies as palia, peled, chir, muksun and whitefish are massively mined. But shift workers, instead, preferred to buy local pike from fishermen, telling that it is unusually fat and incomparably better in taste than pike from the Volga and other rivers of the central belt and southern Russia. They also took burbot liver from local fishermen. Burbot there are abundant and they are very large, but the locals do not eat this fish, but they catch it specifically for shift workers. They will catch them, pull out the liver, and throw the carcasses themselves onto the snow, they say, then foxes will pick them up.
In 27, I visited relatives in the Vologda region, where once in October I took part in fishing on the Sukhona River as part of a local artel, which was harvesting fish for sale at a store supplying Sokol Pulp and Paper Mill. We fished with a net and, choosing from it a caught fish, we found many small ones, according to 300-400 g, of bred. Fishermen called them "kilunami" and thrown back into the river. On the sides of all the limbs, round sores were clearly visible. The Sokolsky Combine dumped a lot of untreated water into Sukhona, and all the burbot in the river were sick because of it. Later, at tea campfire, the artillery old men told me that before the revolution and even in the 1920-s, there was a whole barge fishing in the Sukhona in the winter. The locals did not eat this fish themselves, they considered it inedible for themselves, but they caught it to order. Caught very interesting. Rejected horses were purchased, they were killed, their belly was ripped off, after which these carcasses on the ropes were lowered into the hole at night. The next morning they were pulled out of the hole, in the belly was full burbot. Large was taken, small were released into the river. The carcasses were again lowered into the hole. From large burbot, the customers then removed the liver, and the carcasses themselves were sold in stores in Leningrad and Moscow.
Working at the Volzhsky Pipe Plant, I met with lovers of winter fishing, who told me that regularly in January, before spawning, they see burbots go right under the clear ice opposite the dam of the Volga Hydroelectric Power Plant, and sometimes even spin around the holes of winter fishermen sitting in this place. In general, lovers in our places catch burbot at night on live bait and worm, starting in October in the fall and April in the spring. They also say that burbot at this time can take on pieces of fresh meat.
In the end, I became acquainted with the works of the classic Russian fishing Sabaneev, from which I learned that burbot is the only freshwater representative of the cod (!) Fish family. That this fish is extremely sensitive to the purity of the water, and already in the 19 century, disappeared in the middle reaches of the Moscow River due to the fact that urban sewage was drained there. The spawning of burbot takes place in January, and after the establishment of the first ice, the burbot rises from the bottom and goes under the ice for some time, getting used to low temperatures. In our places, ice forms late, and the burbot go beneath it literally just before its spawning. In general, this fish is cold-loving, and in the summer it has something like a hibernation at the bottom in burrows and snags, preferably near the cold bottom keys. There is a lot of burbot in the north, but here on the lower Volga it is only found in places where it is very deep or there are cold keys at the bottom. There are such keys on Akhtuba ...
From other sources, it was found out that the liver of burbot in Russian high cuisine was valued higher than any caviar, it was prepared as a special refinement in restaurants, the pie-pie with this liver was extremely decorated on the table. And before the revolution, even the export of canned liver burbot was adjusted. The current canned cod and pollock liver is an echo of the memory of long-standing canned burbot liver.
I myself accidentally caught my first and last burbot in 80-s of the last century in Akhtuba, in the second half of August (!) On live bait for pike perch. It was in a deep pit, in which there were several large cold keys. These keys were well felt by the streaks of cold water on the surface during our swims at hot noon. So, I got a kilogram of burbot with caviar on my donku. At home we just roasted it with all the giblets.
In the dashing nineties, when everyone survived who was in that much, at the Central Market of Volgograd, one day he saw a woman trying to sell a pair of burbot of average size. Burbot was hot smoked. Then I did not buy them, but looked around and even asked for an opportunity to smell. The smell was beautiful!
Recently, in April, my friends fished donkeys and live worms in the area of the dam of the Volga Hydroelectric Station. The purpose of their fishing was just burbot, and the ichthyologist from the Volgograd Institute of Lake and River Fishery Vasily Boldyrev pointed out the places where they could most likely be found. I succeeded, and they gave me a pair of burbot for 700 g and 1 kg. Then I arranged with my other friends who had a smokehouse so that they smoked the carcasses in a hot way, and prepared the liver separately. This was done with a detailed recording of the process in the photographs. And when I tried the result, I immediately remembered that, the very first smoked cod of my childhood: the taste was almost one to one and even better! And I’m not going to describe a liver burbot at all, I just need to taste it ... Absolutely !!
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