Having grown up on a small farm in northwest Iowa, fishing wasn’t like it was for a boy growing up in, let’s say, Minnesota. Our farm was bordered on the north side by the Big Rock River which empties into the Big Sioux River which empties into the Missouri River. Being only about 20 miles from the source of this Missouri tributary, we didn’t have what most fisherman consider ‘game fish’. When we went down to the pasture to fish, carp and bullheads were what we were after. To us, these were real fish, nothing like those fish stick things that you bought from the local grocer. Bullheads that didn’t make the supper table were put into the stock tank to control the algae and grow fatter for a later supper delicacy.
When the Pickle Queen and I first moved to South Dakota, the lowly bullhead came back into my life. There were two neighboring towns where the restaurants held bullhead feeds every Friday night. Can you imagine having to stand in line to get into an eatery to consume all the bullheads you could shovel in? My folks would come up some weekends to visit, but we knew the real reason they came was for the bullheads.
With all that said, here’s a recipe for pickled bullheads for those of you who may have extra fish after your fishing trip but don’t have a stock tank to keep them in.
4 medium onions
5 to 6 bay leaves
1 Tbsp whole pickling spice
2 c vinegar
1-1/2 c water
1 Tbsp salt
Pepper to taste
Cut up onions and put on bottom of small roaster. Add bay leaves and whole pickling spice. Lay skinned bullheads close together over this. May use more than a single layer if necessary. Cover with a solution of 2 cups vinegar and 1-1/2 cups of water along with 1 tablespoon of salt and pepper to taste. Cover and boil slowly until the fish are cooked. Cool in the roaster until cold. Serve cold.
Keep your fork