I came home from my August trip to Maine with some fresh mackerel for the freezer. I’ve been meaning to pull it out and do something with it for a few months now and finally got myself together to cook it. After pawing through the myriad offerings stowed in the depths of the upright I found a small bag with a pair of large fish and a pair of small. It seemed just right.

The smell, even while frozen was amazing. These fish smelled fresh, like the ocean. I didn’t get complicated with a recipe, mostly due to time. Trying to throw together a week night dinner while tending to young kids when my better half is working late demands keeping it simple.

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Mackerel, onion, tomato, olives and herbs. Pretty darn simple, pretty darn tasty.

I heated my trusty cast iron skillet to medium high, hit it with some olive oil and tossed in a diced onion. I let this saute for a moment then pitched in a can of diced tomato. After adding some salt and pepper and letting it simmer a moment I dumped it into a small bowl and added some more olive oil to the skillet. In went the two large mackerel to fry momentarily on each side. Then I hit them with oregano, basil and thyme. I added the same to my onion-tomato mix, then sliced up some green olives I found hiding out in the refrigerator. I put the remaining two mackerel (the little ones) into the skillet, dumped the onion-tomato mix on top and put it in the oven at 375 for about 20 minutes.

One bite and I was back in Maine, looking out at the water feeling the lingering grit of sand between my toes and a faint salty dampness in the air. Although it’s December here in Vermont, for a brief moment I was back on the coast basking in the summer sunshine. Lobster might beĀ the signature Maine seafood but mackerel is right there with it, holding its own. If you ever get the chance, don’t overlook this palatable, abundant and fun-to-catch fish.

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New York offers some great deer hunting, but that’s not what you’ll find in the Adirondacks. Unless your idea of great deer hunting is hundreds of thousands of acres with dense stands of spruce and fir, boggy terrain one minute and steep rocks the next. To be fair Adirondack deer are typically pretty darn big, but they are also few and far between.

That’s what I was up against over the Thanksgiving holiday. That and unseasonable cold. It was -11 when I headed out Friday morning. When I got back three hours later the temperature had warmed to -1. My hunting strategy was to dress warm and find a spot that was relatively open with good visibility, then hit the rattling antlers and see if I could call in a buck. With only one week left in the Northern Zone season it seemed likely that the rut had mostly run its course so I didn’t get too aggressive. There were plenty of tracks, even a set of fresh tracks likely made by a buck. Several rattling sequences yielded nothing. The only substantial sign of life encountered was a grouse that flushed on my walk in. Had I been toting a shotgun I would have had a great shot. But the 45-70 was a bit too much gun!

The evening hunt went the same but at least it was warmer. 34 degrees when I headed into the woods and down to the teens when I got back. I didn’t notice any fresh tracks and saw only blue jays and chickadees. Of course, the next morning as we were getting ready to leave there were fresh deer tracks just outside the house. Big ones, like the kindĀ  a buck typically makes. Of course there were!

There was a time when a large fixed blade knife was a key piece of outdoor gear. Something with a long, broad blade to tackle light brush clearing, quartering game, self defense and a host of other possible tasks. In other words, the quintessential Bowie knife. These days most of us carry a much smaller blade, usually around four inches long, sometimes fixed-blade, sometimes folding, used primarily for dressing out game. Some still need to break down large game in the field, and the old-fashioned big knives will certainly get the job done.

But there is another great use for that long, heavy blade when it’s not being used to quarter an elk or build a survival shelter:

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Nothing cleaves a pumpkin like a Bowie knife

Happy Thanksgiving from Gunpowder and Graphite!

 

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