Angling comment: Lugworm? Why freeze when you can salt!
SEVERAL anglers have asked me about looking after Arenicola Defodiens, which you and I know as black lugworm.
Many suppliers freeze the worm, which is a modern approach.
But my experience, and those who have asked me, is that on defrosting most frozen worms — which cost more per kilogram than the finest fillet steak — become a soft black smear on the paper that they were frozen in.
So this is a description of why I use the oldest preservation method on earth, why it works, and how I do it.
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Salting your precious worms works as it is a far better method of preservation than freezing — ask an Egyptian, they were using salt preservation more than 4000 years ago!
Once you understand what you are doing, it becomes easy.
Everything that lives on our beaches is occasionally subjected to freezing temperatures — the mussels, limpets, barnacles and everything else.
Temperatures can drop to well below freezing, and yet the mussels, limpets and winkles all survive temperatures that would kill us. How? Easy, they all contain a natural antifreeze, the molecule of which cannot pass through the semi-permeable membrane (SPM).
So, if we salt the worms, water molecules will pass out through the cell membrane to try to equalise the salt concentration either side of the SPM, and the worm will start to shrink, the salt getting wet in the process.
This concentrates the antifreeze in the cells, and enables the cell to survive freezing, by not actually freezing.
Put unsalted worms in the freezer, and they will turn into an unpleasant sludge, as the salt crystals formed by freezing (they are cubic) have edges sharper even than the fabled samurai sword and slice through the cell walls when they touch, allowing the contents to leak out.
As the salt is 100 per cent, the inner concentration can never equalise, and the worm will get thinner and thinner.
But put the worm in seawater, and the reverse happens, because although the worm is dead, the SPM still works, and the worm will regain its original size.
Salted worms do not need freezing, and if you do, they will not freeze as you have concentrated the antifreeze within the worm.
How do I salt worms? Assuming you have purchased or dug 40 to 50 worms, put a thick layer of newspaper on the floor (don't do it on the best carpet!), spread the worms evenly, and pour about 500g of salt (I use table salt) over them, and roll them around in the salt, and cover with more paper. Don't roll them up.
Leave for an hour, then lift the paper. The salt should be damp — if it is, add another 250g of salt and mix. Leave for another half-hour and check.
The worms should be about two-thirds of original size. Shake remaining salt off gently, and pack in tens in zip-top bags, adding a pinch of fresh salt.
You can freeze them if you want, but they won't freeze, they will just get cold.
You can put the worms straight on the hook out of the freezer, and as previously pointed out, when they hit the sea water, the worm will regain its original size. Any questions?