Introduction: How to Harvest Squid Ink

About: I helped start Instructables, previously worked in biotech and academic research labs, and have a degree in biology from MIT. Currently head of Product helping young startups at Alchemist Accelerator, previous…

Clean your own squid, and collect ink for printing or cooking! As seen in Craft Magazine, Vol. 4.

Video by my ever-awesome collaborator, noahw.

Step 1: Obtain Squid

Catch or purchase your squid.

If you purchase squid, make sure they are still whole- if they're pre-cleaned all of that wonderful ink will be gone!

A fresh squid has reddish-brown spots on a white or cream-colored body- if the flesh has started to turn pink or smell, buy your squid elsewhere. Boxes of frozen squid should be solid, without evidence of leakage or freeze-thawing. Small squid are tastier and easier to cook, but they have less ink.

Step 2: Remove Ink Sac

You will be extracting squid ink from two sources- the main ink sac in the body, and small secondary deposits behind the eyes.

First, pull the head and tentacles out of the body cavity. The guts will come along with the head: look for the small thin silvery sac about halfway along.

Carefully detach the ink sac, taking care not to puncture it. It's attached at the ends, so just slip your knife underneath and cut away from the center to remove it.

Step 3: Prep Container

Now you'll need a small non-porous glass, ceramic, or metal bowl- squid ink can stain plastic, unglazed ceramic, and cloth.

If you're going to print with your ink, put a tablespoon of matte medium, linseed oil or other ink carrier medium into the bowl. To cook with your ink, use a tablespoon of water or vinegar instead. It's easy to dilute your ink later- start concentrated now to keep your options open.

Step 4: Collect Ink

If the ink sacs are large, gently puncture them your knife, and squeeze the contents into the bowl. If the ink sacs are small, or you'd like to avoid getting your hands any messier and potentially squirting the wall with squid ink, simply drop the entire ink sac into the bowl and puncture it with the tip of your knife.

Squeeze behind the head to extrude the beak, and remove it from the center of the tentacles. Now cut the tentacles off just below the eyes, taking care not to puncture the eyes. From the cut end you can see the ink deposits- they're the dark bits just behind the silvery back side of the squid's retina. Poke your knife into the ink, and gently squeeze the additional drops into the bowl.

Repeat the process with the rest of your squid, setting aside the tentacles and bodies for dinner.

Step 5: Printing

Strain your ink into another non-reactive container, and squeeze any remaining ink sacs against the mesh with the back of a non-staining silicone spatula to make sure they're thoroughly empty.

Rinse the bowl and strainer with more of your ink carrier medium, and scrape both with the spatula to remove any last bits of ink. Discard the ink sacs, and stir your ink into the carrier medium.

Test for color and dilute as necessary, then print as you would with normal ink.

Step 6: Cooking

A classic way to show off your hard-won squid ink is to give color to pasta or rice. Here's an easy recipe for squid ink risotto with squid.

Follow the recipe of your choice, and when it says to add your squid ink either strain it in as for printing, or simply dump it in, ink sacs and all. The sacs are perfectly edible, and generally unnoticeable unless particularly large. Rinse the ink bowl with a bit more liquid, and scrape with a stain-proof spatula to make sure you've got it all.

Step 7: Use Quickly

Be sure to use the ink immediately, or refrigerate it for use soon- just like squid, the ink will start to smell if you leave it out!