Seafood Recipes - Part 1
After Catching and Cleaning Comes Cooking and Consuming
Former president George Bush won't eat his broccoli but my kids will eat anything - including Mr. Bush - if it's covered in cheese sauce. This unalterable law of my children's eating habits influences all my methods of food preparation, including salmon - a food a tad fishy for their tastes. Accordingly, my no-frills version of cheese sauce regularly drenches my cooking. And I am not above hiding essentially healthy foods, like peas, inside and inseparable from a coating the kids will consume by the gallon.
The recipes from my kitchen are basic, straightforward and work equally well with all species. They taste good to the average palate which includes my own. I'm almost ashamed to admit that though I like catching, cleaning and cooking fish, I can't seem to develop much enthusiasm for eating the darned things unless doctored in some way.
Each species has its own particular flavour. Most people prize the full flavour
- who can help but swoon, savouring the hard-to-believe-its-real-and-need-your-sunglasses-to-view orangey-red flesh. Gorgeous to look at, yes, but a bit too fishy for me.
, also a very bright, firm-fleshed fish, has full-blooded fish lovers singing its praises like cats do the moon. Chinook comes in two genetic variations: red-fleshed and white-fleshed. The red-fleshed chinook is medium in flavour and begins to approach a fish that I can enjoy. The white-fleshed fish most often shows up in creels in winter months. In addition to being a softer, less-fishy fish, it has more oil - a characteristic shared by winter bluebacks as well - and melts from the inside out, a texture I find more appealing.
have decidedly soft flesh and should be used very soon after being taken from the water. Most people smoke these fish, but I find them the tastiest of the bunch due to their mildness and disarmingly charming flavour of spun cotton candy. Well, somewhat close to that anyway.
Preserving and Preparing Salmon Fresh from the Sea
All five species of salmon should be cleaned and iced within a few hours of being caught. Pink begin breaking down almost immediately and it's best to either cook or freeze them the day they are brought home. Store other species in plastic or under damp tea towels in the fridge. Wash carcasses each morning to extend fridge-life; chinook will last the better part of the week. There comes a point, however, where freezer storage becomes necessary. Some fishers believe that de-scaled fish tend to freezer-burn, but I cannot confirm this. I de-scale fish during cleaning and find they freeze without harm for about three months.
Salmon can be frozen in a variety of ways. Start with a cleaned carcass from which the head and tail have been removed. Wrap the fish in foil or plastic wrap and then wrap it again in a plastic garbage bag. Seal the end with a twist tie. Wrap this fish again in a second plastic bag, and tie; this reduces freezer-burn considerably. Date a piece of masking tape and attach it to the bag. A second method of freezing undoubtedly keeps salmon fresh even longer. Date two-litre milk cartons and fill with water. Cut the salmon into pieces and fill the cartons, leaving one inch head room for expansion. Staple the cartons shut. Store these "bricks" upright until frozen, at which time they can be placed on their sides. As an alternative, vacuum-packing in plastic produces high quality frozen salmon that keeps almost indefinitely.
Sometimes problems are encountered during extended freezing. Most commonly ice crystals grow inside the cells, ripping them apart; this renders a fish tasteless. Exposed fish suffers freezer burn and should be discarded or, if burning is light, smoked. Due to the pungent aroma, smoking masks defects detectable with other methods of preparation. Always smell and sample a fish before eating.
There are three methods of preparing salmon: canning, smoking and cooking. Contrary to braggers' tales, five pound salmon make far tastier meals than 20 pounders. Of course, 20 pounders (which grow inexorably to 30 pounders) make far better tales while swaggering in tweed before a crackling winter hearth.
I can most larger fish, a method of preparation that produces lovely meat for sandwiches, salads and creamed salmon on toast. Any fish over 10 pounds goes directly to the smoker. Smoking produces the west coast's most well-kept secret delicacy which, if my scant research can be believed, could well be what the Bible refers to as manna. My theory is that it's no coincidence some of the disciples were fishermen. And what do you think they ate at that last supper anyway? Probably had it swimming in cheese sauce with a discrete garnish of broccoli.
Container-length pieces of salmon
1/2 lb. salt
1 gal. water
Canning salmon takes the patience of Job. Utterly spotless, scrupulously clean jars and lids are essential. Scald all items. Botulism is a potentially fatal disease and is the reason for care. The happy result, however, is can after can of salmon waiting confidently and patiently on the shelf. The rosier salmon - sockeye and coho - look nicer in the jar. All species taste similarly wonderful.
Cut salmon into container-length pieces. Make a brine solution with the salt and water and soak fish for 1 hour. Drain thoroughly on racks. Pack pieces solidly into containers, inserting odd-length pieces here and there. Wipe jar mouths. Leave 1/2 inch head space, adjust lids and process as per the instructions included with your pressure cooker. The instructions must be followed exactly. The contents of jars that do not seal should be eaten right away or discarded. After storage, jars with broken seals or "blown" lids (lids that bulge upwards from the container due to internal pressure) must be thrown away. Bacterial action has set in and the salmon is not safe for consumption.