Thursday, May 4, 2017

Wild Salmon in your Belly

I should be writing about my garden and here I am writing fish. It happens.

Backstory: The Frenchman and I eat very little fish. I would like to eat more. It's wonderful to cook with and it is healthy. But it is not that easy, even in this Biggest of Apples, to find fish that is ethically sourced and caught. It is simpler to know where meat comes from than it is fish. Fish are the last free roaming wild thing that we are ripping out of the ocean by the ton. And the collateral damage (to use war-speak) or tamely named 'by catch' - the other critters that are swept up or killed in nets - is deleterious (if you care about conservation, and that is a whole other philosophical conversation). Then there are fish farms, of course, but you really, really need to do your homework to figure which ones are not causing more harm than good.

In local bluefish and mackerel season we are on them. Strong fish that are good on barbecues. And we love locally caught trout.

Gabrielle Langholtz, my friend, and former editor at Edible magazine (as well as author of The New Greenmarket Cookbook), introduced me last year to the family-owned Iliamna Fishing Company, based out of Alaska. Once a year out they go in their boats and catch wild sockeye salmon. The fish are cleaned, flash frozen and packaged on board. For eight years that catch has been sold to local customers, using a community supported fishery (CSF) model. They also sell in Oregon markets (Portland, Eugene and Wilamette Valley), and New York City.

Last October I cycled to pick up our first share from the Red Winery in Brooklyn. Yes, the winery is on New York Harbor, no there are not grape vines on site.

The 12lb share of salmon costs $204. I know that is a lot of money. But we received nine sides of gorgeous red sockeye salmon. It works out to $22 a side. Which is less than you would pay  for wild salmon in a store, for considerably higher quality. I still have four sides in the freezer.

I have grilled it, poached it, made gravlax (above)...

...and recently a roast salmon spring dashi with ramps, Japanese knotweed and morels (recipes will be in my the wild foods cookbook, yay!).

It is the best salmon I have ever eaten.

I am writing about it now because I just received the email from Iliamna saying that now is the time to sign up for a 2017 share. You pay half up front, which keeps the fishery's show on the road. On pick up in October you pay the balance.

I am rarely enthused enough to tell people to go out and buy something, but this is one of those times. If you live in those hoods. There are other CSF's out there, now, so do some Googling if you live elsewhere and are interested in learning more about where the fish you eat comes from.

In other news, there is one spot left on my Central Park ramble on May 20th and four left on the Inwood Hill Park foray on May 13th. We will not be fishing, but hunting for edible invasives and learning about delectable native plants. And having a picnic, of course. Because life is too short not to picnic.

Hey (idea strikes)! Maybe I'll make some potted salmon with ramp salt to spread on nettle sourdough!


  1. We're spoiled for choice in Seattle. The sustainable fish/shellfish movement is strong here and we can source nearly any type of seafood. Penn Cove mussels are amazing!

  2. we too are spoiled in SF as i get salmon and steelhead and halibut and rockfish and oysters fresh from the sea from local fishermen and farmers (for the oysters). a ride up the coast to hike point reyes with an early dinner on tomales bay. and yet i still love and miss my summer east coast lobster and soft shell crab season...and the clams seem better also. the grass is always greener?
    here in SF we get the fish (and meat) at farmers markets, the ferry building, and our neighborhood butcher and also via home delivery with goodeggs.

  3. If you can find someone who has winter feeder king salmon, you should try it. There is no commercial fishery for it, so it will haveto besport caught. Next in line are Alaskan Copper River kings and sockeyes. Yes, in Alaska we are beyond spoiled.

  4. Just the day before you posted this, I was able to get a whole, wild sockeye salmon. Smaller (around 4lbs), but still a WILD salmon. While I was thinking about what to do with that wonderful fish, I checked your blog, and there was my idea (: Then, for -I would say- hours, I was sitting and searching for GravedLax recipes, then just picked my favorite ingredients and got started. 1/2 Kosher salt + sugar, juniper berries, loads of chopped fresh dill and lemon cest, and ground celery seeds plus a bit coriander, placed into a porcelain pan, wrapped with plastic wrap (I know...), bottle of wine as weight. Just one side of the salmon was used, gave 3 nice pieces, with skin on. Since the pieces were not very thick, I checked after 36 hours and it turned out to be perfect! I literally did 'the dance' after trying the first slice. The first time in my life I tried and it worked out so well. Thanks for the inspiration, Marie. Cured salmon will be now many times on my table, I had no idea how simple it is, "but, it needs to be done with love and with a smile on your face" as I always say.


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