This recipe is inspired by Alaska’s Bear Tooth Grill and Alaska Seafood. Bear Tooth’s executive chef Natalie Janicka recommends cooking the fish hot and fast on the grill, under a broiler, or in a hot saute pan.
8 oz. Hefeweizen beer
24 oz. colorado sauce (roasted chiles and tomatoes, store-bought enchilada sauce works)
Every year 610,000 people die from heart disease, the leading
cause of death. Studies show that seafood consumption reduces the risk of dying
from heart disease.
One of the primary reasons that seafood, especially fatty
fish such as wild
Alaska salmon and sablefish,
has been shown to reduce heart disease issues is because of the high content of
the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA),
particularly in fatty fish like wild salmon and sablefish.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a part of every cell in our bodies,
particularly in the cells of our eyes, heart and brain. The higher the combined
dietary intake of EPA and DHA, especially from seafood, the lower the risk of
fatal heart attacks. Omega-3 fatty acids are high quality fats that are
critical components of our diets. Fatty fish such as wild salmon
contain heart-healthy fats, such as unsaturated fat. This unsaturated fat is
necessary for the absorption of important fat-soluble vitamins such A, E, D and
K. Without fat, these nutrients are poorly assimilated by the body.
Omega-3 fatty acids dramatically lower the triglycerides in blood, thus reducing risk of heart disease. In addition, high levels of EPA and DHA help increase blood levels of HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol, also reducing risk of heart disease and heart failure.
Chronic, low-grade inflammation has been found to be an
underlying cause in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, diabetes,
depression and heart disease. Inflammation comes from poor diet and being
sedentary, among other factors. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory
properties that help to reduce the risk of inflammation.
To combat all these problems, Dietary Guidelines for
Americans and the American Heart Association both recommend at least two
servings of fish per week, preferably fatty fish such as our Alaska Gold
Wild Salmon and Sablefish.
Complimenting seafood with plant-based diets, such as a Mediterranean-type diet have been shown again and again to be the best prevention of chronic disease and the best way to promote overall health. Consuming fatty fish along with plants rich in vitamins A, E and K, such as green leafy vegetables, creates a synergistic effect. Combining wild Alaska seafood that has a higher fat content such as our wild king salmon, wild sockeye salmon or sablefish along with foods high in vitamin A such as bell peppers, sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots or broccoli helps your body absorb vitamin A and vitamin E. Check out this teriyaki-braised Alaska sablefish with colorful vegetables recipe.
Along with staying active, keeping heart-healthy seafood as part of your routine is a key to staying well.
Circulation. 2004 Jun 8; 109(22):2705-11. Accumulated
evidence on fish consumption and coronary heart disease mortality: a
meta-analysis of cohort studies. He K1, Song Y, Daviglus ML, Liu K, Van Horn L,
Dyer AR, Greenland P.
Public Health Nutri. 2012 Apr; 15(4): 725-37. doi:
10.1017/S1368980011002254. Epub 2011 Sep 14. Fish consumption and CHD
mortality: an updated analysis of seventeen cohort studies. Zheng J1, Huang T, Yu
Y, Hu X, Yang B, Li D.
Am K Clin Nutr. 2006 Jul; 84(1):5-17. N-3 Fatty acids from
fish or fish-oil supplements, but not alpha-linolenic acid, benefit cardiovascular
disease outcomes in primary- and secondary-prevention studies: a systematic
review. Wang C1, Harris WS, Chung M, Lichtenstein AH, Balk EM, Kupelnick B,
Jordan HS, Lau J.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Feb;77(2):319-25. N-3 Polyunsaturated
fatty acids, fatal ischemic heart disease, and nonfatal myocardial infarction
in older adults: the Cardiovascular Health Study. Lemaitre RN1, King IB,
Mozaffarian D, Kuller LH, Tracy RP, Siscovick DS.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Jul;88(1):216-23. Blood concentrations of
individual long-chain n-3 fatty acids and risk of nonfatal myocardial infarction.
Sun Q1, Ma J, Campos H, Rexrode KM, Albert CM, Mozaffarian D, Hu FB.
Nutrients. 2010 Mar; 2(3): 375-388. Omega-3 Index and Sudden
Cardiac Death Clemens von Shacky 1,2
Cardiovascular Research 73 (2007) 310-315 Cardiovascular
benefits of omega-3 fatty acids Clemens von Shacky a, Willam S. Harris
Jun 2003 Circulation. 2003:107-2646-2652 Clinical Prevention
of Sudden Cardiac Death by n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Mechanism of
Prevention of Arrhythmias by n-3 Fish Oils Alexander Leaf, Jing X. Kang, Yong-fu
Xiao, and George E. Billman
Circulation 2015; 131:4 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics –
2015 Update: Report From the American
J Nutr 2008; 138:1061-6. Fish oil in combination with high
or low intakes of linoleic acid lowers plasma risk markers in healthy men
Damsgaard CT, Frokiaer H, Andersen AD, Lauritzen L. Harris WS. n-3 fatty acids
and serum lipoproteins: human studies. Am J Clin Nutr 1997; 65:1645S-1654S.
J Am Coll Nutr. 2002 Dec; 21(6):495-505. Omega-3 fatty acids
in inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Simopoulos AP1.
We compiled a list of tips for preparing seafood from our Alaska Gold Seafood customers to help each other learn new ways to prepare seafood.
Medine in Kentucky says, “I am grateful for your fish; it is the freshest quality. I like to let my salmon pieces come to room temperature; then I will sprinkle a little bit of fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper. I heat my pan on medium heat until hot. Then I cook the salmon skin side down for 5 minutes, flip it and cook for 5 more minutes. I let it rest for 2 to 3 minutes before enjoying.”
Adam from Dana Point, California says: “Here’s the tried-and-true best way to cook coho salmon, as confirmed by my super-taster three and seven-year old boys.
1 tsp honey or coconut
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp ginger
1 tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tbs vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Place coho salmon filets
skin side down on wire rack positioned on a cooking tray.
Apply marinade liberally
Broil on high for 6-7
minutes until skin is lightly browned and cooked mostly through.
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp garlic
1 tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tsp (+/-) Huy
Fong Foods Chili Garlic Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Serve over rice with chopped scallions and dumplings. “
LuAnne from Ferndale, Washington says “My favorite way to prepare coho salmon fillets is in the oven 45 minutes at 200 degrees. You can top it with almost anything from Italian dressing, a miso paste topping, soy sauce, just about anything. One of my favorite toppings is to salt and pepper the salmon, let it set for 30 minutes then a layer of mayonnaise and then a layer of Pesto on top of that. So Good. You can’t screw up this fish unless you overcook it!” Yes, low and slow, is how many of us cook salmon.
How to prepare Salmon Blueberry Salad from KD in Lake Tahoe, Nevada:
“Take about 4 to 5 oz, (this is about 50 to 60% of a single king salmon portion single serving cut up in small cubes) and on low heat, fry in a small fry pan with olive oil and a small fork worth of diced garlic. (Don’t overdo the olive oil. By the time you’re done cooking the fish you want the oil almost cooked out. I keep a lose lid on the pan as well to contain the heat for more even cooking.)
During the heat up period take a spoon and regularly move the
pieces around in your pan every couple of minutes. Even in low heat, (I
have a gas stove and use as small a flame that I can get on my small burner)
you will need to move the fish in the pan at first in order to avoid it from
sticking on to the pan. After the first couple of minutes the fish and oil will
have come together so this is not a problem, so long as you are patient and
keep the heat very low.) In about 8 to 10 minutes you should see all of the
pink out of your salmon.
When the garlic starts to brown, drizzle lime juice and soy sauce on to the salmon along with pepper. Don’t overdo this. (Sometimes I also add some ground ginger near the end of the cooking process so it doesn’t cook out. But don’t overdue the Ginger.) The fish is not done yet , but it will get there so keep an eye on it. Every minute turn the pieces over as they gradually brown and keep them moving on the pan bottom.
As the salmon turns a golden brown, hit the fish with a small fork
of capers and about 8 to 10 fresh blueberries. Turn everything over in the pan
several times so the berries are covered in the heated oil. I then put up the
caper jar and by the time I come back to the pan, take it off the heat. You’re
done. You want the blueberries to be heated but not melting.
I then pour out the pan contents over a small bed of spinach
greens. I put a little of dressing on the greens before placing the fish on top
in order to avoid drowning the fish in salad dressing. You can add some
croutons as well. I also hit it with some fresh ground pepper one more time.
If you do it right there is nothing left in the salmon that
remotely tastes like fish. It is something else entirely and it is amazing! It
is so good I can’t believe how good it is every time I eat this. I realize
there are no portions provided in the above, but I am more of a cook than a
recipe guy. Good Luck with it!
PS: I cut the skin off two thawed salmon steaks, dice it up into
small cubes and keep them in a plastic container and eat them over a two day
period. This dish takes about 15 minutes if you buy the pre-boxed spinach
greens at the grocery store and is better than anything you’ll ever get in a
high end restaurant.
Tad from Sitka says “Put mayo on halibut to keep it from getting dry. There are a number of halibut and other seafood recipes with mayonnaise, like the Halibut Olympia (also known as the Caddy Ganty) and all of these recipes with mayonnaise keep the halibut from getting dry.”
Annette from Alta, California says, “I am hooked on the Coho Salmon. I bake mine. Plain and simple. I also love the Black Cod (Sablefish). My favorite is to bake it. The Halibut is awesome and guess what, I bake it too. With the halibut I put guacamole on the top of it just before serving. So yummy!”
Robin’s recipe for Alaskan cod will work perfectly for our halibut.
Oven Fried Alaskan Cod
~ dredge pieces in flour seasoned with salt, pepper, seasoned salt, garlic and
onion powder. Dip dredged pieces in beaten egg white, then roll in panko crumbs
seasoned with parsley, garlic powder & parmesan cheese. Place on well-sprayed
cookie sheet and spray tops of fillets with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees
until golden brown & fish flakes easily (test for doneness).
Lynn says that she likes “a simple pan sear with some butter, lemon, garlic and salt and pepper.”
Jim in Wisconsin says, “I like to take one of my thawed Keta Salmon portions and bring it up to room temperature. I then heat (number 6 on electric stove) up a small fry pan with some EVVO. I then put the fish skin side up and let that sear and cool for a minute and a half. Then turn over and put skin side down for another minute and a half. Lightly salt and pepper after putting on a plate.I will have some veggies prepared (steamed Broccoli), and put 2 pieces of Ezekiel 7 grain sprouted bread in the toaster and spread with Smart Balance.”
Kat in Colorado says, “First off. We love your fish! All of them! My favorite way is in a parchment bag, you Can top it with a little dill and a lemon slice. If you like but it’s good just on its own. It’s nearly impossible to overcook using the parchment bag.”
Robert in Huntsville, Texas says, “We soak our salmon in milk after thawing, then we put our salmon in our Air Fryer for 12 min, remove the skin, and garnish with lemon………..It’s Fantastic!”
John from Orlando, Florida recommends that you “take halibut fillets out of freezer, immerse in pan of cold water 20 minutes, open, rinse, pat dry with paper towel. Sprinkle liberally with lemon pepper, cook in cast iron skillet medium / medium high heat 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil 4 to 5 minutes each side. Its great! Freezer to table in 35 minutes.”
Barry from Chicago says, “Poke your fish. When I think my salmon is near done I press down on the fish and if it flakes easily, I know that my salmon is done. If I don’t see the flake fall apart, I leave it to cook for a minute or two more.”
Betty in Washington DC likes to slather her salmon in whole grain mustard and bake.
Rolf in Minneapolis says, “We’ve been grilling salmon on a gas grill for several years, trying out many different ideas, alder chips, brown sugar glazes and more. The recipe we always go back to is to marinate king salmon portions a few hours then grill for 15 minutes or so at 425 degrees.
When cooked, take a spatula and separate the meat from the skin,
leave skin on the grill.
Marinade is as follows:
1/3 cup soy sauce – we much prefer salt free
¼ cup orange juice concentrate
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon stone ground mustard
1-2 tablespoon chapped green onions
1 clove minced garlic
½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
Pretty simple – fish stays pretty moist and marinade adds some
tang without overwhelming salmon flavor.”
Rosabel in Levittown, Pennsylvania says, “My family loves my tangerine salmon! So easy. A pinch of salt, ginger powder, honey to taste, basil leaves to cover and tangerine or pineapple chunks atop! Sometimes I let it sit in the fridge and marinate before baking. Let it stand to room temperature and bake to taste. I like 325 for 15 minutes and dinner is done! YUMMY!”
1) For the salmon, we
are addicted to cooking with the skin on. We cook in a carbon steel pan over
very high gas heat (a wok gas burner with 24,000 BTUs). With a little oil in
the pan, cook the fish skin down until the fish EASILY moves around in the pan.
The longest cooking time is on the skin side. When it will slide easily, you
flip it over for a very short time, depending on the thickness. A flexible fish
turner works very well. The best way to cook fish is to use a digital
thermometer that you stick into the fish. That way it can never be overdone.
About 120 degrees is best. You can add at the end a chopped mash of garlic and
capers if you want. Mmmmm!
Monica in Portland, Oregon notes, “My favorite way to fix my salmon and halibut is using minimal seasonings. For my salmon I bake it in the oven using olive oil, salt, pepper, freshly minced garlic and fresh rosemary. My halibut I cook in a skillet on the stove top with olive oil and salt and pepper. The fish I get from Alaska Gold is so good on its own, it doesn’t need much to taste delicious.”
Like a lot of us in the office, Robin in Jasper, Alabama likes to slow-cook her king salmon. “Cook at 200 degrees in oven for 45 minutes with olive oil and lemon.”
Longtime customer Joanna in Northridge, California says “Pan seared or baked with mustard and honey or maple syrup glaze. Yummy!”
Tim in Columbia Station, Ohio notes that “there are many similar online recipes for Black Cod/Sablefish/Butterfish. I make a marinade of Miso, sugar, Sake and rice vinegar. I brush two cod pieces with the marinade, cover with plastic wrap and put in fridge overnight, saving some marinade for garnish. Wipe most the marinade from the fish and place in a med high heat, oiled skillet/fry pan. This fish only needs 3-4 minutes per side to cook…just a quick searing. Before serving I lightly drizzle with some of the remaining marinade.”
Note that if you get distracted and dinner plans change, you can keep marinating your black cod an extra day or two. Some people say that the ideal marinade time is at least 48 hours. Try it for yourself and see what marinade time you prefer for your sablefish. Also, 3-4 minutes per side will work, but you can cook much longer. It is nearly impossible to overcook sablefish because its oils are so thick!
A big congratulations to Lon in Mechanicsburg, Ohio who wrote to us: “Today is my last week before retirement after 39 years working at an agriculture firm here in Ohio. Even at 65 years old I am skipping like my grandchildren looking forward to life changes. I have been an Alaska Gold customer for a few years and the salmon is delicious.” Lon gets our bulk orders of coho salmon portions. “Always a consistent taste of quality salmon that satisfies my hunger like no other. So my tip is for all folks ‘even thinking toward retirement’ to grill that Alaska Gold salmon with a huge smile! I am.”
Alan in New York City advises how to create “Michelin-Star Quality Fish.”
“How do the best
restaurants in the world do fish? They get high quality ingredients, and do
their best to highlight their delicious, natural flavors. This is the
mindset you should have when cooking Alaska Gold Seafood. Here’s how you
scales from skin. After
you defrost the fish, remove any scales from the skin (if it has any). Use a
paring knife and go against the grain. Do this in your sink, but not under
running water. Water dilutes flavor and affects cooking time. You don’t
want to do this.
– Extract Moisture.
Your aim is to remove moisture (water) from the fish and make the natural
flavors (fats and proteins) more intense. Pat the fish dry with paper towels.
Put onto a raised rack sheet (like what people use to cool their cookies after
baking). Then use kosher sea salt over the skin. If there’s no skin, then just
salt the top side. Optional: add a little bit of sugar to your salt.
– Bring to temperate. Leave the fish out as it comes to room temperature. This may
take 10 min or so. As this happens, you will notice water coming to the surface
of the fish (because the salt is drawing it out). Remove this moisture by
gently patting the fish with a paper towel.
pan to temp. Stainless steel pan is
ideal. A quality, heavy non-stick is ok. Start to heat the pan. Put in oil.
Make sure the bottom of the pan is completely covered in oil. Sunflower seed
oil is good if you want to cook fast and not impart any flavor onto the fish.
Cooking in olive oil will give it an olive oil flavor, but will also take
longer because it can’t be cooked as hot as the sunflower see. I like to cook
salmon and sablefish in sunflower seed oil, and halibut in olive oil. If concerned
about wasting oil, as long as you don’t burn it, the oil can be safely reused.
fish. When oil is hot (it
will shimmer), gently lay the fish into the pan. It should sizzle. If it’s not
sizzling, bring the temp up ASAP. You want the oil to be popping. Sauté in
french means “jump”, as in the oil is jumping.
fish. When the fish is
in the pan. LEAVE IT ALONE. Don’t poke it, shift it, or flip it. Leave it
alone! You aim is to cook it 100% on one side, and to never mess with it. Doing
this will caramelize the proteins in a process called the maillard effect.
This is where flavor comes from. Chef Gordon Ramsay has a great quote: “No
color, no flavor”.
Control doneness. Because you’re not touching the fish, it’s
going to get a nice caramelization on one side. But how do you cook the
rest of the fish? Well, if it’s a thin piece of fish, the heat of the pan will
likely cook it fine. For thicker fish, you control the doneness by scooping the
oil out of the pan and pouring it on top of the fish. The hot oil will cook the
fish. Do this as much as much as you want. 10 – 30 times. If you watch
professional chefs, they do this very fast.
doneness. Manage doneness by how
it looks and feels. Gently touch the top of the fish. If it’s firm, it’s
well-done. If it’s bouncy, it’s med. If it’s squishy, it’s med-rare /
Rest. Just before the fish is cooked to your liking,
remove it from the pan. The side facing the pan should be crispy or browned (if
no skin). The crispness is what enables you to take it out (called
“release”). Place it on a plate skin side up. Let it rest. Don’t poke
it. It’s still cooking (called “carryover cooking”). How long it
rests depends on the thickness of the fish. A thin coho fillet can be just 60
seconds. A thicker halibut piece can be 2 -3 min
Optional acidity – just before eating you can squeeze a
little bit of lemon on there. Putting lemon zest is also another good option.
It helps brighten the flavor.
If done correctly, you will have a perfectly cooked piece of fish. If it has
skin, the skin will be like hard like a cracker.”
As you can see there
many different approaches to preparing our Alaska Gold Seafood. If you need a
recipe, we’ve got plenty of seafood recipes here.
Don’t hesitate to contact
us if you get stuck. All tastes are subjective and we can offer opinions that
come from a lot of experience preparing Alaska Gold Seafood.
It might seem like an outlandish claim that we’ve found the fountain of youth, but more evidence keeps showing up that that eating seafood might not only improve longevity, but the quality of life in old age.
A recent study revealed that higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish are associated with a lower risk of unhealthy aging (longer version of the study here). Another study, which looked at 2700 generally healthy American adults and how the Omega-3s in their blood affected their lives, showed that older adults with higher levels of omega-3s have a 27% lower risk of prematurely dying from all causes and a 35% lower risk of dying from heart disease. Those who have the most heart-healthy Omega-3s in their diets live, on average, 2.2 years longer than those with the least.
The study found, after correcting for other factors such as age, sex, and race, that adults with higher levels of EPA and DPA had a better chance of healthy aging. Participants with the highest level of omega-3s present had an 18 percent lower risk of unhealthy aging. Participants with the highest levels of EPA and DPA, the omega-3s commonly found in seafood, had the best results: Those with high levels of EPA had a 24 percent lower risk of unhealthy aging, and those with DPA had an 18 percent lower risk of unhealthy aging.
“We found that older adults who had higher levels of omega 3 from seafood were more likely to live longer and healthier lives,” lead study author Heidi Lai of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston told Reuters. “These findings support current national dietary guidelines to consume more seafood.”
Based on these studies, nutritionists and health professionals are coalescing around the following recommendations:
Eating fish two or three times per week can reduce risk of chronic disease.
The lean protein and omega-3s in wild Alaska seafood make it a smart, nutritious choice.
Eating seafood is good for your heart.
Eating seafood not only lowers blood pressure, but can help potentially reducing risk of stroke, depression, Alzheimer’s, and other chronic diseases.
This February we’ll be celebrating American Heart Month. With one in four deaths in the United States caused by heart disease, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. The good news is that heart disease can often be prevented when we make healthy choices. One healthy choice to make is including more seafood in our diets. A number of our customers have noted on the phone with us that their doctors’ recommendations of including more seafood in their diets led them to find Alaska Gold. With our line-caught wild salmon and sablefish, which are particularly high in Omega-3s, you can’t go wrong. Being line-caught means that the salmon are by definition actively feeding, at their peak, and especially loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids.
Alaska Seafood is also good choice if you are watching salt in your diet. Evidence suggests that eating seafood with omega-3s contributes to lower blood pressure, especially in people with high blood pressure (hypertension) or on weight-loss diets. In addition, omega-3s act on blood vessels and kidneys to help lower blood pressure. Reducing salt while increasing omega-3 intake further lowers blood pressure.
Eat wild Alaska seafood for your heart. Live longer and healthier.
Wild Alaska seafood is a venerable powerhouse source of nutrients and is of the highest quality of lean proteins. Alaska seafood is a complete and highly digestible protein, which means that the amino acids are readily absorbed by the body. Low in saturated fat, high in heart protective monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, Alaska seafood also boasts a complete array of essential amino acids, which help repair and rebuild muscles, making seafood a great meal for athletes recovering from a workout.
While being relatively low in calories, Alaska seafood is high in vitamin D. Did you know that 41% of adults in the United States are deficient in Vitamin D? Six-ounce portions of our wild salmon and sablefish contain 90% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin D. Vitamin D has numerous health benefits to our lives and particularly those of us in northern climes do not get nearly enough of it. Alaska seafood, particularly wild salmon and black cod, contain plentiful Vitamin D and all of the wonders this vitamin brings for our bodies. In addition to strengthening teeth, bones and our immune systems, vitamin D can help curb depression, maintains good blood pressure, and acts as an antioxidant removing the damaging free radicals that are produced in our cells from vigorous exercise.
Alaska seafood is naturally high in essential vitamins E, A and C and also a good source of potassium, which is an important electrolyte that maintains fluid balance in the body as well as being responsible for proper muscle contraction and transmitting nerve impulses.
Just about the only way to get the Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA recommended by health specialists for heart and brain health is by eating fatty fish from cold waters. Our Alaska Gold Wild Salmon, Sablefish, and Albacore Tuna are some of the fish with the highest concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids that exist. These fatty acids reduce inflammation and increase heart and brain health.
DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is an important nutrient that inhibits aggregation of blood platelets, making it difficult for blood clots to form and thereby enhancing blood flow. The Omega-3 fatty acid DHA is also an important nutrient for generating brain cells and function for learning, especially in the early brain and nerve development of infants, but is also thought to help prevent dementia in elderly people.
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) thins the blood and is effective against LDL (bad) cholesterol. Most importantly, EPA maintains blood and blood vessel health. EPA can help prevent stroke, heart attack, hardening of the arteries, and other coronary diseases.
Seafood is also easier to cook than other proteins. It does not require the cook times that other meats do, for example, and if it’s of great quality, like our Alaska Gold Seafood, it requires minimal seasonings. Pull one of our coho salmon portions out of the freezer, put it in the fridge for 24 hours, then in the oven at 425 F for 6-8 minutes with a few basic seasonings.
This Thursday we celebrate Wild Whatcom with a benefit dinner at Bellingham eatery and gathering place Ciao Thyme. Wild Whatcom is a local organization that helps kids become healthy, engaged citizens who care about the earth and relish the outdoors, rebuilding a connection to the natural world and instilling an ethic of service to the community.
Wild Whatcom works on the premise that children who participate in the outdoor educational programs they lead have stronger self-esteem and sense of purpose and deeper commitments to stewardship.
Being wild is also who we are as Alaska Gold Seafood. Our wild seafood and our fishermen whose lives are inextricably linked to nature and wildness are the essence of who we are as an organization. Fishing is still one of those last refuges where you can be about as close as possible, at least in this day and age, to nature and a free and wild existence that truly demands just about everything.
One of our fishermen even wrote a book on being wild. Theo Grutter, may he rest in peace after his 40 + years of being part of our fishermen-owned co-op, wrote Thinking Wild, a collection of 115 short essays, written in a poetic voice that bears his soul. Born in Switzerland, Theo was educated and destined to be a corporate banker but gave it all up to go fishing. Theo fished alone wild and free in the waters surrounding Baranof Island his small boat the Onyx for halibut and black cod. He would bicycle around Sitka and take a week to fast and sit in the trees of the Tongass Forest for a week at a time and meditate on what it means to be wild.
What is wild? These are the thoughts of a fisherman who spent a lot of time out fishing not alone, but in the company of some of the richest life on the planet: the whales, puffins, and fish in the waters around Southeast Alaska.
One can feel a tremendous amount of energy surrounding Theo as he excited talks about black cod, which he calls “the premier fish caught one kilometer below the surface of the sea.”
From his essay “Thank you, Oceans and Forests, you are a hundred sisters and brothers to me”:
Did you ever wonder why the cormorants never build shrimp farms? Why the pigeons never invented cornfields? Why a whale does not wear a tie? Good question. […] Out here on the ocean I am beyond prudence, politeness, and shame. In this grand immensity, wisdom can run free to do its very vast things like fertilizing my deeper mind.
Theo’s book, Thinking Wild, is not just a fisherman’s meditations on wildness but thoughts on making peace with oneself and how we all live in this world. Here is an excerpt from his essay “The ocean experience”:
Just now leaving the angry open sea behind, white rollers still on my heels. My boat, the Onyx, runs me on autopilot through Sergius Narrows bucking a five-knot tidal current, the Chrysler-Nissan purring like a bee. Hoonah Sound lies ahead. The quietness of six hundred square miles of inside water awaits me, with the Tongass National Forest surrounding the scene. I will set there and tomorrow pull my long line gear for halibut the same way a Kalahari woman smoothly dib-dabs, jar balancing on her head, back from the well. What we love to do turns into rhymes and becomes beautiful.
Through Theo and through our deep relationship with nature, we celebrate being wild. We celebrate the wild. Fishing is still one of those last refuges where you can be about as close as possible, at least in this day and age, to nature and a free and wild existence that truly demands just about everything.
Raising children on fishing boats is no small endeavor. Recently, Norm Pillen shared a photo memory of fishing with his daughters, and I caught up with him to get the details behind the picture.
“This was my last summer salmon trolling on the Katie J in 2000” Norm told me. Norm has since moved on to operating a tender boat, the Sea Lion, during salmon season. “I was hoping to focus more on family time, but it ended up being a really big salmon season, which made it more challenging. My wife and I took time when we could to walk on the beach, whale watch, and appreciate nature with our daughters, but I heard my coding partners talking about really high scores of fish, and then we’d go chase the fish.” (Before cell phones, fishermen friends or “coding partners” used to communicate on radio using a preset code to disguise fishing reports from others listening in on the radio.)
“Unfortunately, both of my daughters LeAnne and Marissa inherited their mom’s inclination toward seasickness, and they went through a lot, and I would feel guilty when they got sick, but it was hard to tame my competitive edge to catch more fish. It tore at my heart. But that summer we had a really nice balance of fishing hard and playing hard with the family. There was a time we pulled in to Gut Bay, just hoping to have a quiet evening to relax, but we ran into schools of salmon, and we did everything we could to work as fast as possible to make it look like we weren’t catching fish, and it worked for a while, but then we couldn’t hide it any longer, and half the fleet joined us in the bay.”
“Both of the girls have since worked with me on the Sea Lion,” Norm mentions, referring to his current salmon tendering operation, and how his daughters have kept up the fishing tradition. Marissa’s a mom and LeAnne’s studying to be a nurse now, but “fishing is still important, especially to LeAnne, who out-fished me trout fishing on a day off a week or so ago—she almost always gets the first fish. LeAnne took after her dad,” Norm notes proudly. “There was a time when we were anchored in Mite Cove. One of our fleet mates said there were no halibut in the cove that year, and what does LeAnne do but pull out a 106-pound halibut within a few minutes of fishing. That is so like her.”
“That summer I remember so many days of fishing hard, long days, and taking breaks to make sandwiches for the kids. We had a 12-volt TV that you can see in that picture and the only tape we had was Bugs Bunny, which they watched over and over when mom and dad were fishing. This was before cell phones and tablets. But they learned a lot of important lessons on the boat. Firstly, how to follow directions. They learned to always wear their life jackets and to always hold on to the rails of the boat with one hand. They learned to appreciate nature and the value of hard work. We had a lot of adventures and good family times on the boat that summer, but driving the Alcan Highway back home to Washington state, the engine blew up and we spent a week in the middle of nowhere waiting to get back on the road. It was a great family summer. It was a summer of adventures. They were young, but I think our daughters took good memories and lessons from those experiences.”
We hope this summer that you our customers celebrate dads, moms, and good family times with our Alaska Gold Seafood. Here’s a dish Norm recommends for the summer—halibut shish kebabs. Soaked in teriyaki sauce, with peppers, pineapple chunks, onions, put on the grill for a few minutes, let cool and they will melt in your mouth. Check out our Father’s Day Sale here.
It’s 2018 and we still get questions about whether frozen fish is as good as never-been-frozen fish. Here’s how we respond…Firstly, it’s all about the fish. The care that our fishermen put into each fish on their boats—cleaning it, stowing it quickly on ice—has a much greater impact on the quality of a fish than at what point in time the fish was caught. Blast freezing locks all the nutrients in, and stops all the biological processes in time, making a fish caught any time as good as it was when pulled out of the water.
In addition, frozen seafood is better for the environment than never-been-frozen fish. Easier to transport, freezing fish also reduces waste. 23% of the never-been-frozen fish in supermarkets goes to waste because it can’t be used in time.
This convenience for transport and storage is good for the retailer, the home consumer, and the fishermen. As Seafood Producers Cooperative fisherman Linda Behnken points out in this video made by our partners Alaskans Own, frozen seafood is also safer for fishermen because they “can pick their weather.”
It’s all about starting with a high-quality fish, like an Alaskan wild salmon, treating it with care, freezing it quickly, and keeping it cold until it’s time to cook. Chef and seafood educator Barton Seaver notes that frozen seafood “is a major win for sustainability. It decreases waste and takes advantage of seasonal bounty to spread its availability throughout the year. From the introduction of micro-misting to more powerful and rapid deep-freeze technologies at lower temperatures, the process has really turned frozen product . . . into a means to capture pristine quality.”.
Simply put, what’s special about halibut is their luscious flake, which is delicate but meaty. Its snow white meat and naturally sweet, delicate flavor and firm texture that retains its shape with any cooking style makes it the world’s premium white-fleshed fish, making it wildly popular with all kinds of chefs. Halibut is not unlike a white-colored steak, which makes them widely popular. And our Alaska Gold Halibut are caught by a fishermen-owned co-op whose quality comes from integrity, a pride in being fishermen-owned for more than 70 years. In addition, Alaska Halibut are managed for sustainability.
Our Alaska Gold halibut are caught by fishermen like Dick Curran, the Humble Highliner, who have an incredibly close connection to the special waters where our fish come from.
Halibut are delicious cooked in a variety of ways–this pan-seared halibut recipe is just one of an endless number of possibilities for halibut.
Halibut are as flat as a board and they spend a good portion of their lives roaming the ocean floor. What’s really wild and unusual about halibut is that they are born with eyes on each side of their head–however, after six months their left eye migrates to join the right eye on their “dark side,” giving halibut two eyes on the same side of their heads. Their top side or “dark side” with two eyes is a dark green-ish to brown-ish color to match the color of the ocean floor. This color camouflages them from predators like sharks and orcas (killer whales) who also enjoy the taste of a fine halibut. If they leave the ocean floor to migrate, for example, their bottom side is a snowy white and a predator looking up will have trouble distinguishing the halibut if the sun is shining above them through the water.
Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) are a type of flounder. Hippoglossus means “horse tongue,” which refers to the halibut’s large mouth and tongue. Stenolepis means narrow scale and refers to the halibut’s almost invisible scales.
There are Atlantic halibut, too. However, they are on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program’s “Avoid” list because the Atlantic halibut stock is depleted. In contrast, Pacific Halibut coming from Alaska is recommended and on the Seafood Watch’s “Recommended List,” as its certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. The Pacific halibut stocks are healthy and carefully managed. Since they are fish that cross international borders between Canada and the United States in their migrations, in 1923 the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) was formed. The IPHC was the first international treaty in the world established with the purpose of protecting a marine resource. Biologists from both countries work together to understand the lives and migration patterns of the halibut in order to preserve the halibut for future generations. The IPHC has been able to maintain a stable fishery and prevent stock and environmental problems that have caused problems in other parts of the world. Fisheries scientists around the world look at the IPHC as a model of good fishery management.
During the summer, halibut feed on the continental shelf, but then migrate to deeper waters during the winter, spawning somewhere on the continental slope along the way .
In Southeast Alaska, the Tlingits harvested halibut during spring and this rich bounty from the sea made the Tlingits one of the richest societies in human history with nourishing foods and meaningful arts. Traditional Tlingit halibut hooks consist of two pieces of wood, usually alder and cedar, lashed together at an angle of roughly 30 degrees with split spruce root. They used a rock as an anchor and fished in canoes up and down the coasts of what we now call Alaska and British Columbia.
The long lines used today, though operated on somewhat bigger boats with diesel power, work with principles that aren’t that different than those used by the Tlingits. Typically, long liners use an anchor and buoy to spread long lines baited with salmon, squid or herring on a “ganion.” After 12 hours or so of “soaking” the lines on the bottom of the ocean, the captain finds the buoy and the fishing crews haul up the lines and the halibut using what the fishermen call a gurdy, which is a hydraulically powered winch used to pull up the heavy lines.
Male halibut can reach 100 pounds but females can weigh upwards of 500 pounds. Bigger fish mean more eggs. A 50-pounder lays about 500,000 eggs. A 250-pounder can lay 4 million eggs. Large halibut are called “barn doors,” because they’re flat and large and you can imagine what it’s like to haul them up from the bottom of the ocean–hard work! When they’re smaller they eat shrimp and small crabs. Then they move on to octopus, squid and other fish.
Halibut are particularly important to the history of our fishermen-owned cooperative, which was formed by fishermen who processed halibut in vitamin A. This was in the time before vitamin A was synthesized. Up until 1980, Seafood Producers Cooperative was the Halibut Producers Cooperative. The name changed to more accurately reflect the other fish being caught (particularly wild salmon and black cod), but halibut has always been the backbone of this organization.
A lot of the information from this blog post is shared in a beautifully illustrated, kid-friendly book Pacific Halibut: Flat or Fiction?
During late summer and early fall in Southeast Alaska, rivers are full of salmon returning to spawn. And these wild salmon are precisely the reason behind all of the other life that comes out to play during the Alaskan summer. Amy Gulick, in Salmon in the Trees, notes that 137 species in the Tongass Rain Forest of Southeast Alaska depend on wild salmon. Particularly dependent on the Tongass are the wild coho salmon that run up the thousands of small creeks that stream through virgin old growth forest.
Wild salmon are the fertilizer upon which an entire forest grows. As a keystone species in the Tongass Rainforest in Southeast Alaska, wild salmon bring marine nutrients inland and provide an important food resource for a variety of animals. These nutrients also increase the productivity of nearby plants and forests. Mammals from mice to grizzly bears feast on spawning salmon. So do bald eagles and ravens, as do many other birds. Birds and mammals fly off with or drag carcasses into surrounding forests, bringing marine-derived nutrients for the forests around salmon-bearing streams. Up to 70% of the nitrogen intake for plants and trees in the Tongass Rain Forest can be traced back to wild salmon. The trees in the forest grow, provide shade, cooling the water, making it the ideal temperature for the salmon to spawn. This full circle relationship also involves Southeast Alaskan fishermen.
Fishermen’s ways of life depend on healthy salmon runs, which also depend on these forests and the healthy watersheds that are part of forests. Our fishermen live within a “Blue Economy.” Their livelihoods depend on the ocean, which in turn depends on the forest. Salmon fishermen are some of the first to advocate for the health of the oceans and forests. They advocate for forests because the salmon need them for survival. Fishermen do not want the health of the forests disproportionately ceded to mining or logging interests, which can have long-term detrimental effects on the forests and hence the salmon runs.
It might sound counter-intuitive, but in essence protecting wild salmon by buying wild salmon from fishermen who fish in well-managed fisheries is one of the best ways to support wild salmon and the habitats in which wild salmon dwell. It’s easy to say not eating wild salmon would be better to save them, but then who would advocate for the wild salmon and these places?
Market-based solutions can be the most effective solutions to solving the problems of feeding people in an environmentally-friendly way because they bring solutions that have benefits that are sustainable both in an ecological and an economic sense. Working in partnership with other interest groups, protecting wild salmon can be good for all parties. Fisheries are the top economic driver in the Tongass National Forest. With 25-percent of the entire West Coast’s entire salmon harvest coming from the Tongass, that’s important work that fishermen do. And wild salmon, when habitats are protected and fisheries managed according to the science-first principles used by Alaska Fish and Game, can be a renewable resource from now into perpetuity.
Last November, the McDowell Group, a market research firm with a socio-economic focus, released an economic study commissioned by the advocacy group Salmon Beyond Borders, a group of concerned fishermen in alliance with Native American and First Nations tribes from coastal southeast Alaska communities. The study considers the economic value of commercial fishing and tourism, two of the region’s key industries that depend significantly on the health of Alaskan rivers. The study found that the Taku, Stikine, and Unuk rivers generate an annual 48 million dollars in economic activity for Southeast Alaska. When considering a 30-year horizon, these watersheds are valued at just under 1 billion dollars. This economic value can in theory be generated in perpetuity through careful management of sustainable fishing. In addition, tourists come to see these last wild, pristine places in person.
Fish, wildlife, and scenic resources are fully renewable. They also have the potential to offer greater economic value as similar resources and experiences grow more scarce. The bounty from these rivers provides thousands of jobs that contribute to the well-being of Southeast Alaskan coastal communities. And the fishermen and others who work in contact with salmon and forests take a deep interest into conserving these places for future generations. Supporting fishermen that fish using sustainable methods by buying Alaska seafood direct from a fishermen-owned co-op at Alaska Gold Seafood is part of sustaining the salmon forest.