Sunday, August 27, 2006

Fishing at the Fraser River

I thought I would post some pictures of what has been taking up most of my time. Every year we drop a gill net into the Fraser River and catch Sockeye salmon. This year we even caught a couple of Spring salmon! I then can it, smoke it, pickle it, and this year we set up st'wan racks for drying. A lot of people dry it at the river but we can't be down there all the time so we have a screenhouse set up in our yard with racks and a fan blowing for the "wind." We've had to put an electric fence around it just to keep animals from tearing the screen and so far the st'wan is turning out terrific!
I can salmon two different ways; raw pack and baked. For the baked I cook it in the oven, save the juice, remove all the skin and bones, pack the meat into jars and add the juice, a few drops of liquid smoke and about a 1/2 teaspoon of rock salt, process 90 minutes at 10 lbs pressure. It's very tasty in salads and such. It takes a bit more time than regular canned fish but the effort is well worth it.
Most people have never tried pickled fish, we call it "svewlla culla" (I'm not too sure on the spelling and I'll probably spell it a number of different ways). I remember my Dad making it years ago when I was a kid and he got the recipe from my Great Aunt Lil who was Swedish. It takes about 6-8 weeks to make it, the majority of the time soaking in salt to draw out the moisture, then rinsing it for hours and finally layering it with onions in a gallon jar and a homemade brine poured on top. I have some on the go and will add a picture when I get it into the jars.
The smoked salmon is very easy to make. I use demerera sugar and coarse salt, a 2 to 1 ratio but I think I'm going to reduce the salt a bit, maybe 2 cups sugar 3/4 cup salt. (Update: I tried it with the reduced amount of salt and it's much better!) You mix up the sugar and salt into a bucket and sprinkle it between layers of fillet salmon. I cut each fish into approximately six to eight pieces. I usually do about 10 fish at a time as we have a fairly large old metal fridge that's been converted into a smoker, I have an actual fire in the bottom and usually use maple wood but I think I'm going to get some cherry here pretty quick so I'll give that a shot, just don't use any wood that has pitch. After soaking in the fridge overnight (you can use a camping dishtub or even one of your vegetable crispers) I rinse very well, sometimes pulling out those small little bones that got left behind but that's only if I'm bored :) I then spray PAM on my racks and place fish, thin pieces on top rack, usually the tails, thicker on another, and so on. Blot with paper towel. Paint the fish with maple syrup and then glaze.  I think one of the most important steps is to let your fish "glaze" for an hour or so before placing in the hot smoker. It will feel sticky and appear shiny, it's fast especially if the sun is shining on it. I find if you put "wet" fish in the smoker it will turn mushy. So while the fish is glazing you then start your fire.

For years I called it "glazing" but it's actually called "pellicle."
Edit, found on a websiteThis is one step many beginning smokers fail to do, but drying your cured, brined fish in a cool, breezy place is vital to properly smoking it. Why? You need to form what is called a pellicle, which is a thin, lacquer-like layer on top of the fish that seals it and offers a sticky surface for the smoke to adhere to.  You achieve this by resting the brined fish on a rack and putting it in a cool -- less than 65 degrees -- place that has good air circulation.  If you'd like, run a fan over the fish at low speed.  Let the fish dry this way for at least 2 hours, and up to three. Don't worry! The salt in the brine will protect your fish."

After that put it in the smoker and in a few hours you'll have tasty smoked fish, I then let it cool, vacuum pack it and freeze it.
So between fishing and company I haven't had much time to loom...Sydney will be going back to school in a couple of weeks and things will return to "normal" soon, so hopefully I can slip some time in for making Christmas gifts...although the tomatoes are ready for canning... all this going on and we've been renovating too, life is never dull around here!

It all starts at the River.
Gill net out.
Jevan sitting on the rocks.
If you look close you can see Robbie, a friend from Pritchard standing on the rock.
Baked on the left and raw pack on the right.
St'wan Rack
It's ready! Johnny gathering the fish.
Not bad for our first attempt :)

1 comment:

Donna said...

Awesome pictures! It is great to see from where they come to some of the finished product. A busy time of year for you.