When I think of salmon, a flood of memories of my trip to Alaska are unleashed.
I was in Copper Center, which is four hours East of Anchorage by car, visiting an Aunt and Uncle, who have lived in Alaska since the late 70’s.
They are teachers who moved to Alaska with a primary focus on educating Eskimo and Inuit children who lived in the outer-most villages of the northern wilderness of Alaska. For years they themselves lived in poor conditions in order to bring some kind of education to the children and parents who lived in remote places with no schools or public facilities.
I have often wished my Aunt and Uncle had written a book, as their efforts were tireless, experiences many and vast, and the memories they have are so interesting to hear about.
Eventually they built a comfortable home in Copper Center which became my home base during my visit. I learned a lot about salmon and how they caught it. They have a fish-wheel on the river, which looks roughly like a paddle boat. This sits in the water, fairly close to shore, with a dock for easy accessibility from land. These fish-wheels are used to catch the salmon as they swim up river. There are many fish-wheels on the river, usually co-owned by several families. A day’s catch is anywhere between 50-250 pounds. Most of the days I was there it was close to 200. Alaskans call sockeye salmon “Copper Rive Reds”, the most prevalent. King salmon, also called Coho’s, are not as plentiful. Copper River reds are the most popular salmon with all Alaskans. The first salmon run is in early June lasting about 3 weeks. The 2nd run is in late July. The salmon are always on the side of the river, so there are people who just like to fish from shore. A fishing license is needed.
Most families have a couple of large freezers to accommodate all the salmon, halibut, and game that is common eating in Alaska homes.
As far as seeing Alaska, we made daily car trips from morning to early evening, driving hundreds of miles each day seeing what we could of this beautiful state. I can say that pictures don’t do it justice; I discovered that to really appreciate its “special ness” is to see Alaska in person. Just a drive to Valdez is an incredible experience, with so much to see on the way that it is extraordinary.
Let me tell you t how my trip ended. On one of our drives, my Aunt had asked me to pick up a large cooler for her. When I was packing up to leave for the airport, she was filling this cooler with frozen salmon from her freezer, and when full she duct-taped it securely shut. She said that she was sending it home with me on the plane. I didn’t want to question her, but I am silently wondering what the airline will say when I want to take a big cooler of fish to Boston. We walked into Anchorage airport, and there were at least a dozen duct-taped coolers scattered about ready to be put on the plane. Apparently this was a common scene in this airport, checking in huge coolers filled with a little more than 50 pounds of frozen “Copper River Reds” king salmon, just caught that week on the Copper River. How great!
The flavor of natural, wild salmon is much richer, and very high in the omega-3’s that are so healthy for us, compared to farm raised.
Not too often do I see king red salmon in the supermarkets this far East, but I wish I did. Read the back labels on canned and frozen salmon, as it may be wild and from Alaska.
I never get bored eating salmon. I use a different marinade when grilling/broiling for a different taste, or broil it with just butter and lemon juice. Lemon and dill is a classic combination and one of the best for any fish.
The rule to remember when grilling fish is cook low & slow. Enjoy!
Wide Bay Salmon – Recipe courtesy Gay Wellman of Kenny Lake, Alaska
Large salmon fillet to feed 4 people
One-quarter cup sour cream mixed with one-quarter cup mayonnaise
Place fish, skin-side down, in buttered baking pan. Spread sour cream mixture on salmon.
Season with 1 teaspoon tarragon, 1 teaspoon seasoning salt, and one-half teaspoon pepper.
Garnish with one onion, sliced into rings. Broil for 15 minutes or until cooked through.
Grilled Salmon with Lemon & Dill
4 to 6 servings
1 salmon fillet, about 1 and 1/2 pounds
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill or 3/4 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons of each; chicken broth, canola oil, soy sauce, finely chopped green onions
1 small lemon, thinly sliced
Mix dry seasonings; dill, lemon-pepper, salt, and garlic powder. Sprinkle both sides of salmon. Place fillet in a plastic re-sealable bag or in shallow container. Combine brown sugar, broth, oil, soy sauce, and green onions. Pour over the salmon. Cover and refrigerate about 1 hour, turning once. Drain, discard marinade. Place salmon on low-medium heat grill, skin side down (spray grill with non-stick spray, or rub with oil). Arrange lemon slices on top. Cover and cook 15-20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
If it is more convenient for you, you can cook individual pieces of salmon in aluminum foil packets on the grill (covered grill, medium heat, for about 10 minutes). Season and marinate fillets as above, place lemon slices on top, and wrap tightly.