Two thousand pounds of salmon, grayling’s and bears, oh my!

My son managed the concession at the Albion Ferry (from Langley to Maple Ridge) for a couple of years and I got into helping him out. At one point, three of us cleaned two thousand pounds of salmon, starting at midnight and working until eleven the next morning.

My son managed the concession at the Albion Ferry (from Langley to Maple Ridge) for a couple of years and I got into helping him out. At one point, three of us cleaned   two thousand pounds of salmon, starting at midnight and working until eleven the next morning.

I also introduced an Eastern style clam chowder to the menu and set up a barbecue near the road that went past the concession trailer, but my main job turned out to be smoking salmon. I did over 300 pounds per day at the height of tourist season. I have been around food smokers for most of my life. We had one on our farm when I was a kid and we smoked bacon, ham and wild game every fall. Years later, I  found out by accident that smoked grayling is delicious and smoked is the best way to eat the soft-fleshed fish.

I set up a smoker at my cabin on Little Smoked Salmon Lake in the Yukon and smoked a lot of grayling lake trout and northern pike. Believe it or not, pike is absolutely delicious when it is smoked. It is usually classified as “trash fish” with lots of bones, but if it is filtered carefully, skinned and smoked, it is simply wonderful.

If you decide to set up a smoker in your camp, be aware of the fact that bears can smell smoked fish for at least a mile. On a fishing trip to a little creek, not far from the dock at Gold River on Vancouver Island, I brought some smoked salmon along in my pack. It never dawned on me there would be a problem in broad daylight, but the huge black bears thought otherwise.

I had my son and the son of a friend with me and I became concerned for their safety. There was no place to hide and no trees to climb (which is not recommended in confrontations with black bears anyway), so I just had to bluff it out. I sent the kids ahead with instructions to head back to Gold River and get help at the mill if I did not get back to the boat within half an hour. The two black bears kept following me but maintained their distance. That’s when a light bulb went off. I still had a chunk of smoked salmon in my pack and they could smell it. So I chucked it away, waited for them to get the smell, backed around a corner and took off at a dead run for the dock. Now for the recipe for the brine to smoke with.

Ingredients: 1 litre clear spring water, 1 tsp. pickling spice, 1 tsp. allspice berries, 1/2 cup of pickling or sea salt

Method: Bring all the ingredients to a simmer for half an hour. Do not boil. Put all ingredients in a crock pot or glass container and immerse the fish or meat in the brine.

Leave the meat in the brine for 20 – 30 minutes, Drain and dry the food. A small fan works ideally.

Once the fish or meat is dried, a glaze called pellicle will form on the surface of food. Put the meat on a rack and add the topping. The topping is optional but certainly adds to the flavour. I’ll give you a recipe for the topping next week and will go into smokers: how to make one and how to use it.

See Ya Next Week!


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