The Cook’s Tour
Sourcing great seafood is tricky.
First, a lot of what is called “wild caught” salmon isn’t. It comes from the Wild East, is farmed, or may not even be a true species of the fish being advertised to you.
We have been marketed into think that “farm-raised” immediately means “sustainable,” and that the best fish is shipped on ice, not frozen.
Fish Myth Busters
Most of the seafood that you buy, even from very expensive markets, is handled poorly on its way to your table The pitfalls of iced and some frozen fish, on their way to your market:
- Stored it poorly on the boat, or at the fish farm processing plant;
- Froze it really sloppily;
- Put it on ice in used/damaged containers that don’t seal properly, and let warm air in during transit;
- Put it in containers that, if kept in ideal frozen environments are great, but since many trucks and warehouses aren’t even close, cause degradation of the fish in ice, or frozen, inside.
- Many companies use containers for short-haul deliveries for long-haul by air, to get “fresh” to your market. Containers can sit on airport tarmacs, in hot outer metal freight containers, as part of a larger cargo load, and become partially thawed.
- It may thaw a bit more in transit as it moves from the fish producer through a few different levels of wholesaler warehousing to the supermarket’s central warehouse to perhaps another regional warehouse, to your store, with maybe one, two or three people who forgot to put the seafood order away fast into the deep freeze along the way, where it partially thawed.
- Water based ice is not the best way to ship fish. It melts, and the water is absorbed by the fish. It’s profitable, because a lot of the dollar value of the seafood, both to the wholesalers, and the retailer, is in that added weight.
Living By The Coast Doesn’t Make It Better
I live by the Florida coast. Love one local fishmonger, who pulls fish straight from their docks. Still won’t buy salmon, that doesn’t swim past this way, from him. He has a terrible supplier.
Market “Wild” May Be Dye-ld
I used to buy “wild” at Costco, until a bit of dried dye bled out of a piece of salmon that I was getting ready to cure.
At an American market, most seafood can sit up to six days before they have to take it off of sale. Some places will keep it a bit longer. If you’ve walked into a supermarket, or a third-rate fish-monger, and smelled that strong ammonia, seafood smell, you are in a bad place to buy fish!
The Alaska Epiphany
Then I went to Alaska, and had an epiphany: THIS was what cold-water seafood was supposed to taste like! Real king crab. Real salmon!
This is what salmon felt like, before cooking: Not mushy swampy, slimy. Not a smell, like a putrid factory chicken.
I buy meat from top producers out of my area. So I began looking at options for bringing salmon from Alaska.
My first couple of attempts weren’t good. The fish came in barely frozen, spending too long in transit. Or it didn’t come in at all, as one small producer kind-of-sort-of maybe forgot my order. Sorry!
Then I found The Wild Alaskan Company.
The Wild Alaskan Company
Owned by Aaron Kallenberg, a third generation Alaskan fisherman, with mad computer skills, and a family that has been fishing Bristol Bay’s sustainable salmon fisheries since the 1920’s, The Wild Alaskan Company’s mission is to let you experience the kind of seafood that, these days, you have a hard time finding, even at pricey markets, or one of the most endangered species, a legit seafood market with people who care about fresh.
An Alaskan Promise
Salmon, sustainably harvested, has been both tradition in Bristol Bay, and state law in Alaska.
The Alaska constitution requires that fish resources be managed on the principle of sustained yield for the maximum benefit of Alaskan citizens, which is why they have some of the best-managed fisheries in the world.
The state prohibits farm raising salmon. Here’s why…
Farmed & Foreign Fish is Foul
A Lighter Shade of Pale
Commercial fish is a lot like commercial chicken eggs: 90% of the fish consumed in North America comes from Asia, where farming methods, and unsustainable wild catch practices, are common. Farmed fish is the dominant source of seafood in most of the world’s industrialized countries.
Put real wild fish next to farm-raised, and you’ll see the difference:
Farm-raised fish, especially salmon, is paler, fattier, and generally lacking in nutrition. There are some responsible fish farmers, but there are so many in Asia that are both unregulated, and unsafe, that it makes it hard, unless you know the specific farm, to get too excited about buying a farmed fish product, although shellfish, which don’t swim, are quite another story.
The density at which most fish farms operate their salmon pens, they often have to give the fish antibiotics as disease, in water that is very unhealthy for the salmon, in such tight packing, is pretty inevitable. Such poor habitat can also lead to genetic changes in the fish that weaken the species.
Many times, what is advertised as “wild caught” is still farm-raised, or not even the species of fish advertised to you. That often means sneaking in species whose fishing has been banned, and drives species towards extinction.
Fish fraud is pretty common in the industry. Oceana, a non-profit that we endorse, is pushing not only for global awareness, but to create greater transparency in the ocean-to-table food chain.
Box O’ Goodness
Wild Alaskan ships perfect portions, flash-frozen, and packed in dry ice for shipping in a monthly, or bi-monthly box. You can get either salmon, or salmon and white fish. There are often specials for sable, or other fish that can be harvested sustainably, as they become available.
Boxes come in 12, or 24 pieces of 170 g / 6 oz. individually wrapped portions. They’re perfect to pop out of the freezer, defrost per the instructions, and serve.
Shipped monthly, or bi-monthly, you get a steady supply of a top-quality, sustainably harvested protein for your family, shipped well in an eco-friendly box that doesn’t add to our oceans’ garbage pile.
Important Cooking Advice
If you’re used to cooking the soft, squishy salmon, that shows up at the store, DO make sure that you dial back your cook times. This fish is prepped, and frozen. It’s leaner, and more flavorful, but, without the added water of sitting for days in tons of wet ice, it’s pretty tight. Equipment varies, but, in our Joule sous vide, which has presets for all kinds of foods, we have to dial it back about 30% just to avoid over-cooking it.
Such A Deal
Readers of TheJazzChef.com can get $25.00 off of their first order by placing it through the Buy @Wild Alaskan button above.
The last time that I visited Alaska was a few years ago. I received a huge education to what wild salmon, and real, fresh-off-the-boat king crab legs, were all about. Thanks to improved flash freezing, and just-in-time shipping, we can experience, if we follow their defrosting instructions, the full flavor, and improved nutrition of fisherman-to-family delivery. The Wild Alaskan Company has combined traditional fishing with 21st century marketing, and shipping, to offer home chefs the kind of seafood often only seen at top restaurants that care about A+ quality.
I give their monthly boxes my Jazz Chef Choicestuff Five Diamond rating for walking their walk and bringing Bristol Bay your way, wherever you may be.