As big leaf maples light up the forest around our house and the days feel suddenly shorter, I always start thinking about silver salmon. Sure, we catch them all through summer out on the Sound or in the ocean, but this is different. This is the season when big northern silvers pour into rivers throughout the Pacific Northwest, a season I always equate with these fish.
It might be because the first big fish I ever caught on a fly rod was a silver, taken from a small creek on the Oregon coast when I was ten years old. Or all the subsequent days I spent through my youth, out in the crisp autumn air, chasing silvers. When I hear that rustling sound of huge maple leaves tumbling down through branches, or smell the sweet scent of wet alders, it brings me right back to those days.
Of course, it could also be because these fish enter the rivers in peak condition, with deep red flesh and layers of delicious fat. And silvers freeze better, in my opinion, than the more typically prized kings. But you have to get them quickly–a week or two in freshwater and they become mere shadows of their former selves, depleted in the service of reproduction. And soon after that, they will spawn, and then die, their bodies providing nutrients for the next generation. Like the blazing maple leaves and chanterelles, silvers are a perfect symbol of a season that always passes too quickly.
Another week, another opportunity to hear me blathering on about Closer to the Ground. But on the off chance you haven’t tired of my voice yet (or you happen to be my mom) I will be on Radio CJAD 800 in Montreal this Sunday, October 27th at 1:00pm Pacific Time. And if you don’t happen to live in Quebec, no sweat–the miracle of modern internet streaming lets you listen from anywhere. Just click HERE for the CJAD website, then click the “Listen Live” button at the top.
And thankfully, CJAD is an English-speaking station. What a relief! Guess I won’t need my Berlitz Guide to Kindergarten French after all.
I don’t know why the embedded video doesn’t work in the e-mail version, but you can watch the video easily by clicking HERE. Kind of a pain, but I think it’s worth seeing. Thanks!
The Skeena River in British Columbia is one of the last great strongholds of wild salmon and steelhead on the Pacific coast. Unfortunately, it also happens to flow through some of the most resource-rich regions in the world, and makes a perfect conduit to Asian markets for tar sand oil from Alberta. The threats to this vital watershed are many and ongoing, but in light of Royal Dutch Shell’s withdrawal from the Sacred Headwaters earlier this year, and the recent eviction of Fortune Minerals from the same area by the Tahltan First Nations, thought I would post this video.
I met Rachel Van Zanten at a small party of enviros in Vancouver a few years ago. In addition to being a kick-ass slide guitarist and singer, she’s from the Skeena Country and has been working to protect her home waters. You can feel Rachel’s commitment in this song. Her video features some incredibly moving footage of the Tahltan elders’ heroic (and ultimately, successful) protest of Shell’s coalbed methane project in the headwaters of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine Rivers.
Lots of inspiring work going on up there, led by First Nations and conservation groups like the Headwaters Initiative, Skeena Wild, Watershed Watch, Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition and others. If you fish the Skeena and want to see it survive, please click on the links above and find out how you can support the effort. But really, saving a world treasure like the Skeena should matter to us all.
After the weekend tuna-processing fest, Neal sent me home with a big bag of various albacore parts. I couldn’t decide which to cook or by what method, so decided to go nuts and cook it all–probably almost five pounds of fish. For the four of us. Ah, gluttony.
The real pleasure in these late-season tuna is the high fat-content, which varies with each section of the fish, so I wanted to cook for maximum fish fat enjoyment. I took the tuna bellies and marinated them in homemade teriyaki sauce (I make a huge batch about once a year and try to keep it on hand) then grilled them over a hot fire. The resulting belly strips, in the center above, came out a lot like fish bacon, which essentially, they are. Slightly crisp on the outside and melting on the inside.
The upper belly-wall section of the fish is firmer in texture, yet still packed with marbling. So I sliced these sections for sashimi, which we ate with soy sauce and wasabi. So creamy and mild, and so fatty you couldn’t pick the pieces up with smooth chopsticks–they slipped through every time. Delicious.
Finally, the large shoulder loin section deserved to be cooked whole. So I coated it lightly with soy sauce, mirin, honey and ginger, then rolled the whole chunk in a mix of furikake (Japanese rice seasoning), sesame seeds and dried, seasoned shiso leaves. Threw it on the hot grill just long enough to develop a crispy crust on the outside, leaving the interior raw. Then sliced into steaks for serving.
It turned out to be one of my favorite meals of the year…top five, for sure. On the side we had the last of our garden string beans and an aromatic shiitake mushroom/chanterelle sushi rice cooked with a bit of rice vinegar to cut through all the fish oil. Holy smokes. I ate so much I could barely breath last night. And somehow, we pretty much demolished the whole bag of albacore. I think there are three small loin steaks left and that’s about it. Thanks, Neal! We thoroughly enjoyed every single bite.