Simply Salmon by Hari Nayak
There are two main families of salmon: Pacific and Atlantic. When buying salmon in a fish market, you might have the option of wild or farm-raised The taste, texture and cost between wild and farmed can be significantly different, so determine which type will work for the dish youâre planning to prepare before you buy.
- Wild salmon is dense and lean, with a more complex flavor than farmed. The vast majority of it comes from Alaskan rivers, and is caught between mid-May and late September.
- Salmon is generally designated by species (king, silver, sockeye) and the waters it was pulled from (Copper River, Columbia River, etc.).
- All commercially available wild salmon is Pacific salmon. There are seven species of Pacific salmon, but only three are commonly sold fresh: king or Chinook; sockeye or red; and coho or silver.
- Fresh wild salmon remains seasonal and in limited supply. It doesn't come cheap-it's normally about three times the price of farmed. Much of the wild salmon catch is canned or frozen and sold during the off-season.
- Most farmed salmon is Atlantic salmon. It's raised throughout the world.
- The fish are fed a diet of processed food, often containing natural or synthetic dyes to give them the color wild salmon develop from their natural diet of crustaceans.
- Most are incubated in fresh-water hatcheries, then transferred to offshore saltwater pens after six months. They go from the fish farms to market quickly, so they're reliably fresh.
- Aquaculture has turned salmon, once a seasonal delicacy, into the true chicken of the sea. High-quality, farmed salmon is now available year-round and at reasonable prices. If the label/menu/fishmonger says Atlantic, Norwegian or Icelandic, it's been farmed and it's Atlantic salmon. There is wild Atlantic salmon, but it's on the endangered species list.
- Almost all canned salmon is wild and contains the same nutrients as fresh salmon. It can be a welcome addition to salads, fish cakes and pasta dishes, at a fraction of the cost of fresh salmon.
Fillets are cut from the side of the fish, contain small pinbones and tend to be more prone to flaking apart so they have to be handled carefully. To check a fillet for pinbones, use your fingers to feel for small bones and pull them out with needlenose pliers or strong tweezers. Fillets are slightly more expensive than steaks. They also offer plenty of crisp skin, which some people enjoy.
Four Signs of Freshness
1. The flesh should be firm and moist, with shiny skin and no dry patches.
2. The fish should smell clean, not fishy or ammonia-like.
3. The fish should be protected from direct contact with ice. If it's sitting in a pool of melted ice at the shop, it was probably frozen or is freezer burned, and you shouldn't buy it, .
4. If buying a whole salmon, look for clear, not clouded, eyes, firm flesh and red gills.
It's best to cook on the day of purchase, but salmon keeps better than most fish and will hold up for a day or two.
To refrigerate, wrap salmon in plastic wrap and then put it in a plastic bag. Set a colander over a bowl, fill the colander with ice, and wedge the bagged salmon into the ice.
To freeze, wrap salmon tightly in several layers of plastic wrap, then place in a freezer bag and into the freezer. Salmon should be good for up to two months. Defrost in the refrigerator before cooking.
All salmon, whether wild or farm-raised, is an excellent source of protein and B-vitamins. It's the omega-3 fatty acids, though, that make it an excellent addition to any diet. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids, a substance our bodies cannot manufacture and must get from food. Researchers are constantly finding new health-giving properties in these amazing fats. Some of the health benefits are:
- Lowers triglycerides and cholesterol and reduces inflammation
- Protective against some cancers
- Reduces symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
- Helps relieve depression and stress
- Lowers blood pressure in some people with hypertension
- Helps fight wrinkles
If you eat canned salmon, you also get the benefits of calcium in the small bones that are ground up in the flesh during processing.
Wild salmon usually has more Omega-3 fats than farm-raised. Wild also has the distinct advantage of fewer PCB's, industrial pollutants showing up in farm-raised salmon.