Wild BC salmon is seasonal and is primarily available fresh during the summer and fall months, mainly July to October. Harvest times however vary from year to year depending on the species, the life cycle of the individual stocks and the fisheries management plan in place that year.
For most of the 20th century, canning and freezing were the two methods of preserving the fresh salmon catch. Today, advanced techniques in value-added processing are yielding a variety of new products and ensure availability for global markets year round.
Here are some of the more common choices available in the market today:
During salmon season, fresh salmon is a popular choice, straight off the fishing boat or at your local market. In the off-season, whole salmon that has been flash frozen or frozen-at-sea to lock in freshness and quality is often available at the dock or local markets as well. Whole salmon can be baked in foil or cooked on the BBQ, but make sure it is gutted and cleaned before cooking.
Salmon Fillets, Steaks, and Portions
Most fresh fish counters have a selection of wild salmon fillets and steaks, as well as other portions. They may be fresh or flash-frozen right on the fishing vessel to maintain freshness. These can be grilled, poached, roasted, or pan-fried to perfection.
Sockeye and pink salmon are the two most common species used for canning, providing a nutritious filling for sandwiches, a healthy snack, or main protein in a main course. Today many new canned salmon products are available for added convenience and consumer preference such as boneless and skinless canned salmon.
Smoked Salmon: Lox
Salmon lox is prepared by curing the salmon in salt, then cold smoking it, and slicing it very thinly. Sockeye salmon is most often prepared as lox because of its high oil content and attractive bright red flesh. This product is popular served on a bagel with cream cheese, capers, a squeeze of lemon and red onion.
Smoked Salmon: Retort Pack
Wild BC salmon can also be hot smoked or cooked at a higher temperature, sealed in a foil retort package which is basically a soft can. This product may be stored at room temperature until ready for use. Sockeye, chinook and pink are often used in producing this product which is popular in pasta dishes, salads and appetizers.
Salmon Caviar / Roe
Chum, pink and sockeye salmon caviar or roe (eggs) are translucent and deep-orange in colour with a delicate, fresh taste and texture. Called Ikura in Japanese, this is popular in sushi.
Candied salmon is typically prepared by hot smoking salmon, then having it sweet brined and often rolled in peppercorns. Sockeye and chum salmon are often used to prepare this product. Delicious on its own as a snack, candied salmon is also often enjoyed in a salad or pasta dish.
Salmon jerky features a sweet, smoky flavour from being brined, then smoked for over 24 hours. It is most often prepared with chum salmon and enjoyed as a snack.
Generally a blend of smoked wild sockeye, coho or pink salmon, cream cheese and seasonings, salmon paté is delicious on crackers as an appetizer or snack.