Salmo Salar. When I was a child in Norway, salmon was a luxury. Now it’s become cheap and tasteless, with a fatty acid content similar to that of conventionally farmed pigs.
Not the healthy meat you hope for. We pay for the low price in other and less transparent ways. If you want the real thing, which means not farmed, polluting, medicated or heavily colored, you must wait for the season, and pay what it costs to buy a line-caught, beautiful silver creature.
The reward is one of the most delicate, versatile and delicious fish you can possibly eat. The flesh is melting and sweet, and the color of pale apricot, the qualities that made it popular in the first place.
Wild salmon used to be so numerous in northern Scandinavia that it was written in Norwegian farm boys’ contracts, before Second World War, that they should not be served wild salmon more than twice a week.
The coast of Norway is specked with marine fish farms raising thousands of tons of salmon. It’s a serous source og pollution, ruining the seabed, and the raised fish are generally of low quality; with a bland taste, dyed meat, higher-than-usual fat content, and full of medicine residues. Even though it has made salmon everyday fare, there is a raising awareness that this mass production is not sustainable, and there are new ways of raising salmon, even organically, which is higher priced and of wonderful quality.
Appearance and taste
Salmon are silver and black, and soft-fleshed when raw. Wild salmon have pretty, pale apricot-colored flesh, not the bright orange flesh of farmed fish. Wild fish have tails and fins with sharp edges, while farmed fish live so close together that the fins and tails are bitten into shreds. Organically farmed salmon have similar characteristics to wild fish.
Buying and storing
Buy only organically farmed fish, or wild salmon, caught in sustainable ways. Eat it on the day it is bought, unless you are curing the fish.
Wild salmon are full og healthy fatty acids and lots of minerals. Conventionally farmed fish, which are fed like conventional pigs, are not at all the same. The fats are different and they have dye and medication in their food. It is not advisable to eat conventionally farmed fish for health reasons, let alone because the taste is not comparable.
Like all fatty fish, salmon must not be overcooked, though traditionally it often was. We know better know, and bake or fry salmon only long enough for it to become just firm to the touch, and still a little opaque in the middle. Cooked for too long, salmon like other fatty fish, becomes very, very dry. There are several traditional ways of curing and smoking that will make the most of a perfect salmon.
Here is our receipt of
Laxpudding is a Swedish classic. Eat it with rye bread and a green salad, or cucumber salad with dill.
500 g salmon filet
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
1.5kg waxy potatoes, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 bunches of fresh dill, chopped
300ml whipping cream
500ml full-fat milk
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Slice the fish as thinly as you can, then pre-salt with half the coarse sea salt. Let it rest for a couple of hours.
Preheat the oven to 180 ͦC/gas mark 4. Layer the potatoes, salmon, onion and dill in a deep ovenproof dish, beginning and ending with a layer of potatoes.
Whisk the eggs, cream, milk, pepper and remaining salt together in a bowl and pour over the top. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are done and the crust is nicely browned.
Feature image (on top): Nowegian fly-fishers with a 21.5kg Atlantic salmon at Gaula
Scandinavian Salmon, written by Tor Kjolberg