Orcas & More

On our way across the narrows last night, we encountered a pod of Orcas–hunting for dinner.  We stopped the engine and watched….

They circle around Buoy 56 marker support.  We discover a frantic sea lion trapped in this “cage”–imagine another horizontal brace just below the sea level.  The Orcas send in their young to try to flush him out between the bars.

They circle around and around….

Note the two young Orcas here.   They didn’t succeed in capturing the sea lion.   It’s now time for our dinner.

We finally got the hang of smoking salmon and do three batches this one using maple syrup brine.  Delicious!  Here’s our recipe:

1.)  begin with good quality fish–we smoked our last year’s Cohos and tossed out the freezer burned stuff.  Freeze the sockeye first to kill parasites if its fresh.  The bellies smoke the best.

2.)  Pat dry, then slice each fillet into approximately 1″ slices leaving them intact on the skin and soak in a brine/sugar in the ratio of 1 gallon water to 1 cup kosher salt to 1 cup sugar (or maple syrup) for half hour.  Slightly less if you intend to can.  Dry fillets overnight so a slight sheen/glaze is formed.

3.  Smoke with ultra dry alder chunks (we season our dry wood overnight in our Tulikivi)–that produce little visible smoke at 110-140F for approximately 18 hours or until you can flake them to the skin without seeing raw meat.  This is a “hot smoke” and can be eaten right off the smoker.  If you find curds rising from the meat–it’s too hot. Some methods use a cold smoke where the fire originates about 10′ from the actual smoker–this takes about four days and yields a completely different product.

Tips:  See our smoker here.  Every Indian here in SE says to use an all wood smoker.  I don’t like glues in plywood so used plain locally cut lumber.  The firewood must be dry–wet woods produces creosote which will mar the flavor.  Ventilation is the key–you needs lots of air circulating to keep the fire even.   If we need to smoke an additional day, I scoot all the filets together, skin down and cover with foil right on the racks and relight in the morning.  With our smoker, we get a column of hot smoke so orient the fish around in a circle at the edge of the direct smoke with the thickest parts towards the column of smoke and tails out–that way you get an even smoke. Next time I fire up, I’ll post our step by step process on this blog.

This is admittedly our first try but it came out fantastic and yielded about 25-30 lbs. of wonderful stuff!  We shrink wrapped  most of it and  put it in the freezer.  Patience is the key–a virtue I’m noted for.  Finally, there as many recipes as smokers and chefs–experiment with fragrant wood, spices, etc.  Enjoy!   (OK–back to work….)

There’s lots to do at Totland this summer; among the projects is to rebuild the old net shed.  I’m using 1″ X 10″ yellow cedar and will batten the gaps as this is all rough cut (actual dimensions).

Here, the doors are finished but I ran out of stain.  Skookum!  I’ll post the finished product when it stops raining and I can continue.

We also get the hang of subsistence fishing with our SHRC “Shark” cards which are for halibut, not shark–the City of Kupreanof qualifies.  We’re allowed 30 hooks on each skate.  No halibut though after four days of trying.  We use Chum as bait and fish right in front of our house lured by an old photo of Harry who caught a ‘barn door’ here about 30 years ago.  We’ll try again.

Life is good here in rural Alaska.  Our guest house has been full all summer with couch surfers and friends.  Here we sit on our outdoor swing for an authentic Alaskan breakfast and plan a trip on the Katahdin to Thomas Bay.   Stay tuned!

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