Wild, superior, caught in the open ocean or raised in the splendid isles of Northern Europe; many of the self-aggrandizing statements brought upon this product, apart from being difficult to verify, are also devoid of any real import. The salmon, as a product, is especially inviting to these grand statements straight from the wildest fantasies of the marketers.
Many, for example, gush over the superiority of wild salmon, or that caught in the open ocean. It is unfortunate, however, that most of the salmon that arrives onto our plate, smoked or fresh, is the product of intensive aquaculture and not of the wild. Furthermore, salmon can be frozen before it is smoked, so even smoked salmon is not guaranteed fresh. Of course while the salmon is being cured, many different kinds of wood are burned to lend the fish a particular flavor. Unfortunately, in some cases not only different types of wood are used but also chemicals. This goes on without any disclosure to the consumer on the product tag as one might usually expect. In knowing these facts one may be beset by doubts as to the nutritional value of salmon. One sign of quality, for example, is the disclosure of the precise location of capture or farming of the animal. Our smoked salmon not only specifies the country of origin, but also the precise location and the methods used in raising it. An extra safeguard is offered by the certificate of origin.
The overwhelming majority of salmon which is imported around the world was raised in Scotland, Norway, Canada, Alaska or Ireland. All of these products, without much truth, are vaunted by their marketers as being of higher quality because of their place of origin.
Based upon the assumption that the biggest factors in the quality of salmon are the methods used in raising it and curing it, we will try to trace a map of the quality of this species. According to the experts, the Norwegian salmon (the most widely consumed in the world) is not quite excellent and is surely inferior to those caught in Scotland or Ireland and is comparable to Canadian salmon. At the top of the totem pole of quality are placed the Scottish and Irish salmon. The Scottish salmon offers a fine texture and a delicate taste, while their Irish counterparts are better known for their lean meats.
The method of curing was born, naturally, in Northern Europe out of the necessity to preserve meats for long periods. Once the salmon is caught, it is cleaned and eviscerated so that it may be opened and salted. The salting can be done dry (the favored method), or using a specially-made brine (water and salt). This is done to ensure good results during the actual smoking and in either case it is unlikely to be done by hand. Once the salmon has been properly salted it is then smoked. As was said before, the best smoking process burns various woods (elm, ash and oak are most commonly employed) to lend the meat a particular flavor. The process is a fairly simple one and many of the qualities of the salmon are in fact due to it. It is made difficult, however, by its finer points which serve to ensure the products hygiene and flavor.
There are, of course, other factors affecting the quality of the salmon's final product. Among them is the choice of cut, for example, where considerations such as visual aspect come into play. A cut taken close to the tail is not as well-presentable as one taken farther up the flank. I guarantee that the Scottish and Norwegian salmon available in our "store" is among the best the market has to offer.
About The Author
David Russo, VMD, PhD
Veterinary Scientist, Gourmet Lover and Amateur Cook