Every summer I look forward to the week of our wedding anniversary; and not because I’m a hopeless romantic — because it’s sockeye salmon season on the Kenai River.
My husband is never here to celebrate our anniversary during the second week of July because he’s dipnetting three hours away.
And although I love a good fresh grilled salmon steak (last night we grilled them over alder branches), it’s the roe that I crave. We usually brine the roe in a simple salt and water solution and serve them with crackers and white wine. You can read my post from last year about wild salmon caviar.
Today, though, a friend dutifully gave me his roe from the silver salmon he caught in Seward over the weekend. When I went to process them I realized they were too small and delicate. Pushing them through a metal grate was ruining them. I didn’t want to waste them so I thought outside the box. Or inside the box, rather, as my dad had just removed some red salmon lox from his smoker.
I found this incredibly simple recipe for smoked salmon roe and decided to give it a try. It turned out splendidly! A friend told me it tasted a bit like smoked oysters. I will definitely try it again, but I might rinse the eggs of their salt brine before smoking them as they are a bit on the salty side.
This recipe assumes that you know how to use a smoker. I only say this because my dad is the smoke master in my family and I haven’t learned to operate one. All I can say is we cold smoked the eggs since heat would ruin the texture altogether.
Make sure the roe is fresh, fresh, fresh. That means it’s either been in a freshly caught fish or if the fish was processed on the beach that the eggs were kept on ice the entire time for no more than two days.
Smoked Salmon Roe
Rinse the salmon roe skeins in fresh cold water to remove any grit. Pat them dry with paper towels and dredge them in kosher salt.
Place them on a rimmed baking sheet in the fridge for 20 minutes. In the meantime, turn on your smoker.
Remove the skeins from the fridge and rinse them again under cold water. Pat dry. Rinse off the baking sheet and wipe dry. Place the skeins back on the tray.
Place your baking sheet on the top shelf and leave the smoker door slightly ajar. Smoke for 30-45 minutes.
Place roe in fridge until cold. Use a butter knife to scrape the eggs away from the skein membrane. Store in a jar for up to 5 days (but they shouldn’t last that long, really). Enjoy on crackers or in any way you deem fit. Today I made sushi with the smoked roe. It was fabulous.
It’s salmon season and for most that means filets, steaks and smoked salmon. We love all that in our family, but as soon as we hear of a friend going salmon fishing we think “roe!” We request that all our fishing friends keep the salmon eggs when they clean their fish and store them diligently on ice until they reach our clutches.
I grew up knowing all about brined salmon caviar: they were stinky, fishy, gooey and gross. But then I grew up and so did my palate. Now they are glimmering orange jewels that pop and melt in your mouth in salty bliss.
My father is the king of salmon roe preparation, so I have decided to reblog his Caviar Mania post from his site sausagemania.com (it’s for real, people). Visit his site for full photo tutorials on preparing sausage, lox, kippered salmon, and pesto.
How to Make Delicious Salmon Caviar at Home. Easy Recipes From SausageMania.com!
The designation “caviar” is traditionally applied to the salted, unfertilized roe of wild Caspian Sea sturgeon, a rapidly diminishing resource as neither Russia nor Iran are able (or willing) to end poaching. While Russian and Iranian caviar is an expensive luxury, going for as much as $500 an ounce, lesser caviars, made from the salted roe of salmon, lump fish, whitefish, steelhead, trout and other species of sturgeon, are more affordable substitutes.
CaviarMania is here to teach you how to make Salmon Caviar, specifically, caviar from Wild Alaskan Salmon.
Salmon Caviar is ridiculously simple to make. The most difficult part is getting hold of fresh salmon eggs. Fortunately, here in Alaska, salmon eggs are often discarded, or rolled in Borax, frozen, and used as bait – to catch more salmon, of course. So during the salmon runs in June through August, fresh eggs can be had in abundance if you have the right connections.
If you do not, then you need salmon – fresh, whole, uncleaned, iced salmon, and then you hope most of them are hens, that is, full of eggs. You can do without the fish, if you can tap into a good supply of fresh eggs, which, in Alaska, the home of SausageMania, LoxMania, KipperMania and now, CaviarMania, can often be done if you have fishing friends who are wiling to save the roe for you. A word of caution, however: you must know and trust your roe purveyor to care for the roe. If the fish have been left in the sun for a few hours before being cleaned, or the roe is not immediately iced, you may find youself spending time, energy and salt to produce an inferior product!
Two beautiful skeins of roe!
The only tools needed are a few bowls and a screen of 1/4″ or 5/16″ galvanized mesh to fit over one of the bowls, a large strainer and a 1-gallon ZipLoc bag. The only ingredients are the salmon eggs, salt and cold water. The most time-consuming part is pushing the eggs through the mesh. The brining time necessary to prepare the caviar varies from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the eggs and your tolerance for saltiness.
A few words of caution about salmon roe: handle the skeins with care. Keep them cold at all times. Never, never, never freeze salmon roe unless you’re planning to make fish bait. The same goes for the finished product: freezing wrecks the eggs, and is especially harsh on the sensual “pop-ness” of the individual eggs as you eat them. Fresh caviar has a unique texture: you can feel each separate egg on the tongue, and each egg pops with a flavorful explosion. Frozen caviar is “dead.” It’s slushy, slimy and inert.
OK, so now you have several skeins of fresh, cold salmon eggs from a reputable source. From which species of salmon? Eggs from sockeye (red) and pink (humpy) salmon are small, and require less brining time. Eggs from Coho (silver) salmon are larger and require more brining. Eggs from king (Chinook) salmon, and from chum (dog or keta) salmon are the largest, and need the longest time. (Keta eggs are prized by Russians, who feel they make the best salmon caviar.)
Whatever kind of roe you have, you will need a galvanized screen to separate the eggs from their membranous attachment. A galvanized mesh screen with 1/4 – 5/16” holes is the best; cut it to fit tightly over a large bowl. Then get hold of some non-iodized salt. Coarse is better than fine.
Spread each skein, membrane side up, on the screen and work the eggs through the screen and through the mesh with your fingers. Membranes will get caught in the screen, so every now and again, remove the stuck membranes and discard. From time to time, remove the screen, and gently scrape off the eggs hanging from the bottom with a rubber or plastic spatula.
Next, fill a large bowl with the coldest water you can get and dissolve enough salt in it until you have a saturated saline solution, meaning that there will be undissolved excess salt in the bottom. Pour the separated eggs into the cold brine and gently stir. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
After ten minutes, take a spoonful of eggs and place in a small strainer, then rinse them in running cold water to rinse off the exterior salt. Taste them. If not salty enough, wait another five minutes and taste again. When the eggs are salty enough for your taste, pour them into a large strainer and rinse them with running cold water, gently turning them over and over with your hands to wash off all the outside salt.
At this stage, the eggs still have active osmotic cell walls, so, if you over-salted them, just soak them in cold water for several minutes, and the salt will travel back out of the eggs and into the water. Once you are completely satisfied with the saltiness of the product, place the egg-laden strainer in a large bowl and fill a gallon ZipLoc bag with cold water. Place the bag on top of the eggs and put the bowl with strainer, eggs and ZipLoc in the refrigerator overnight. The weight of the ZipLoc bag packs and compresses the eggs, which helps make them spreadable onto crackers or whatever you wish to spread them on. Now you have caviar! It will last 7-10 days in the fridge, after which it won’t spoil, but will acquire an unpleasant fishy taste. If you have a vacuum packer, you can vacuum-pack the jars, which will allow the product to remain decent from 2-3 weeks, if refrigerated, before becoming “fishy.”
Unless you have a vacuum packer that will evacuate Mason jars, you’ll need to punch a hole in the tops of the jars to let the air out, and vacuum-pack them in bags. They will then keep in the fridge for up to three weeks.
Now that you’ve finished, what are you going to do with all that caviar? Well, it’ll go faster than you think. You can spread it on crackers, make Blini or Caviar Omelets (but don’t make them “hard” or you’ll ruin the caviar). If you make Blini, serve with iced vodka.