No Catch to Salmon: The Sacred Native Food Packs Healthy Fats and Nutrients
Saturated fat is bad, whereas monounsaturated is good for you. Negotiating which fats to eat and avoid gets confusing. But our ancestors who ate traditional food grown or available locally didn’t seem to have the health problems that run rampant in Indian Country today. The nutrients weren’t processed out.
We know that we should eat some fat like that available in olive and canola oils. We also need fat from the Omega-3 group of polyunsaturated foods, which are provided from salmon, tuna, herring, oysters, clams, sardines, trout, sea bass and some halibut.
I love salmon and practically grew up on Atlantic salmon, which is sadly disappearing. Most of what is available is farm raised. Pacific Chinook salmon is the very best wild catch, in my opinion, and is heart healthy too. There are five species of salmon, the biggest being Chinook, also known as King Salmon, and the others: Coho, Sockeye, Dog and Humpback.
Northwest tribes are very respectful of salmon. They believe salmon to be living spirits in the sea beneath their villages, coming up once a year to feed the human people. There are many legends and lore surrounding this annual spawning event. In one, the first catch is laid by the shore to point the direction upstream for other salmon to follow. Another is that after the first salmon is eaten, his bones are put back into the water so his spirit can show the villages of salmon under the sea that they are still remembered and respected.
Salmon is prepared in as many ways as beef, bison and venison. It is planked, skewered, grilled, poached, baked, steamed and smoked. When salmon is planked, alderwood and green cedar are the woods of choice as both impart a delicate yet rich flavor. I tried this once on new, clean cedar shanks from a roof repair. It worked beautifully since I had a small fillet. Most of the time, my family enjoys it poached with a delicious dill sauce, corn bread and potato salad.
2 large fillets salmon
Use a deep-sided large skillet with a lid. Poaching is a simple process of steaming the fish with the flavors coming up from the bottom. The liquid is important. I use a combination of white wine (or broth), bay leaves, peppercorns, sage leaves, a few juniper berries, celery flakes and minced garlic (optional). You can experiment here and not go wrong. Fill the pan about halfway with the liquid and place the salmon on a rack just above it. When the water starts to boil, turn it down to a simmer and cover the pan for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the fillets are pink with no red and flake easily. Chill salmon for a couple hours before serving.
1 cup low-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon or more dillweed
¼ teaspoon seasoned salt
¼ teaspoon tarragon
Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: New Native American Cooking, Native New England Cooking and A Dreamcatcher Book. She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with them and her husband in Madison, Connecticut.