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Salmon & Sable: Smoked Salmon Shares
Salmon & Sable: Smoked Salmon Shares
Last year you helped me launch Salmon & Sable, & I produced amazing fresh-frozen salmon. Now I’d like to make smoked salmon as well.
Last year you helped me launch Salmon & Sable, & I produced amazing fresh-frozen salmon. Now I’d like to make smoked salmon as well. Read more
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .
Last season I launched Salmon & Sable right here on Kickstarter. With your help I raised over $100,000. This allowed me to start filleting, freezing, and shipping the wild Alaskan salmon I catch here in remote Western Alaska. Since then I've shipped my supporters thousands of pounds of stunning fresh-frozen salmon. Now I'd like to start smoking salmon too, and I need your help.
As you may know, I have been selling smoked salmon all along. Due to the expense and challenges of smoking my own salmon, I have traditionally had my salmon smoked for me by a third party. This has led to mixed results––amazing smoked salmon from my friend in Southeast Alaska and marginal to satisfactory salmon from other smokers. Issues have arisen with labeling and packaging as well as the basics––taste, texture, and aesthetics. This summer I finally realized that I do everything else myself, why not smoked salmon too?
I have been catching and smoking salmon here in Alaska for almost 3 decades. Over the years, and with lots of help from mentors and my parents, I have developed a way of smoking that is both lovely and delicious. My technique marries the stunning color, taste, and texture of wild Alaskan sockeye salmon with the full, earthy flavors of smoldering wood and the brilliant aesthetics of just the right cut and package.
Although not a widely used term, Alaskan style smoked salmon is a good way to describe the myriad ways salmon are smoked in Alaska. While it can take many forms––varying in shape, recipe, and texture––it is not lox, gravlax, or cold smoked. Alaskan style smoked salmon is typically brined, briefly air dried, then smoked at low heat for a few hours up to a whole day or more. It's not often available around the states, but when it is, it's typically an unsightly and foul-tasting brick that could be used for an expensive doorstop if it wasn't such an insult to the salmon it came from.
When I launched Salmon & Sable I wanted to introduce folks to all that wild Alaskan salmon can be when it's caught, filleted, and packed by one small family. Now I'd like to introduce you to smoked salmon too, Alaskan style.
I have been a sustainability-focused commercial fisherman in Alaska for over 20 years. Together with my family & a few crewmen, we do everything carefully by hand. We fish from small open boats out in front of my cabins and carry our catch up the beach. We fillet each salmon by hand in a small cabin right on the water. We vacuum seal each portion or fillet then blast freeze them for unparalleled fresh-frozen quality. I take enormous pride in each piece of seafood I produce.
When I launched Salmon & Sable I wanted to make good on the promise of fisherman-direct. While there is no shortage of "fisherman-direct" businesses, few are both catching and filleting their own salmon. Instead they are fishing and selling their catch to a large commercial processor. The processor mixes their fish with everyone else's fish and processes them in a massive mechanized commercial plant. The fishermen then buy these anonymous fish from the processor and sell it to their customers. When I first started selling customer-direct way back when, this is what I did too. But Salmon & Sable is different. We do everything ourselves. Each salmon you get from us is caught, filleted, packaged, smoked, and frozen, by me, my family, and my small crew––just us, no one else.
My name is Traveler, and this is my family.
In addition to backing me here on Kickstarter, you can also preorder a Share of the Spring Catch at my site. The preorder deadline is March 11 and the ship date is the first week of May, 2018. I offer halibut and sablefish for my Spring Catch. https://salmonandsable.com/collections/spring-catch
Where I fish
During the summer and fall, I fish on the Ugashik River in remote Western, Alaska. It's a stunning tundra landscape with volcanic, glacier-enrobed mountains to the south and the open Bering Sea to the north.
When you buy my salmon, you know I caught it and filleted it and sent it to you. When you buy seafood at the store you may also think you know a few things about it; simple things like the species and what country or state it's from. Increasingly, those basic assumptions about your seafood are not true. While fraud is rampant in the food industry as a whole, it is particularly common in seafood. That lovely piece of fish on ice at the store might be labeled "wild king salmon from Alaska," but it could very well be farmed coho from Chile. False on all three claims.
The most comprehensive and respected seafood fraud study to date was completed by Oceana in 2013. This is the study that former president Barack Obama, in part, based his legislation on. Oceana genetically tested over 1200 seafood samples from sellers around the country and found that seafood was mislabeled up to 87% of the time, depending on the species. Overall, 1 in 3 samples were falsely labeled in some way. For many of us, that's like painting a potato red and selling it as an apple.
Salmon & Sable is a new type of seafood business. That is why I have a 100% transparency policy. Folks who produce the food that feeds you and your family shouldn't have anything to hide. If you have a question, ask. I'll always tell you the truth.
This is my Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC) setnet permit (number is S04T 63891B). My father owns a second permit that I fish and a friend has yet another permit we fish (my permit from last year). I own a 22 ft. open aluminum skiff and I lease a second skiff from a friend. I have 2 cabins and I lease a third from the same friend. Although this will be much disputed among my fishermen friends, I also have the best sauna on the beach. I built it with my father from 75 year old wood we recycled from a salmon cannery.
I fish salmon on the Ugashik River in Western, Alaska (57°32'50.22"N, 157°34'42.32"W). The town of Pilot Point is nearby (population 69). I fish just upriver from my cabins on my Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Shore Fisheries Lease (S 09° 11" W 15222', tract A on diagram 1309). My permit allows me to fish during open periods with a 50 fathom net anchored to shore and stretched into the river. This is called setnetting. During the summer I live at this remote site I call "fish camp." A handful of friends live nearby and fish the same area. We have a wonderful community right on the beach in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness.
Virtually all of Alaska's fisheries are models for sustainability. But if we're splitting hairs, there are some amazing examples within the state. When I decided I didn't want to fish as a crewman anymore and bought my own permit, I wanted to be a part of the most sustainable fishery in the state, which arguably makes it the most sustainable fishery on earth––Bristol Bay, Alaska. I fish the Ugashik River, which is the furthest west and most remote district of this already extremely remote and amazing place. Bristol Bay supports the largest sockeye salmon population on earth. Some summers as many as 65 million sockeye spawn there. These fish are 100% wild with no hatcheries or augmentation of any kind.
My life and passions have always revolved around art, environmental stewardship, and sustainable food systems. When I earned my undergraduate degree in fine art, my thesis involved using objects from nature as negatives to create photograms (contact prints). When I went on to earn my master's degree in environmental journalism, I wrote my masters thesis on subsistence lifestyles in urban environments. In short, I'm a different type of fisherman.
An important part of my mission is not just producing the best seafood on earth, it's also educating folks about sustainable fisheries and helping them make delicious and healthy meals for their families. Food brings people together. I believe the better the food, the better the connections that come from it.
Why my seafood is so healthy
Wild Alaskan salmon is, in my opinion, the healthiest protein one can eat. But I'm not the only one who thinks so. The FDA recommends pregnant women eat salmon, one of the only fish species they recommend. When my wife was pregnant with our daughter Cedar, she ate salmon constantly. As soon as Cedar starting eating solid food––salmon. Salmon is how brains and bodies grow strong.
The reason wild salmon is so healthy is because salmon are short-lived and they eat very low on the food chain. Most salmon live 3-5 years in the pristine north Pacific, and feed on krill and tiny fish. This makes them among the lowest bioaccumulating fish in the sea (the process of retaining environmental contaminants in the body). Few, if any other fish of a salmon's size, can make this claim.
Sockeye salmon has a bold, wild salmon flavor and a brilliant red color. It's also called "red salmon."
King salmon has a mild flavor and a delicious rich taste. It's also called chinook.
Coho salmon has a mild salmon flavor and a lovely rich taste, although not quite as rich as king. Coho is also called silver salmon.
Farmed vs. Wild
My smoked salmon is distinctive because of the delicious taste, great texture, and the lovely, easy-to-eat strip cut.
Portions are a piece of a fillet. Here you can see the shape of the whole fillet and how the portions are cut from the fillet. Portions are about 1/2-3/4 lb. each for sockeye and coho and 3/4-1 lb. for king salmon. Portions are convenient and usually just the right size for singles or couples.
A fillet is a full salmon side. These are lovely to present on the table at parties and also a great size for families of 3-4 or more. Most sockeye and coho fillets are 1.25-2 lbs., occasionally 2.25 lbs.
Fresh Vs. Frozen
It's sometimes thought that fresh is always superior to frozen. With some fish that may be true, but when expertly processed and frozen, wild Alaskan salmon are the perfect fish to keep in your freezer all winter. The reasons are in that beautiful red flesh. While the fats in fish can freeze and thaw with virtually no harm, the water in fish, on the other hand, is the enemy. When water freezes it also expands, which can harm the texture of seafood due to microscopic cellular destruction. Thankfully for our taste buds and our health, wild Alaskan salmon is full of natural, healthy fats which allows it to freeze then thaw again when you eat it with little or no harm to the taste or texture. While all that is true for raw salmon, it's doubly true for smoked salmon since approximately 30-35% of the water naturally found in salmon evaporates during the smoking process. This condenses the amazing flavors of the salmon and creates a product that can freeze and thaw perfectly. But of course you have to do a great job catching, handling, and freezing the fish too. And we do, with every single fish.
Fresh vs. Frozen Facts
- Wild Alaskan sockeye salmon are caught only during the short summer months––it's an extremely seasonal fishery. This means that if you'd like to eat the healthiest protein on earth all year long (and not only in June and July), it needs to be high-quality fresh-frozen.
- When folks buy salmon at the grocery store they often assume it's fresh since it's not frozen at the time of purchase. But this is rarely the case since most seafood is thawed prior to selling. Part of the problem is that many people (seafood counter clerks included) don't know exactly what the word "fresh" means, so they will mark something "fresh" thinking it means not-frozen, rather than what it actually means, which is NEVER frozen. As you know, fraud is rampant in seafood so it could also be that they understand the meaning of the word perfectly well and choose to take advantage of the customer's ignorance anyway. Either way, buying unstoried, anonymous, and generally poor quality seafood from the grocery store counter is rarely a good idea.
- 1. Salmon eggs incubate and hatch in stream gravel. In the spring the newly hatched salmon fry emerge and begin their journey.
- 2. Some species of salmon migrate directly down river to the sea, while others spend 1-3 years in freshwater lakes or rivers.
- 3. In the ocean, the young salmon eat plankton and smaller fish, while evading predators like birds, seals, whales, other fish, and even salmon sharks.
- 4. Alaskan salmon travel thousands of miles. Depending on the species, salmon take two to four years or more to grow to adulthood in the cold, rich waters of the North Pacific Ocean.
- 5. In summer, the instincts of the salmon lead their migration back to the Alaskan streams in which they hatched.
- 6. Female salmon dig a nest in the cleanest part of the stream bed, then select a male to fertilize her eggs as she deposits them in the gravel. All Alaska salmon die after spawning.
Preorder a Share of my 2018 summer catch. These rewards feature ready-to-eat smoked salmon strips vac sealed and blast frozen. They are packaged about 3-5 strips per package and the packages generally weigh about 3/4 pound each. They can stay frozen in your home freezer in pristine condition for a year or more. Thaw in the fridge and serve at room temp.
Preorder a Share of my 2018 summer catch. These rewards feature fresh-frozen sockeye salmon in boneless fillets or portions. This is not smoked. Each fillet or portion is hand vacuum sealed then blast-frozen. Fillets are generally 1.25-2 lbs. each, while portions are generally 1/2 - 3/4 lbs. each. They can stay frozen in your home freezer in pristine condition for a year or more. Thaw overnight in the fridge and enjoy.
Do you want to express your solidarity with Alaskan wild salmon? My shirts are a comfortable and fashion forward way to do it. I wear a lot of t-shirts and a deal breaker for me is one that is not comfy, no matter how awesome the art. Heavy cotton shirts don't do it for me. I like light and super-soft shirts with art that is not a stiff piece of ink on your chest. I made these shirts for me––they are thin, soft, stretchy, and the art is breathable, supple, and durable. You will want to wear these for the comfort and the awesome art.
I will print mens and womens specific shirts from top shirt manufacturers––Next Level for mens and Bella for womens. All mens shirts will be charcoal gray and womens will be emerald green. If folks express interest in other colors, I may offer them. Pick your size and gender (and maybe color) after the campaign closes.
Learn to be a sustainability-focused commercial fisherman (or fisherwoman) with me in the Alaskan wilderness. I'll also teach you to fillet, vacuum pack and blast-freeze your own catch.
Pledge $5,000 or more and you and one other person can spend up to 5 days learning how to commercial fish, fillet, and live in the wild like a real Alaskan. When you leave, take up to 50 pounds of sockeye salmon home with you––a $1,000 value.
I have 2 small cabins (and borrow 2 more) on the Ugashik River about a mile upriver from the town of Pilot Point, Alaska (population 69). One of those cabins is just for you. It's rustic but comfortable; it's the real deal. Use the outhouse and bath in the sauna. Weather permitting, we can grill fresh salmon on the beach.
There are no roads in––in fact, the nearest road connected to anything is hundreds of miles away. You will fly in to Anchorage then charter a single engine plane directly to Pilot Point. I'll pick you up at the landing strip with my 4-wheeler.
You are responsible for all expenses getting to Pilot Point, Alaska and back home. You are also responsible for getting a 1 week Alaska commercial fishing crewman license for you and your companion. I can help you arrange travel from Anchorage to Pilot Point and help you get your commercial fishing crewman license. You shouldn't have any expenses while you're my guest at Fish Camp. The most likely time to visit will be mid to late-August. This is when the weather is (sometimes) best and the fish are running at a reasonable pace. This is also a great time to see brown bears walk down the beach in front of your cabin.
This reward is the single best way to fund my new smoking enterprise AND for you and a companion to have a once in a lifetime experience in the Alaskan wilderness. And don't forget, you get to take home up to 50 lbs. of sockeye salmon that you helped catch and fillet.
I look forward to fishing with you this summer!
Shipping & packaging (dry ice, insulated box, and padding) for both 10 lb. and 20 lb. seafood orders will be $95. I will refund that cost if you also order a separate Summer Catch order at my website. See details below.
If you preorder 1 or more Shares from the Summer Catch at my website (Summer Catch only), I will combine that order with your Kickstarter order and refund your $95 Kickstarter shipping fee. For example, if you order 1 share of king salmon (Summer Catch) from my website, and 1 Share of smoked salmon here on Kickstarter, I will ship them both together October, 2018 and refund your Kickstarter shipping fee.
Should salmon fans come out of the woodwork, we have some fun stretch goals in mind. Let's make them happen!
At $15,000 I'll print both of these great pieces of artwork as high-quality vinyl decals and send one of each free to EVERY backer. But here's the cool part! Stick one to something, snap a picture with your phone, and tag @salmonandsable on Instagram or Facebook and I'll send you a salmon-shaped card with a $15 discount code for your next order.
$25,000 unlocks the seafood rub collection I've always dreamed of making. For $15-20 (projected price) you will be able to add a set of amazing hand-crafted, salmon-specific rubs to your order. Although exact recipes are forthcoming, rub ingredients will include alder smoked Alaskan sea salt, smoked paprika, and more. I will likely offer these in sets of 3 small jars with hang tags.
$50,000 unlocks something I've made for my family for years and have always wanted to make for customers too––smoked salmon bits. This is a working title, "Smoked salmon crumbles" is another idea. These are small flakes of smoked salmon that can be added to almost any meal for amazing flavor and some extra protein. Think bacon bits, but smoky and salmony and good for you! We sprinkle this on salads, scrambled eggs, and any dish that needs a little something extra. They will add a little sweet, a little salt, and a lot of rich smoked salmon flavor to whatever you put them on. These will be offered either vac sealed or loose in a resealable bag and can be kept frozen until you're ready to use them. Once thawed, they will last 2 weeks or more in your home fridge.
Andrew Kornylak for editing my video.
Carlo Nasisse for shooting my video.
Kim & Gordon who spawned me and support me always.
My wife and daughter for bringing stability to my crazy fisherman life.
Thomas, whose seafood I emulate with every cut.
John Peterson for letting me use his cabin for my crew.
Ross Marley for trusting me with his camp, boats, and equipment.
All the fishermen, hunters, biologists, and environmentalists who have taught me so much over the years.
Risks and challenges
Although it would be hard to sell enough seafood to outpace my own catch, it is possible. Luckily most of my friends are fishermen. If demand grows beyond my catch, I am confident I can work with my immediate fisherman friends to meet demand. I have done so in the past. However, Alaskan seafood is naturally cyclical––some years there are lots of fish and some years very little. A potential, but unlikely, challenge would be a fishing season with little allowed fishing time (regulated by Alaska Fish & Game) and/or few fish. Although I could still likely meet demand by collectively fishing with my friends, this remains a challenge for those of us catching, hunting, or gathering wild species.
The purpose of this Kickstarter campaign is to raise funds so that I can start smoking my own salmon at fish camp in Western Alaska. Smoking salmon is more complex from a permitting standpoint than anything I have done in the past. Although I have already researched it extensively and spoken with Alaska DEC directly, there are many regulatory hurdles to overcome. However, I have 2 years working with Alaska DEC and Federal inspectors and regulators for my fresh-frozen processing. This gives me confidence in moving forward with becoming licensed to smoked salmon.
I work with friends at a cold storage facility in Richmond, Virginia to pack and ship my orders. I have worked side-by-side with these folks for years and I have great faith in their knowledge of my business and my seafood. There may come a day when an order is packed incorrectly, which could be my fault or the packers. But, every time I will fix it no questions asked, whether thats a new order sent right out or a refund.
Moving frozen seafood from one place to another is challenging, especially in Alaska. I transport my salmon out of my remote fishing site by small plane. This is a part of Alaska with notoriously bad weather. Although I have never had a seafood loss in 7 years of shipping frozen seafood, there is always the possibility of loss due to bad weather delays or even due to small plane crash. While my track record speaks for itself, beyond caution and careful planning, some risks cannot be completely mitigated. However, reasonable loss should not pose a problem in fulfilling orders.
- All gone!