Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Buffalo Salmon Jerky

If you want something done right, sometimes you have to do it yourself.  The buffalo salmon jerky recipe I will share below spawned in the deep, dark recesses of my brain when browsing the seafood counter at our local Whole Foods.  They happen to make/carry a version of this treat.  But, after reading the ingredient card and talking with the fishmonger, I discovered that they make their salmon jerky using farm raised Atlantic salmon and have a number of soy based ingredients in their marinade.  [sigh…] Not something I want to spend my hard earned money on, much less eat.  As if the presence of soy wasn’t disappointing enough...  wait.  Why, you ask, am I so wound up about the sourcing of my jerky meat?

I am an unrepentant salmon snob.  My wife will bear witness to arguments I’ve had with local fishmongers (I love that word…) who have tried to sell me their farm raised salmon.  I could go on for a while on this topic, but I’ll simply give you my strongest points of contention and a link to Mark’s article on the Farmed vs. Wild debate.

-         Texture:  Wild caught salmon has a more firm texture.  Farmed salmon is, in a word… mushy.  I don’t like mushy salmon.

-         Healthy fat:  Tie this bullet point to texture.  You could say that farmed salmon are mushy due to their higher fat content, which sounds great at first!  Salmon fat is healthy fat, right?  Considering that farmed salmon has higher ratios of omega-6s and less protein per serving because of higher fat composition… no.  Farmed salmon fat is not nearly as healthy as wild caught salmon fat.

-         Color added:  Wild salmon are carnivores, subsisting mostly on krill.  The krill in their diet give their flesh that beautiful pink hue that wild salmon are known for.   Farmed salmon, on the other hand, are nourished with protein pellets (yum!).  While there is fish/seafood protein in the pellets (to mimic the natural diet of the salmon), the dyecanthaxanthin (an active ingredient in FDA banned “tanning pills”) has to be added to make sure the farmed salmon flesh gets pink enough to sell… because grey salmon just doesn’t appeal to the eye.

-         Health of the animal: I’m sure we all agree it is healthier for us to eat healthier animals.  As an example of this point, I’m sure we’ll all agree that grass-fed, pasture raised beef is healthier than feed lot beef.  So let’s compare the farming of two different species.  Feed lot beef is fed a diet it wasn’t built for, as cow are ruminants and ruminants (are supposed to) eat grass.  When the feed (they aren’t designed to process) and cramped living quarters start to stress the feed lot beef, they get sick.  To keep them from getting (too) sick, they are pumped full of antibiotics.  Now… applying this same formula to farmed salmon… carnivores whose protein pellets include soy and corn ingredients… live in tight confines infested with sea lice and feces… you get sick salmon.  Unless, of course you supplement their feed with antibiotics.

[Stepping off of soap box…]

Needless to say, I was happy enough to find flash frozen Alaskan sockeye salmon on sale for $9.99 a pound.  I bought a lot.  One of those fillets was dedicated to my buffalo salmon jerky experiment.  I am more than pleased with the results, and have listed the method to my newly discovered madness below.

Buffalo Salmon Jerky

What you’ll need:

Baking sheet(s)
Wire rack(s)
Mixing bowl
1 gallon freezer bag
A good, long knife
An oven preheated to "Warm"


1 – 1 ½ lb salmon fillet (I used sockeye)
8-12 oz clarified butter or ghee
2-4 oz hot sauce
3 cloves garlic, crushed into a paste
3 tablespoons of paprika

Remove as many pin bones as you can from your fillet.  Slice salmon fillet crossways into ½ inch thick strips.  If you prefer, remove the skin...  I kept mine on (helps hold it together).  I happen to LOVE salmon skin, but realize that not everybody else does.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the garlic paste, paprika and hot sauce into the clarified butter.  Pour the mixture into a 1 gallon freezer bag.  Add the salmon strips to the bag, seal it and allow it to marinate in your refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours... or forget about it overnight like I did.

Place your wire rack onto your baking sheet.  Remove the salmon from the marinating bag, laying the strips out across the wire rack.  Keep the pieces spread out enough so they do not touch.  Place the salmon in the preheated oven... and after 3 hours, flip each piece over.  Put the salmon back into the oven for another 3-5 hours, checking every hour toward the end for the doneness/texture you desire.

Remove from the oven when you are satisfied with its texture.  Store in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks (as this recipe does not have any preservatives). 

Two things to note:  (1) I would recommend about 8 oz of clarified butter for every lb of salmon, and (2) I only used 2 oz of hot sauce... and could have easily doubled it.  Use hot sauce according to your taste buds preference.

Ladies and gentlemen, Buffalo Salmon Jerky.

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