Let me preempt any admonitions by saying that I absolutely know and accept that farmed salmon is an environmental catastrophe – a Soylent Green alternative to declining global fish stocks. I get it.
As a result, I’ve been buying wild Pacific salmon from British Columbia. The most common species offered in the East are Sockeye and Coho; excellent, low-fat varieties familiar as staples of canned salmon. Broiled, grilled, or pan-fried, it tastes O.K. (just O.K. mind you). But as gravlax (home-made “smoked” salmon), our favorite rendition and an almost daily provision in our home, it is shit. The principle problem is that it lacks fat. Once it has been marinated in the special sugar-salt brine, it dries out and, lacking fat, acquires a waxy, dry texture.
And even preparing the salmon isn’t necessarily the most appealing endeavor; the wild salmon, albeit its bright red natural color, often has discolored areas indicative of parasites or possible disease. These carry through to the final product and I often find myself throwing away large chunks; a terrible waste considering the outrageous starting price (2-3 times that of farmed Atlantic salmon).
So, regretfully, I’ve decided to return to Atlantic farmed salmon for my gravlax (I have never seen wild Atlantic salmon anywhere, and can only assume the fish stocks are completely dead on the East coast). I’m hoping that over time, salmon farming will find its way back to ecological friendliness, but for the time being, I’m prepared to accept my politically incorrect decision as a compromise – like driving a car, or heating with oil. And ultimately, the decision fits with a basic criterion of going green….quality and taste come first.