Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Speaking Of Salmon & Lox

Fish Stories

Bagels & Lox: A typical Shabbat (Saturday) breakfast at our home consists of bagels, lox and cream cheese with a slice of tomato and red onion.
Photo Credit: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2015
I like baked salmon, and consume it often at home. Every so often, my wife and I go to a restaurant, where, predictably, I will order some salmon dish. I am not expert enough to tell the difference between types of salmon by the way they look; my only interest while dining at a restaurant is in the appearance of the dish and its taste.

Yet, not all salmon are equal, at least when it comes to consumer taste and price. An article, by Clare Leschin-Hoar, in NPR says the people dining in restaurants, notably during the winter months, might not be getting the salmon they are paying for. And it has to do with the difference between Atlantic salmon and Pacific salmon.

In “That Salmon On The Menu Might Be A Fraud — Especially In Winter,” (October 28, 2015),
Hoar writes:
Would you be able to tell if the wild Alaskan sockeye salmon you ordered for dinner was swapped out for a less expensive piece of farm-raised salmon?
For the observant, the color difference between the two would likely be the first give away. (Sockeye has a deeper red-orange hue.) Or maybe you'd notice the disparity in the thickness of fillet. (Sockeye is flatter and less steaky in appearance.)
But what if you ordered the most coveted of salmon species — king salmon? (It's also known as Chinook.) Much like farmed Atlantic salmon, it’s light in color, thick in texture and similarly marbled with fat. It's also significantly more expensive. And according to a new report released Wednesday by conservation group Oceana, it’s a fish where you're more likely to get duped — especially if you order it from a restaurant during the winter.
In its latest attempt to uncover seafood fraud, Oceana collected and tested 82 salmon samples from restaurants and grocery stores in Virginia, Washington, D.C., Chicago and New York between December 2013 and March 2014. Results showed that 43 percent of salmon samples tested were mislabeled, and that far more of that mislabeling is occurring in restaurants than in large supermarkets.
The instances of salmon fraud were significantly higher than during an earlier 2013 nationwide study by the same group. That study included far more — 384 samples, which showed salmon fraud at only 7 percent. But the jump isn't being attributed to a sudden increase in unabandoned label swapping, rampant menu hijinks or differences in sample size. This survey was designed to measure fraud during the winter months, when salmon was not in season, and the marketplace would be shorter on supply, says Kimberly Warner, a senior scientist at Oceana who authored the new report.
My palate is not sophisticated enough to tell the difference, but if people are paying for king salmon, this is what they ought to receive. A little research will reveal that it is hard to find fresh Pacific salmon during the winter months. Or perhaps during any time of year; the Pacific northwest has enough salmon to satisfy 80 per cent of consumer demand, yet 70 per cent of this is sent overseas for processing, most of it to China, So, we send our best salmon overseas and what comes back to us is of inferior quality, says an opinion piece, by Patrick Mustain of Oceana, a conservation organization, in Scientific American:
So no, salmon is not just salmon. Our choices matter—to the livelihood of American fishing communities, to our economy, and to the health of the oceans. A diner feasting on a wild-caught Alaskan king salmon should be able to rest in the knowledge that she is enjoying a healthy fish from a healthy population in healthy, well-cared for waters. She might be willing to pay extra for that knowledge. But that value the diner perceives requires a well-regulated and transparent seafood supply chain. And that’s something we just don’t yet have.
It might well be that most salmon we eat is Atlantic salmon, even if it comes from the west coast of Canada and the U.S. Are there differences in nutrition between various kinds of salmon? Or is it just a matter of taste and consumer preferences? The answer to both is yes; the nutritional information can be found here and here.

The biggest difference, however, is that Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is farm-raised (with less than one per cent wild), and is thus available year-round; Pacific salmon (Onchorhynchus), on the other hand, is considered wild-caught, and the fishing season is from June to September. There are eight species of salmon found in the Pacific northeast. The rest of the year frozen or canned salmon is available, but not fresh. As a note of interest, Atlantic salmon is listed as an endangered species in both Canada and the United States.

Speaking of salmon, in Yiddish it is known as lox (or lax, from German: lachs). For years, our family has had the tradition of eating lox and cream cheese on bagels or challah for our Saturday (Shabbat) morning meal, the Jewish version of bacon, eggs and toast. For bagels, I am traditional and old-fashioned and prefer the poppy seed, and sometimes the sesame seed. It is also delightful with a slice of red onion and a slice of tomato, a mechaya.

Strictly speaking, lox comes from the belly of a salmon that has been placed in a brine solution, and smoked salmon can be made from any part of the fish and prepared in various ways. We have tasted cold salmon in various preparation styles, including gravlax, Coho lox and nova lox. Purists wouldn’t call any of these lox, but most people now do. The most famous lox emporium is Russ & Daughters, which has been a fixture in New York's Lower East Side since 1914.

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For more, go to [NPR]

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