In Kodiak, most salmon head to big commercial processing plants, where they’re gutted, packaged and prepared for shipment to the world’s fish-hungry population.
More than a few salmon stay in Kodiak. According to figures from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, from 2000 to 2009, Kodiak residents harvested an average of 36,411 salmon for personal use each summer.
That’s enough fish to fill every freezer in town — and then some.
On Wednesday, the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center opened the third edition of its “Smoking Seafood for Fun and Profit” workshop. Run by Alex Olivera, the workshop teaches the basics of processing and smoking fish, a process that ensures salmon will last the whole year, not just during the few months when they run upriver.
Lectures by professors are followed by work in the science center’s pilot processing plant.
“It’s pretty fun,” said Olivera, an associate professor who ordinarily focuses on the chemistry of seafood.
On Wednesday, she still wore her lab coat, but instead of standing at a workbench, she was explaining the importance of brine to 13 students who signed up for the workshop.
On the class roster were federal and state food inspectors who will be inspecting smokehouses. Alongside them were longtime fish smokers learning to hone their skills, and those interested in starting a small business.
Joel Schilling came from Anchorage, where he works for the Southcentral Foundation. Like many Alaskans, Schilling smokes his own fish and those caught by his friends.
“People keep saying I ought to make some money off it,” he said.
In the science center’s pilot processing plant, Schilling mixed a Cajun honey recipe, then dipped chunks of sockeye salmon.
Other groups tried different recipes, something Olivera encourages. “It’s fun to see what they come up with,” she said.
The workshop covers quick brines, long soaks, cold smoking, hot smoking, commercial smoking and home smoking. Previous workshops have covered salting and pickling salmon and roe processing.
To date, the workshops have proven extraordinarily popular. Two were held in 2012, attracting participants from as far as the East Coast of the United States. This fall’s workshop attracted so many students that the seafood center will hold a second session in September. That session has also filled up.
Kodiak’s commercial processors sponsor the workshop, volunteering fish for students to experiment upon. It’s a sponsorship that works both ways — several of the students in this week’s class work for those commercial processors.
In the seafood center’s pilot plant, students will test various techniques before holding a final taste test. “That’s the fun versus the profit,” Olivera said with a smile.
Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org.