Traditional Salmon Preparation

Before salmon was ever served as a main entrée in any of Vancouver’s top restaurants, it was the lifeblood of the coastal peoples of the Pacific Northwest. It was dried, smoked, poached and barbecued. It was the food source that returned every year. It is the reason the coastal First Nations have such a rich cultural art form.


Because of the salmon, the coastal First Nations were not reliant on an agricultural system for sustenance. They could turn their attention to other endeavours, knowing the salmon would return to feed their people. Their art became larger, the myths and stories more creative and their wanderings wider.


When the salmon returned to spawn, they would use nets, harpoons and traps to secure enough food to feed a family for an entire year. With a variety of fresh and preserved food prep methods, the meat would be served at practically every meal throughout the year.


Here are three ways that the salmon were prepared:


  1. Smoked

The salmon were cured and sealed using cold smokehouses. This would preserve the delicate meat, killing unwanted bacteria and foregoing the need for refrigeration.


  1. Boiled

The First Nations people did not have iron pots to cook with. They used airtight bentwood boxes as cooking vessels. Water was poured into the boxes and then hot stones were added to bring the water to a near boil. Then the fish was added and boiled.


  1. Slow Roast Sticks

The barbecuing of salmon was done with roasting sticks positioned vertically around a fire pit. The fillets were skewered with oceanspray bows, known as ironwood, and left to cook.


Modern methods of salmon prep include cedar plank barbecuing, poaching, baking and of course as sushi.

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