Sun Kissed Cheeks with a Smell of Smoked Salmon
I want to apologize for dropping off the radar for the last two weeks. A lot has been happening, one adventure in particular of which I will tell you about...
Two days later, the captain’s girlfriend and I walk down the ramp into the Sitka arrivals terminal. With full packs and bags filled to the brim with warm clothes and all the local fresh fruits, veggies, and even farm fresh eggs from Bellingham, we run towards our hard-worked, rugged, and radiantly smiling fisherman. Nervous and excited I take a deep breath and run into his arms. Every year this moment is different, but always pure and sweet like the taste of summer’s first fresh strawberries. Once again I feel safe and at home.
At 4:30 A.M., the captain and old friend Garrett Elwood stumbles down into the focsle hole to wake us up; it is time to switch out the wheel watching shifts. Sleepy eyed, Dane takes the captain’s chair, and I lay down on the day bunk next to him. Everything is dark, but the wheelhouse is lit up with multiple computer screens, and a dim red light gives everything a secretive glow. Now all we do is watch and listen in the quiet of the night. I close my heavy eyelids, to rest my eyes, and before I know it its already 6:30 A.M. and the light of dawn is creeping in thru the windows. Dane, still awake, drinking his morning coffee, and reading a book, looks over his shoulder and smiles at me, “Good morning beautiful, sleep well?” With a small grin on my face, I nod. “Sorry that I fell asleep.” I slowly get up and sit on his lap, curled up like a little cat. Content and cozy, we finish the last few hours of wheel watch together.
Our adventures led us to many places, and through many different weather patterns. Our first afternoon at sea, we stopped at Baranof Island, an island famous for its beautiful hot springs right next to a roaring river. It was raining, but that just allowed us to sit in the hot springs even longer. The minerals and the warmth thoroughly relaxed our sore muscles. As a group we decided to extend our journey half a day and stay overnight to enjoy another early morning soak. Relaxed and fully rested, on Wednesday morning, the four of us pulled in the ropes and set off on our long journey to Bellingham.
Ketchikan is one of the rainiest cities in North America. It is has a big commercial fishing port and makes most of its income during the summer months when huge cruise ships unload tourists for 4 hour Ketchikan shopping sprees. Torrential rains and winds greeted us as we stepped off the Western Freedom Thursday evening. We wined and dined that night, in Ketchikan’s Bar Harbor Restaurant. Happy to have found a warm and tasty kitchen ready to serve us, we collectively rooted for team freedom. With our right hands in we yelled, “Go Freedom!” However, my head was spinning. I felt as though the whole room was moving, and my brain was being smashed from both sides. What was going on with me? Here we are with delicious wine and everything from ribs to Alaskan scallops spread across the table. Why do I have to force myself to be in good spirits? I found out later that this feeling is called “land drunk”. After a certain time at sea, your body has a hard time to find equilibrium after returning to solid land. The only thing that could help me was movement and fresh air. As soon as we returned to the boat I quickly retired to the focsle hole. Although my freshly made blackberry crumble was calling my name along with a good game of Banana Grams, I decided that some much needed shut eye would be the best medicine for me.
Oh, and I forgot to mention we have even made our own at sea gym. With a yoga mat, a rope, some heavy anchors, and a hang board attached to a beam, we are all set for any sort of work out you can dream of. Want some cardio? Jump rope for half an hour. Want to do some abs or stretching? Then enjoy the beautiful view on the top deck on the yoga mat. Want to build your arms? Then do some pull-ups on the hang board, or lift some small anchors to replace dumbbells. We got what you need! All in the fresh air, in the sun, and in complete nature.
Pickled Black Cod
Makes 2 quart sized mason jars (about eight 8oz mason jars)
8 cups cool filtered water
8 cups of cubed fish (Black Cod)
2 cups white vinegar, plus additional for brining
1 1/2 cups organic sugar
1 cup white wine (chardonnay)
2 Tblsp pickling spices
1 large onion, sliced
1/4 cup organic lemon juice
1. Place 8 cups filtered water into a large ceramic or glass bowl (do not use a metal bowl) and mix in enough pickling salt to float an egg in the water.
2. Brine the fish for 24 hours in the salt water.
3. After 24 hours have passed rinse the fish well in fresh water, and drain.
4. Cover the fish with white vinegar and soak for 24 hours. Rinse well and drain.
5. Heat sugar, 2 cups white vinegar, and spices to a boil and allow to simmer 10 minutes.
6. Cool to room temperature. You do not want the brine to be warm because this will change the texture of the fish.
7. Sanitize the mason jars by steaming them in a large pot. First fill the large pot with water, set in the mason jars, and then heat to a steady simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the jars from hot water and place onto a clean kitchen towel. They are now ready to be filled.
7. Once the brine mixture is cooled, add the wine and lemon juice.
8. Layer the onions and fish into the mason jars and cover with cooled brine, including spices.
9. Store in refrigerator for 3 days prior to serving.
Optional: Add a chile to each of the mason jars to add a spicy kick.
If you are interested in ordering fish from the 2013 season, feel free to contact the Western Freedom.