Poor Br. Davd’s Salmon Soup

If Salmon’s Expensive, Use This Technique.
If it’s Cheap, in this century, be pleasantly surprised!
(c) 2015, Davd

Salmon (to repeat) is wonderful food. Given its great merits, particularly as to protein and fatty acids, as the previous post detailed, it is worthwhile, in these times when salmon is no longer abundant as it was one and two centuries ago, to use every salmon you get, to the full.

“Poor Br. Davd’s Salmon Soup” is one way to use the bits and scraps from a whole salmon. Since salmon is usually scarce and costly, the happy and healthy cooks and “eaters”, if more nearly poor than rich, will make the most of those salmon they have. At this time of year, that often involves fileting many fish while the price is relatively low, and freezing most of the filets. The bones and fins aren’t so easily stored—but they can be put to use “at the time”. This is my usual way.

Not only is this soup very tasty, and differently so from grilled, steamed, [raw]salted, and fried salmon; it also raises the efficiency of your use of a whole fish—meaning the true price of the salmon you eat is a little lower. Only the wealthy can afford to ignore that.

I have watched the price of salmon, in comparison with those of beef, chicken, pork, and other fish, for a few decades at least. Not to go into confusing detail, the relative price of salmon [and of other fish] has been rising relative to other ‘meat’ prices1. Whole fish, drawn [gutted] are usually much less expensive than filets, steaks, or parts of filets: It’s worth while to buy a whole fish and make soup from the bones and fins, if you’re not wealthy.

This technique begins, then, with a whole salmon, gutted, with or without the head, and now that you’ve read about butchering cabbages, and had two years to try that, the previous post should guide you to get filets and-or steaks from the more complex anatomy of salmon.

Let’s figure that you have some salmon fins, bones after fileting, perhaps strips of belly meat and scraps left from fileting and skinning, perhaps also a head or two. The next step is to briefly boil them to make stock. It will take about as long as vegetable stock, and you can use the same vegetable trimmings, including onion. For herbs, sage, dill, liveche and-or celery, onion or chive, and tarragon are best. . The skin of the head and fin areas may be left on, but remove and discard the skin from scraps if they aren’t already skinned, and from belly meat if used. Skin can make the soup slightly rank (I’ll estimate that if you tried to make broth from salmon skin alone it would be very rank… but my dog enjoys lightly boiled salmon skin as soon as it cools. So treat your dog, or cat if you don’t have a dog.) Add salt to the bones and trimmings now, not too much but enough to help extract flavour from the bones.

Bring all these to boil with dill stems, celery or lovage stems or leafage, and sage stems or leafage if you have them; simmer 10-15 minutes. Leftover bits of onion, chive, garlic, thyme, savory, parsley, bay-leaf, and carrot trimmings, may also be simmered with the fish.

Allow the stockpot to cool, reserve2 the broth, pick the meat from the fish head, bones, and fins, collect other meat that was put to the boil, and put all that meat into the reserved broth. This is the salmon part of the soup. It can go back into the pot where you made stock, once the bones, plant scraps, and any scraps of skin have been removed.

Chop 1-2 small carrots into quite small bits, so the amount of carrot is a fifth to a quarter as much as the amount of salmon-meat; chop chives or onion, fairly fine, and perhaps parsley and celery bits (use at least dried celery leaf or seed if neither celery nor lovage was used in making the stock, and dried sage if no sage was), and add them. A pinch of black pepper or hot red pepper may be included. Bring these seasonings to boil with the fish bits and broth, and enough rice, barley, or potatoes in the broth3, to make a fairly full-bodied soup. When the grain or potatoes are cooked, the soup is ready.

The finished soup should contain enough broth to be sipped, but more body than liquid; and flecks of green [probably chive or onion tops, perhaps celery], and orange [carrot]. The broth should be rich and aromatic; the fish bits small but fairly plentiful.

This is a hearty soup comparable in menu positioning to minestrone, but far different in taste. It is made from cheap vegetables and meat [also herbage] that often gets thrown out; yet it is high in sustenance and enjoyment value. The chive, celery, and carrot can be frozen surplus from other seasons [dried lovage =liveche also substitutes for celery, and in my humble opinion is better in soups and stocks] so the soup is quite winter friendly.

You can add tomato in season, in which case hot red pepper might be preferable to black; and basil and oregano might be tried. As with many of these techniques, i’ve named several ways to vary the soup. and all the possible variations number a dozen or more. Most will be pleasant. Which you make most often, should depend on your likings and what’s in your garden.


1. … though just lately, west of Saskatchewan, beef prices are even more inflated than those of pink and perhaps coho salmon, This is likely a matter of a good wild salmon “run” this year, and i would not expect such prices to persist into next year.

2. “Reserve” is a common verb in cooking; it means “set aside in a clean container, for future use”.

3. The grain can be added any time up to when the broth begins to boil; if you add it when the broth is cold, stir a few times while it is heating. Potatoes should be added well before the broth boils, unless you brown them in bacon fat at the same time the broth heats..

To my taste, rice goes best with salmon, barley and potatoes, next best. Imaginably, you could cook pasta instead, but i’m not convinced that pasta goes well with salmon. Tuna does go well with pasta, so perhaps mackerel would also— but they are both strong flavoured in a quite different way from salmon.


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About Davd

Davd (PhD, 1966) has been a professor, a single father keeping a small commercial herb garden so as to have flexible time for his sons, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. He is a practicing Christian, and in particular an advocate of ecoforestry, self-sufficiency horticulture, and men of all faiths living together "in peace and brotherhood" for the fellowship, the efficiency, and the goodwill that sharing work so often brings.
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