It is late August here in Bristol Bay and like our family most fishermen have hung it up for the commercial season. The major processors have left and only a few die hard direct marketers are still at it, including my sister in law’s family down at Ekuk Beach in the Nushagak District. The Ekuk Wild Salmon & Halibut Co. is a new endeavor of the O’Connor clan who have fished the beach for generations, and in the age of knowing where your food comes from, and knowing your fisherman, you can’t get any closer to your dinner unless you caught it yourself.
Fall fishing is a bit of a different animal from the fast and furious fishery that is the sockeye season in Bristol Bay. Instead of striving for the ultimate poundage and having your net out whenever directed allowable by the ADF&G, fishing is at the discretion of the fishermen. For the O’Connor’s this means at each low water switch of the tide the net is deployed off the beach, just out the door of their cabin, and into the surf. Where they, in waders, stand in the bay and, pick the salmon as they hit the net. Immediately the fish are bled and put into an ice water slurry where they chill until filleted, vacuum sealed and frozen within mere hours of being caught. This father/daughter trio is a well oiled machine of picking hooks, sliding totes, flashing knives, water sprays, banding machines, and scales.
Their small processing facility is adjacent to their skylit greenhouse, amidst a yard filled with airplanes, kids, dogs, & the salty breeze. Raingear is pulled on after coffee at the counter, the net is worked and fish are processed around camp life in hopes that a slice of their lifestyle ends up on your dinner plate.
Every summer we get to spend a little time at fish camp with these guys and despite a long trip in July, we went back down for a quick overnight visit a few days ago to see everyone before the madness of school sets in. While there I snagged a few silver fillets to test out some BBQ sauces on which brings me to the most epic BBQ testing session I have ever embarked upon.
Blueberries are still abundant for picking, I have a store of rhubarb in the freezer, and some late season organic nectarines graced the shelves of the Wood River Market, leading me to want a BBQ sauce that embodied the taste of summer. Roasted Nectarine Rhubarb, Roasted Rhubarb, Roasted Rhubarb Blueberry, & the ultimate winner Roasted Nectarine Blueberry BBQ sauces were on the docket, and a Silver Salmon fillet on a hot grill sealed the deal.
Grilled Ekuk Wild Silver Salmon with Roasted Nectarine Wild Blueberry BBQ Sauce
- 1 Wild Alaska Silver Salmon fillet
- olive oil for brushing
- 1/2 pint of Roasted Nectarine & Blueberry BBQ Sauce
For the BBQ Sauce (makes approximately 3 pints):
- 3 small ripe nectarines, halved & pitted
- 2 cups wild blueberries (if using domestic the sugar may be reduced by half)
- 1 sweet onion, peeled and cut into eight chunks
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon molasses
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 2 Tablespoons raw honey
- 2 – 6 oz cans organic tomato paste
- 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- olive oil & water
Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil a 10 inch cast iron skillet, place the nectarine halves open side up with onions and garlic tucked in around them. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and place in oven 25 – 30 minutes until caramelized and mushy. You will want to shake the pan about halfway through to prevent sticking.
While your nectarines are roasting, in a heavy bottomed pot mix your blueberries, vinegar, sugar, molasses, & honey over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Stir in mustard, tomato paste, pepper, salt, and paprika and lightly on low simmer until the blueberries breakdown and your nectarines are done in the oven. When the nectarines are ready add them with the onions and garlic into the blueberry mixture and cook for another 20 minutes or so loosening with water if needed.
As a final step blend the mixture with a handheld immersion mixer or dump into your blender to smooth out the sauce. Taste and adjust if needed for tang or sweetness. If you like a kick in your BBQ Sauce consider adding a dash of cayenne to spice things up a bit. Store sauce in clean jars with lids in the fridge up to two weeks or several months in the freezer!
To grill your Salmon:
Heat grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. (This is not an absolute but a good hot grill will make your cooking endeavors much more pleasurably, note cooking times on the grill will vary so this how to is more a guideline.)
Cut your salmon fillet into strips about 1 1/2 inch thick from back to belly as pictured.
Brush with olive oil to prevent sticking to the grill. Place salmon chunks flesh side down on grill and cook about 3-4 minutes. Flip carefully with thongs and brush liberally with BBQ sauce. Continue to cook 4-6 minutes until the flesh is firm and has lightened in color to a pale pink.
The Roasted Nectarine Wild Blueberry BBQ Sauce is a little on the sweet side of sauces so a garnish with chopped green onions would not be remiss!
I received no sponsoring for this post beyond a plane ride to fish camp, hot coffee, & and few fillets. I truly believe in quality of the Ekuk Wild Salmon & Halibut Co. products and encourage you, if you are in the market for some Alaska Wild Salmon, to look them up! They are selling their fillets locally in Dillingham, throughout Alaska, and in select locations in the Lower 48, to reach them call 1-907-843-0587 or look them up on Facebook.