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After you land that salmon....

Freshly caught salmon, properly bled, dressed, and iced, is as fine a fish for eating as you can find. The process, while simple, can't be delayed and isn't for the squeamish. It preserves the quality of the flesh by reducing bacteria and bruises and slowing rigor mortis.

You need a thin-bladed, very sharp knife (such as a boning knife or a salmoncleaning knife), a teaspoon, and a pair of textured rubber gloves. As soon as you grasp the fish, hit it on the head to stun it. Immediately reach in on one side of the head and cut the gills (step 1) so the fish will bleed; the sluggish flow lasts 5 to 20 minutes. Scaling is unnecessary; an unscaled fish resists bacterial activity better and stays fresh tonger.

Lay fish on its back in a cleaning trough (a wedged tray that braces the fish) if you have one, or improvise bracing with clean, heavy towels. Hold knife with the cutting edge up and at a 45[deg] angle and neatly slit belly open (step 2) from anus to throat latch (between gills on belly) if you want to keep the head; with palm up, reach in behind gills, twist them, and pull free. If you don't want the head, cut on through the chin, then reach in and pull gills free.

Cut through the esophagus (just in front of innards mass-step 3). Gripping firmly but gently, pull innards toward tail and out. If desired, set aside skein of goldenred eggs or long, cream-colored milt sac if present in cavity. In a sockeye, a translucent membrane lines the stomach; in other species, a membrane may cover the kidney along the spine; pull out any membrane you find.

Make parallel cuts down the spine along each side of the dark kidney (step 5). Use a spoon to scoop out this dark material.

With cool water, rinse fish well, but gently (to protect scales), from head to tail. Put fish on ice at once, in a chest that drains; cover with more ice. Draining ice keeps bacteria washed off fish. For best texture, ice the fish before it enters rigor mortis (gets stiff); on ice, the process is slower and causes less tissue breakage, resulting in firmer and moister fish. At home, fish kept in chest in draining ice will be in excellent condition up to one week, until ready to cut up for cooking.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Apr 1, 1989
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