The invitation email from Copper River Salmon first landed in my inbox back in 2019. It was one of those moments where I felt like, perhaps they sent it to the wrong person(?!) An invitation to Alaska to help them spread the word about Copper River Salmon sounded like a dream come true.
Luckily, it was for me and the answer was obvious: Of course, I am coming!
At the time I had no idea what 2020 had in store for us. Like many other events, it was canceled, breaking my heart into pieces.
So, you could imagine the joy I felt when I received another email at the beginning of this year saying that they are planning to do it this year, pending anything crazy happening with the pandemic.
I buried my hopes in reality and waited patiently for months and kept it to myself, secretly wishing for the vaccine to do its magic.
Then it happened. My trip to Cordova, Alaska, or as the folks over at Copper River Salmon referred to as #SummerSalmonCamp2021, became reality.
It was everything I thought Alaska would be and more. I know I barely scratched the surface of what it has to offer but nevertheless, it was an incredible experience.
So, in this special edition of Foolproof Life Lately, I am inviting you to join me to get a glance at the richness of Alaska through my notes and photos.
A fun video of my trip, if you are short on time:
I put together a 2-minute video of my trip and shared it on my Instagram account earlier this week. I have to say, none of the footage and photos I share here do justice to the real thing. However, I hope it gives you an idea as to what it looks like.
Where is Cordova in Alaska?
The word, salmon, was enough for me to say yes to the trip but I had no idea where Cordova was located. So, if you don’t know, please know that you are not alone.
Cordova, Alaska is a small fishing village located in the South East of Anchorage. Or, if you need a more official description, here is what Wikipedia says:
Cordova is a city in Chugach Census Area, Alaska, United States. It lies near the mouth of the Copper River, at the head of Orca Inlet on the east side of Prince William Sound. The population was 2,239 at the 2010 census, down from 2,454 in 2000. Cordova was named Puerto Cordova by Spanish explorer Salvador Fidalgo in 1790. No roads connect Cordova to other Alaskan communities, so a plane or ferry is required to travel there.
To get there, I first traveled to Seattle, WA, and then took a three-and-a-half-hour Alaskan Airlines flight to Anchorage and then another 45-minute flight to Cordova.
What have you learned?
This is a loaded question because it wasn’t long after I set foot in Cordova that I realized I knew nothing about fishing salmon and all that goes into getting the freshest and the tastiest salmon on our tables.
It takes a village. Literally!
I thought salmon fishing and getting it in our kitchens was a process that looked like a fisherman would fish, give it to a company to transport it, and then it would magically be available in our local supermarkets/fishmongers.
Those steps are still there but there are also biologists, the Department of Fish and Game, net menders, canning facilities, folks working over at the processing facilities, and non-profit organizations that work to protect the resources all with the same goal in mind:
Bringing us the most delicious fish in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. And they all have one thing in common and it is that they are passionate about salmon.
There are five types of Alaskan Salmon
On my way to Cordova, as I was waiting for my plane, I met an elderly gentleman who took it upon himself to educate me on the types of salmon.
Sir, if you are reading this, I am grateful for your teachings because I knew them before anyone else.
The way to remember the types of salmon is actually quite easy and fun, especially if you have kids. Each finger on your hand represents a type of salmon making it easy to remember:
- Pinkie finger: Pink or Humpback Salmon – The smallest variety with a mild flavor.
- Ring finger: Silvers aka Coho Salmon has a mild in flavor with a delicate texture. It is available towards the end of the season, around August and September, and pairs well when back with root vegetables and mushrooms.
- Middle finger: King Salmon aka Chinook, is the largest of the three species. With its rich flavor, thanks to its high oil content, it melts in your mouth after it is cooked. Mostly available around May and June, it is the most expensive of the bunch.
- Index/Pointing Finger: Sockeye aka Red Salmon is robust and rich in flavor with a firm texture, which makes it versatile for any cooking method. Known for its natural deep flesh, it is the most abundant species of Copper River Delta and it is available May through July.
- Thumb: Known as Chum or Keta, this type of salmon has lower fat content compared to Coho, Sockeye and King salmon.
Of all these types, the most popular ones are Coho, Sockeye, and King Salmon. They are the most sought-after varieties and are available in stores during the season. The other varieties, Chum and Pinkie, are mostly sold canned or grouped in other salmon products.
Wondering how much it costs to buy salmon in Cordova? I took the picture below to give you an idea as to how much they charge for each type of salmon in its homeland.
Life in Cordova is not much different, except that they eat salmon every day
Though it is hard to tell in 5 days, the small town feeling made me go back to Virgin Gorda, the small island we lived on. Resources are limited, but there is a strong sense of community and a can-do attitude.
We heard so many of the people say the same thing, “I came here for a few months, fell in love with it, and decided to live here for the rest of my life.”
We were also told that their freezers are full of salmon and they eat it every day. Can you blame them?
I know, I can’t.
Where can I buy Copper River Salmon?
I am glad you asked because I cannot wait for you to give it a try (if you haven’t already.) Lucky for us, folks over Copper River Salmon have a handy dandy tool on their website that will help you find the freshest Copper River Salmon in your area.
There is also David Saiget, a direct-to-consumer fisherman, who we met in person, who sells Copper River salmon and other salmon products (like Salmon Jerky (surprisingly delicious), canned salmon, etc.) through his website, Copper River Salmon Direct.
As you are shopping for salmon, one thing to keep in mind is that the pricing changes based on availability, type of salmon, and the season you are buying it. If you are a regular consumer, it is good to build a relationship with your fishmonger to get the freshest fish for the best price.
I’ve got salmon, what do I make with it?
Honestly, my favorite way of eating Copper River Salmon is by coating it with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper and then roasting it in a low heat (275 degrees F to 300 degrees F) oven for 12-14 minutes.
This method not only is as easy-to-make as it gets but also allows you to truly enjoy it to its full potential.
However, if you need some recipe ideas, here are a few that I make often:
- Baked Sockeye Salmon
- Grilled Sockeye Salmon
- Salmon Coconut Soup
- Baked Salmon over Butter Beans
- Salmon Nicoise Salad
To Sum It All Up
In my blogging career, I have been fortunate enough to be invited to a few of these trips like Vermont Creamy Cheese Camp, Stonyfield Dairy Farm Tour, and Visit to America’s Test Kitchen with California Figs.
As it is the case in every one of these trips, I feel a deep appreciation for the people who work so hard to provide us with the most delicious food. My trip to Cordova and meeting its hard-working people made me realize once again that it takes a village to produce a good quality product and I am grateful that I have been chosen to showcase it in my small corner of the internet.
Thanks so much to Christa and Mathias, the power duo behind the Copper River Salmon marketing team, for such an unforgettable experience.
Finally, a full disclosure; I was invited to Cordova, Alaska by Copper River Salmon for an all-expenses-paid trip as a part of the Summer Salmon Camp 2021 campaign. I have not received any other compensation to write this post and all opinions expressed here are my own.
I hope one day you get to go, see all this beauty for yourself, and eat your weight in salmon just like I did.
Until then, eat salmon while it is in season. It is good for you. Really, good.