Always going upstream against the current – part 1
Pescatarians listen up.
How do I love thee?
I cannot possibly count the ways.
This series shall follow my travels to salmon relevant territories, shedding light on quality producers, restaurants and products.
Salmon. The common name for several species of ray-finned fish in the family Salmonidae.
A temperate species.
Red to orange in colour, oily and praised for being a nutrional marvel for its high-quality protein, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.
Typically they are anadramous, i.e. they live in the sea and migrate into fresh water to spawn.
Folklore has it that the fish return to the exact spot where they were born to spawn.
A mechanism that has been attributed to their olfactory memory.
They evolved in the cool, high latitude waters of the North Atlantic, an environment which provides well defined seasons that drive life rhythm of the salmon.
Although far from the Atlantic Ocean – unspoilt and remote – the pristine waters of the Huon River, Hideaway Bay and the Southern Ocean in Tasmania Australia have proven to be a suitable location to raise healthy and flavoursome Atlantic salmon.
With water fed by tributaries that start in World Heritage Wilderness Areas, air that’s refreshed by the Roaring Forties, the strong westerly winds found in the Southern Hemisphere, and fertile soil that spawns flourishing apple orchards, Atlantic salmon thrive in the still unspoilt environs of Tasmania.
Tasmania is also free from a number of parasites and diseases that have affected some salmon colonies around the world.
Atlantic salmon was first introduced to Tasmania and New South Wales for sport fishing in the 1800s but a population was never established. The next attempt to introduce the species to Tasmania was not until the 1980s when fertilised Atlantic salmon eggs were purchased from the Gaden Hatchery in Jindabyne, New South Wales, which originated from Nova Scotia, Canada in the 1960s.
In 1985, it was determined that the health of the new stock was at a standard they could introduce to the sea, with 36,000 fish included in the first transfer.
My recent trip to Tasmania led me to Huon Aquaculture, which began farming not long after in 1987 and has grown to become one of Australia’s most prominent producers of Atlantic salmon.
The story started with holy matrimony: Tasmanians Peter and Frances met by chance in 1978 on the Ida Bay Railway, Australia’s southern-most railway, and just two years later they were married and managing the family cattle and sheep farming property in the Huon Valley, which has the Huon, a perennial river located in the south-west and south-east regions of Tasmania flowing through before it feeds into the Tasman Sea.
Fast forward to 1986: They start farming fish as part of the family business, with one pen of trout and one lone employee.
Seven years later in 1994 they decided to buy the fish farm from the family company and their life as full time salmon and trout farmers began.
Peter and Frances began as contract growers, selling their fish to other companies, before realising they wanted to control other parts of the chain to ensure that quality shone through and to enable the company brand to be established in its own right.
In 2005 they stepped out from behind the contract grower model and the Huon brand was born.
They purchased a factory, Springs Smoked Seafoods, in Adelaide in 2006 which enabled them to offer a complete range of products from whole fresh fish to smoked salmon to markets across Australia and internationally.
In the space of just a couple of years, Huon established a recirculation hatchery, acquired leases in Macquarie Harbour on the west coast of Tasmania, began processing its own whole salmon in leased premises and then purchased, renovated and commissioned its Parramatta Creek processing plant in the north of the State.
Huon has since built a new factory alongside the existing Parramatta Creek plant, which was officially opened in July 2015. The new facility is unique by global standards with whole fresh fish coming in one end and smoked packaged product coming out the other, resulting in some of the freshest salmon products in the world.
Apart from producing quality salmon, Huon are undertaking an incremental research project in partnership with the Government of New South Wales to research the viability and best technology and methods of farming Yellowtail Kingfish in Providence Bay.
This involves taking the time to determine the best conditions for rearing healthy, high quality Yellowtail Kingfish with the establishment of a limited, pilot-scale farm to be established over the next two years.
The expected outcomes is that the pilot-scale project is aimed at demonstrating that it is possible to grow healthy, high-value fish safely in the local environment, whilst meeting the expectations of the local community.
Huon's holding pens, the largest in the world, are moved regularly to fresh locations along the waterway to keep the salmon healthy and happy – a practice known as fallowing.
The Huon Aquaculture Group produces over 17,000 tonne of fresh salmon per year and my favourites of their delicious range includes among:
My favourite emission out of the house of Huon is their whisky cured salmon, which celebrates the coming together of salmon with one of the world’s finest whiskys, Tasmania’s Lark Distillery, which runs an 1800 litre copper pot still along with a 500 litre spirit still. The range of distilled products includes the flagship Lark Single Malt Whisky and Forty Spotted Rare Tasmanian Gin.
Huon fine salmon is marinated with the award-winning Tasmanian Lark whisky for up to two days to produce a taste sensation for both salmon and whisky connoisseurs.
The smoky notes of the barrel in the whisky marry with the subtle flavours of the delicate Huon salmon to produce a product that is without par when it comes to salmon creations.
Talking of cured salmon - the rich sweetness of their Reserve Selection Honey Cured salmon will get you as soon as you open the packaging.
Both delicate in texture and rich in sweet overtones, the salmon is drizzled in fine Australian honey and cured for up to 24 hours.
Once the honey has done its work the salmon is lightly smoked and carefully packed as a whole fillet by hand.
Trust me, it is a delectable experience indeed.
Watch out for the second instalment of Always going upstream against the current.
Photos from Huon Aquaculture website
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