How to Preserve Your Catch

small bowls of salt and lemon and condiments and salmon laid out on a wooden cutting board

Winter brings slower days and time to cook – and a freezer full of fish after a summer of harvest. Nourishing and delicious protein, wild salmon brings brightness to the table through the cold weather months. This recipe is a personal favorite provided by Nelly Hand at Drifters Fish, a local Pacific Northwest business.

Nelly Hand and Drifters Fish

Nelly Hand grew up commercial salmon fishing with her family in the coastal community of Cordova, Alaska. Her love for a good meal and the story behind it inspired her to continue living and working close to wild fisheries. She works every summer in Alaska, operating a small fishing boat with her partner, Michael, and traveling south to the Pacific Northwest for the winter season. Together they have created a sea-to-table business called Drifters Fish, sharing their catch through a community-supported fishery, retailing smoked tinned fish, and working directly with restaurants, supplying fresh salmon straight off the boat. Off the water, you can usually find her outside, foraging for wild foods or cooking salmon over a campfire.

top down view wild salmon filet on a white plate on a wooden cutting board over a sandy beach

How to choose your salmon?

Wild salmon is an incredible part of the ecosystem here in the Pacific Northwest and throughout Alaska. When choosing salmon for home-cooked meals, support your local fishermen and responsible fishing practices by asking for wild-caught fish. Find good fish from a carefully harvested, sustainably fishery. The recipe below for Wild Salmon Rillettes will preserve the fish with salt and butter, making for a delicious, thick spread enjoyed on crusty bread. This Pacific Northwest take on a delicious, traditional French preparation is made with the flavorful balance of fresh cooked and smoked wild salmon – perfect to pack in a jar and bring out for nourishment on your next fishing trip or hike up a mountain.



10-ounce portion of fresh or previously frozen Wild Salmon, pin bones removed

6.5 ounce of Smoked Wild Alaska Salmon

1 Tbsp preserved lemon, minced

3 Tbsp Lemon Juice

¼ Cup Crème Fraîche

3½ Tbsp Butter at room temperature

¼ Cup Parsley, minced

1 small Red Onion, thinly sliced

⅔ Cup White Vinegar

Capers to serve

Crusty Bread or Seeded Crackers

Sea Salt and freshly Cracked Pepper to taste


  1. Heat the grill or prepare a campfire for cooking. If you are cozy at home, go ahead and warm the oven to 250°F.
  2. Cook your fillet of wild salmon slowly on low heat until medium rare. If cooking outside over the campfire, we like to soak green alder in a little bit of water and then place the fish directly on top of the wood. This gives the fresh fish a delicious smoky flavor while it cooks. Important note: Keeping the skin on the fillet will help avoid overcooking the fish. Look for the fish to be opaque and slightly translucent in the center. Once medium rare, remove from the oven or campfire.
  3. Once cool enough to handle, remove the skin and flake the cooked fillet into a bowl. Add the smoked salmon in small pieces.
  4. Add the minced preserved lemon, freshly squeezed lemon juice, crème fraîche, softened butter, and minced parsley.
  5. Gently stir, adding salt and pepper to taste as you combine the ingredients.
  6. To make the quick pickled red onions, thinly slice and add to vinegar in a small bowl. Let the mix stand on your counter for about one hour to pickle.
  7. To enjoy, spread the rillettes across crusty bread. Serve with pickled red onions, capers, and parsley.
  8. To store, pack the rillettes in small jars and store them in the fridge for up to two weeks. Take one backpacking, on your next fishing trip, or enjoy around the campfire in your backyard.
salmon salad and pickled capers and onions in small bowls laid out on a wooden cutting board

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