SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Work now eat later



September 15, 2014
Monday PM

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - All summer I’d been passively seeking to get ahold of a pressure cooker to put up some salmon for the winter. I say passively because though I wanted to do it, I was doing little to make it happen. I talked about it, even made noncommittal plans to borrow one and process some fish with a friend, but it didn’t happen. It’s probably one of those things many Alaskans would be shocked to hear - that someone who grew up in Alaska used mason jars to drink coffee more than preserve fish.

jpg Jeff Lund 

Mom used to make honey and Fireweed jelly, but filets always went into the freezer.

What intrigued me about the process, was not only that I thought it might be column-worthy, but that once fish are pressure cooked, the whole process is pretty much done. It’s just a matter of scooping it out, adding mayo, cream cheese, or just scooping it with a cracker. It’s ready to go. There’s no thawing, waiting, seasoning, cooking then eating. It’s pantry to mouth in seconds. I have prepared a lunch in December already.

Some of you are thinking, “Uhh, yeah…” because this isn’t some great discovery which took years of investigating. As I said though, I’ve had my own way of doing things and routines can be difficult to alter.
So anyway, I was pretty sure I had lost my chance to fire up the cooker when I moved to Ketchikan. The fishing scene is much different over here. Prince of Wales has a few rivers which have nice runs of silvers, so fresh water fish are pretty easy to get to this time of year. All I’ve found in the creeks around Ketchikan are humpies, which from what I’ve heard is what I should expect unless I’ve got a skiff.

I don’t have a skiff. But my roommate Dave does and in a quick trip one afternoon we had eight silvers in the cooler, and school the next day.

We decided to filet the fish, keep them on ice and can them the next night. The next night was Monday, and all of a sudden I wasn’t as fired up about the notion of pressure cooking. There was trimming, slicing, seasoning, filling and waiting to be done. In short, all the work that I didn’t have to do later when I was unsealing the jar, I had to do now. Thankfully we had the 90s Hip Hop channel. Nothing says subsistence living in Alaska like some beats from the streets of Compton.

Dave had to leave for work obligations, so since I wanted this experience, I was left to do the work which at that point was just stuffing the jars and working the pressure cooker.

In went the fish, and I sealed the lid. The worst part of the process has to be the waiting. I watched as steam came out of one of the vents, but the needle on the gauge didn’t move. With no frame of reference I wasn’t sure if this was normal, or if the gauge was broken and I was about to blow up the kitchen of a house into which I had just moved. My security deposit might not cover that.

By the time Dave returned home it was getting late and the first batch still wasn’t finished. We hovered, then finally unloaded and set the second batch it. I told Dave I could take care of the rest so I waited until tonight became tomorrow and the pressure cooker did it’s work.

When it finally had, I unloaded it unceremoniously and went to bed.

I knew when it was time to eat, I’d appreciate it, but at the time all I could think about was getting to sleep.

The next afternoon I tried some. It wasn’t incredible, but it was worth the sleep deprivation.

Jeff Lund ©2014

Jeff Lund is a Teacher, Freelance Writer, & River fishing guide (Tranquil Charters) living in Ketchikan, Alaska
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