Chum salmon, also called keta, dog or silverbrite, tends to be the least known of the five Pacific salmon species and receives little love – this may be because of its “dog” moniker, based on sled dogs being fed chum in the north and the sharp dog-like teeth of spawning males. But don’t be fooled, fresh or flash-frozen chum caught during the silverbrite phase (see below) should be on your salmon rotation despite misconceptions that it isn’t a “good” salmon. It’s high time we shed chum’s pet food image!
The backbone of the chum salmon industry has been focused on its highly prized roe (salmon caviar), as well as canned and smoked products. To maximize roe quality and quantity, chum is often caught later in their life cycle, during their spawning phase, when the flesh is softer and less flavourful. This is the chum that’s sometimes fed to the dogs. But when chum salmon is caught in the open ocean, far from their spawning location (the ‘silverbrite’ phase), the flesh is of high quality and its outward appearance is often indistinguishable from its better-known sibling, sockeye.
Nutritionally, chum has lower fat content than sockeye and chinook, giving it a milder, more delicate flavour while still providing comparable sources of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as essential micronutrients like selenium, niacin and B121. Its lower fat content and milder flavour mean chum is well suited for those who may not like the intense flavour of sockeye and for recipes that retain moisture such as curries and chowders. Chum can also make a mean burger and is fantastic grilled or broiled, especially when marinated
So, how does it really taste?
Chum was often chosen as staff’s favourite or second favourite out of all five salmon species and some even went as far as calling it “the perfect salmon!”
One of the most wide-ranging of the five Pacific salmon species, chums landed in commercial quantities in the eastern North Pacific from Del Mar, California, to the Arctic Ocean’s Mackenzie River and south to Honshu, Japan. Commercially caught chums run from 6 to 12 pounds. Almost all chums are caught with seines or gillnets. Although the price is right, many buyers still shun chums because of the fish’s inconsistent quality. At the top of the line are the small quantities of troll-caught chums produced by fishermen in British Columbia and Southeast Alaska. Seine-caught fish are also quite good. Chum is graded in several stages. Silver Brights are ocean-run fish with reddish-pink flesh and shiny silver skin. Semi Brights have watermarks above the lateral line. Grading terms such as fall chum, dark chum, qualia, calico chum and river chum are used for fish with watermarks below the lateral line.
Bottom line: Given bountiful returns of chum salmon on the central coast, its affordable price point, and highly versatile nature, chum salmon is most definitely not “for the dogs” and should be a staple in your Skipper Otto’s checkout basket.
Well, feel free to ask one of Skipper Otto’s staff members who participated in the 2016 side-by-side blind taste test!
Here are a few more recipes using chum if you need some inspiration:
Pan-Seared Wild Chum Salmon Fillets
Roasted Salmon with Tarragon & Butter
Salmon with Basil, Bacon & Sourdough Crust
|Per 100g cooked||Chum||Sockeye||Chinook||Coho||Pink|
|Total Fat (g)||7||17||21||8||5|