Our favorite fish returns in May when the Alaskan season kicks off and eventually ends in September. But there are only so many fish that can be caught – a sustainability model that Alaska has perfected in order to allow us to have the best fish in the world year after year. So what do we do when we can’t get our favorite fresh wild fish? We have to turn to aquaculture to feed our need for salmon. However, not all aquaculture is created equal. There are some folks in New Zealand who are doing things in a different way, and it’s for the better.
Mt. Cook Alpine Salmon is as unique as the country it hails from. Nestled in the shadow of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, is a fish farming operation like no other. With King salmon bloodstock taken from descendants of the California King salmon, it starts with the best salmon available. From there Mt. Cook uses glacier water that is both cold and pristine to fill canals that house the salmon stock. The swift water simulates a river environment and keeps the fish fit and healthy. The operation hand feeds them a diet of fishmeal that is non-GMO and sustainable. It doesn’t rely on antibiotics and chemicals, and it doesn’t overstuff their pens with salmon so they can be kept happy and healthy.
What does that mean for us? It means we get the best alternative to fresh wild salmon without harmful side effects to the environment. And, of course, these fish taste really good.
I find the flavor to be a bit milder compared to its wild cousin. You can easily substitute this salmon in any wild salmon recipe you have and you will be delighted. One of the great attributes of King salmon is its size. It’s the biggest salmon available and we get some nice thick fillets from Mt. Cook salmon. It has a really rich oil content, which I think makes it the best salmon to smoke. When smoked, it comes out very moist and tender with a wonderful flavor.
This fish never touches salt water like its fresh counterparts. They spend their whole life cycle in fresh water, and that in itself gives them a unique flavor all their own. Most salmon is raised in pens in the ocean without the fast-moving fresh water that these King salmon enjoy. You can see why they are so unique and so good: the best water, the best food, the best stock, the best care and the best processes available.
I think Mt. Cook salmon in a way is much like Hy-Vee. When you take ownership of your product, you produce the best product. These people care about their fish and it shows in the final product and that’s why they are a great partner for Hy-Vee. If you have never tried it, you really should. Mt. Cook is a salmon that I am proud to sell, and I think you will be more than satisfied and maybe a bit surprised when you take it home!