Today was crew change day, so the five guys I’ve been working with for the last two weeks went home and a whole new crew is on board. I can already tell that we’re going to have fun – they’re crazy!
Once everyone was settled in, one of the ABs (whose name is Frank) invited me to help him cure some salmon eggs that he brought with him. He had almost five pounds of roe from a few silver salmon he caught off the Oregon coast last week which he intended to cure (dry out) and use as bait on future fishing trips. I’ve never seen roe as it is right after it’s been removed from the fish, still intact in clusters – or skeins, as they’re called – encased in membranes as long as the fish that carry them. The way the eggs were organized was so intricate, and the eggs themselves were beautiful – some of the clusters of eggs were bigger, clearer and redder than others, some were a little more opaque, but they were all the color of carnelian and smelled fishy. I found that I had a desire to sample some of them, and when I said so, Frank cut a piece and offered it to me. Without hesitating, I took it from him and tried it. It was delicious, just like caviar only not as salty. It must be the Russian in me, but I love how the eggs pop as you chew them – there is nothing like the flavor and oily texture of caviar. When I looked at him and smiled, Frank’s jaw dropped and he was standing there staring at me in amazement when the mate walked into the galley and, laughing, snapped a picture of the scene.
Once Frank got over the shock of watching me eat salmon eggs, we got down to butterflying the egg sacks and cutting them into segments of suitable size for salmon bait, then putting those into jars with krill powder and a hot-pink grainy substance simply labeled “cure” (when I asked him what it’s made of, Frank laughed and said he didn’t even know, it’s just what you use to cure fish eggs). Thus was my first experience working with fresh roe. It made me want to go catch some fertile salmon and make caviar.