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Pam Smith, a practitioner of the traditional Eyak art of salmon smoking in Cordova, Alaska, demonstrates her preferred technique for cleaning, gutting, and filleting a whole fish. Smith carries a hefty king, or Chinook, salmon to her worktable to begin processing.
This how-to accompanies our special digital issue, Boundless Beauty, created and designed especially for the iPad.
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Step 1: Scaling the Fish
Using a handheld scaling tool and working from tail to head, Smith cleans the large king salmon of its hard, inedible scales.
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Step 2: Gutting the Fish
After removing the fish's head, Smith slices open its belly and removes its innards, including the egg (roe) sacs in the female fish.
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Step 3: Examining the Roe
Female salmon carry with them precious cargo -- thousands of these orange, jellylike eggs. Smoked along with the rest of the fish, the roe is a coveted delicacy.
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Step 4: Removing the Collar
Many consider the fatty flesh just below the fish's head to be the most delicious. Smith prepares to cut the neck, or collar, from the head so she can cure it separately.
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Step 5: Preparing to Fillet
Once Smith has finished heading and gutting the king salmon, she is ready to remove its fillets.
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Step 6: Carving the First Fillet
With a careful hand, Smith cuts along the spine of the fish, working from the head of the fish backward, coaxing the flesh from the bones.
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Step 7: Splitting the Ribcage
Smith makes slicing through the salmon's ribcage look easy. In fact, it takes a practiced, confident hand to neatly cut through the bones to completely remove the fillet.
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Step 8: Carving the Second Fillet
Having removed the fillet, intact, from one side of the fish, Smith then goes to work on the second side.
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Step 9: Rinsing the Carcass
Smith uses a hose to rinse the salmon carcass after filleting. Once the fresh water has washed away all traces of blood, the carcass will be hung in the smokehouse along with the brined fillets and the fish's head, collar, and roe.