The time has certainly been flying by – Summer 2012 is now just a memory and Fall is here and making its presence felt. Here to chase your post-summer blues away is part 3 of our “Get to Know Your Salmon” series. Today’s topic will be Arctic Char.
While often grouped in with salmon and even referred to as “Arctic Char Salmon” by many people, the Arctic Char is actually not a variety of salmon but rather a very closely related cousin. They get their name from the fact that they dwell in the waters of the Artic Ocean and in freshwater regions just south of it. In fact, their tolerance of low temperature is so great that they are literally the only fish that inhabit Lake Haven by Ellesmere’s Island in northern Canada. 1. They have a rather wide range of cold waters that they like to spend their time in, ranging from areas such as the New England coast to European coastal areas such as the Baltic nations, Scandinavia, Ireland, and the UK.
Like most forms of salmon, Artic Char spend much of their lives in the ocean but are born and come back to spawn in fresh water. Rather slow to blossom, Arctic Char typically do not reach sexual maturity until the age of 6-9 years and even then are believed to only spawn every other year.1
Rather small by salmon standards, a typical commercially available Artic Char will weigh between 3 and 5 pounds and will be about a foot in length. However, some have weighed in excess of 20 lbs, with the all-time record holder weighing in at 32lbs and 9 ounces.2 In terms of appearance, they tend to have dark skin with lighter spots spread around their bodies. Their main background color tends to be either red, orange, yellow, gold, or brown.1
While some Artic Char are caught in the wild, others are farm raised. They are considered to be a very sustainable source of seafood, due to the particular degree of care and ecological consideration that goes into how they are raised and maintained. Due to this fact and their high population numbers, Arctic Char are considered a sustainable alternative not just to salmon, but to Rainbow Trout as well, which they closely resemble.2
The flesh of Arctic Char can range in color from light pink to light red and is prepared in many different ways. Some of the most common ways in which you’ll find them presented are baked, broiled, panfried, canned, smoked, and grilled.
A view of a fresh Arctic Char filet at Atlantic Seafood Market of Old Saybrook
Speaking of methods of preparing Arctic Char, here’s an excellent recipe for them from Epicurious, an excellent source for seafood recipes called “Scallion Crusted Artic Char”.
Ingredients: 5 scallions, 2 Six-ounce Artic Char Fillets, 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise3
1. Preheat your broiler and wrap broiling pan in foil
2. Slice the scallions and mix them together with the mayonnaise
3. Using paper towels, gently dab the fillets dry
4. Place the fillets scale-side down in the broiling pan and sprinkle them with salt and pepper if desired
5. Spread the mayonnaise and scallion mixture evenly atop each fillet
6. Broil for 8 minutes or until the scallions have slightly charred and the fish has cooked through and is slightly more flaky.3
Now that you and Arctic Char have been properly introduced, why not head over to Atlantic Seafood Market and pick up some Arctic Char in Old Saybrook for dinner tonight?
Fly Fishing Dicounters
2. Author Unknown
Monterey Bay Aquarium
3. Knauer, Ian
Scallion Crusted Arctic Char
Epicurious.com, October 2008