This is really fun. I attended a fish bake at neah bay a couple of years ago and the Makaw where kind enough to explain to me what they were doing.First thing you are going to have to do is get your sticks made. I bought a long cedar stick at P&W cedar on Columbia Blvd. 2x3". Took them home and cut a slot down the center of the shaft about 1/2" wide. This is where the Salmon will slide. My Cedar stick is about Five feet long. Probably longer than it needs to be but it works fine.I got my cross pieces from some Cedar trees my neighbor cut down. The length of those will very depending on how big your fish is. Oh yeah ! sharpen the end of the stick so it will go into the ground easier. When you catch your salmon
you will need to cut it differently than usual. The Back of a salmon has all the bone in it and it too thick to fit inside the slot that was cut in the main Stick. So ! Cut the salmon from the back. Go down each side as if Filleting but don't cut the belly. Go down each side and leave the belly connects. The bone will come right out of it if you do it right. When you are finished the
salmon should butterfly with both halfs of the fish attached as in the picture. This is one of the secrets to doing this. Next: Make short cuts along the outer edge of the meat about every six inches, depending on how big your fish is.
Make the incissions on both sides of the fish. This is where the cross pieces are going to go.
I put the cross pieces on the skin side. Once you get the cross pieces in place you are going to slide the whole salmon down the main stick. But first you need to take some bailing wire and wrap it around the main stick below the bottom of the slot. This will keep the main stick from splitting
all the way to the bottom and ruining the process. Slide the fish down the main Stick head first. The head end is thicker and the fish will cook more evenly with the head closest to the fire. Once you get the fish all the way down the stick, use bailing wire at the top of the stick to hold everything together. Assuming by now that you have a driftwood fire going. ( I will get to the fire later ) take your fish and pound it into
the ground near the fire in a vertical position.
I don't think it matters whether it's skin or meat side. All I use is salt and pepper but you can add anything you want just as you do in a BBQ.
Soon the meat will get hot and you will see fat dripping from the meat. After a half hour or so the fat will stop dripping. This is when it is time to rotate the fish to the other side. Same thing ! When the fat stops dripping it's time to serve. Put it on the table, remove the sticks and serve.. It really works and I have done in more than once. Can't wait to do it again. Imagine how many salmon you could cook on one fire ? you could feed a whole tribe. The folks at Neah bay used driftwood they gathered off the beach. They build the fire vertical. That is they place the logs vertical in the shape of a teepee. This didn't work well for me. The fire got too hot and hard to maintain. I like to use better wood such as alder or apple as I think the smoke effects the flavor. It helps if you are in the sand or someplace where the ground is soft so you can pound the main stick in the ground. I did mine on Puget Island. Good luck. I gaurentee it will be fun to do on a camping trip sometime with friends.
Have plenty of Beer, Wine and Warm Women around. I would like to do about a thirty pound salmon some time. If a bunch of people want to get together sometime this fall on the coast and do a salmon bake on the beach I am ready to go anytime. Hope to catch one this weekend on the Nehalem.
Man...that really does sound like a lot of fun. I'd like to try it out. Let me know if you ever formulate that little party, I'd like to bring my miss.
I really enjoy the flavor of cedar in salmon meat. It's a fantastic flavor enhancer of the fish and just makes a good blend. More often than not, my wife and I bake our fillets on a cedar plank made for fish (trout, stealies, salmon) that we got at Joes....(if they have it in stock :wink: ...see other current thread :grin: ). The heat of the oven pushes the scent and flavor of the cedar straight up into the meat and its FANTASTIC. When it starts to fade, just refinish and oil it to spruce it up a tad and kickstart the flavor again.
Anywhoos, back to the original post, that really does look like a fun way to cook. I'll have to try it out camping sometime.
It is fun epecially in the fall when it's wet outside. You get to stand by the fire as the fish is baking. As for Cedar planking, I do it all the time only I don't like Cedar. I use Fruitwood such as apple, Peach, Pear and Alder. I promise you it taste better. How do you get them planked you ask. Well that's your problem. I use a bandsaw and I cut the board to 3/4 inch thick. I have been adding sugar to the water. Now we're talking. When the fall fishing is going strong I would love to get some folks together for a bake. Someplace where we can build a fire and not be hassled. Barview park or down on the beach.
I have yet to cook a big fish. So far only Twevle pounds. I'd love to do a big fall Chinook. Or better yet a Springer.
Abalone has it pegged, I would just add a couple of things. First, before you put the fish on the stake, pound it into the ground and wobble it a bit, to enlarge the hole, then pull it out. That way when the fire is cooking all you do is set the stake in the hole and the fish isn't getting hammered with the stake. I have used alder saplings for the stakes and they worked fine.
We didn't split the fish down the back either, we just used normal fillets. This way looks like it might be better, though.
I am sure there are variations. I have seen different indians using different traditions. As for pounding. If the wire is wrapped tight ? You can hammer as hard as you want and the fish won't
fall off. If you are on a river and all there is is rock, use rocks etc.. When the Neah bay indians
cooked it all they used was Salt and pepper. They laughed and said anything more then that ruins the taste. Well ! I would be interested in any ideas. I think a little lemon wouldn't hurt. They served it with Baked Beans and potato salad. I haven't found anything better to go with it except I might add some beer ! (Not on the fish or course ) or whiskey.