Family Recipe: Uncle Harold’s Salmon

December 30, 2007

The Chinook or King Salmon is the largest salmon in North America and can grow to 1.5 m (58 inches) in length and to 57 kg (125 pounds) in weight. This specimen shows the jaws drawn into a curved “kype”, a secondary sex characteristic typical of many male salmon around spawning time. (Wikipedia)

My Great Aunt and Uncle, Mary and Harold, live in Granite Falls, Washington. They own some beautiful property which has been used for a variety of things over the years. There have been cattle and mink and last I heard, they were in the worm casting business. (Worm castings, if you haven’t heard, is a gardening product. You add it your soil as a fertilizer. It is, for lack of a more educated explanation, worm poop.)

Mary is my grandmother’s sister. When my mother and her sisters were kids they went up to the lake for extended visits during summers to hang out with their cousins. This included fishing for trout, climbing trees, exploring the woods and occasionally helping out with the mink.

When my brother and I were kids, we had the same treat with our cousins (Mary & Harold’s grandchildren.) We stayed out of the cattle fields, because the dang things will chase you if your aren’t careful! The mink were in cages and while they would occasionally get loose (there was a GIANT leather glove used to pick them up in such instances) you were pretty safe from them unless you stuck your fingers in the cage. One of my mother’s cousins has one finger that’s a little shorter than the others and he served as a great warning for stupid kids to keep our fingers to ourselves. (I walked through with my hands in my pockets, just to be safe!)

Now, before any of you get all animal rights indignant on me, let me tell you that the mink were treated well. So were the cattle. And the trout for that matter. They were killed humanely (gas chamber) and when the pelts were removed, the carcasses were sold to be used in the manufacture of pet food and the oil was sold to make leather tanning agents, etc. In my mind, ranched fur is no different than leather, and I like leather. Don’t like it? Don’t buy it. <end rant>

There are few things that I remember more fondly than summers at the lake. It was a place that seemed to belong to the whole family, not just Mary & Harold. It was the only place where I could ride a go-cart, sleep in a tree house, eat berries right off the bush, throw things down a laundry chute and pedal a player piano. It was safe and fun and just a little bit magical.

This was the place where large family gatherings often occurred in the summertime. I figure it was because there was plenty of room and plenty to do outside of the house, so it made entertaining less of a pain. (Kids running around outside is always preferable to kids running around inside!)

Inexorably linked to these gatherings is the memory of Uncle Harold’s BBQ salmon. Here in the Pacific Northwest, fresh salmon is less of a luxury than in the middle of the country. It is readily available and not extravagantly priced. Harold’s BBQ pit sits in a cluster of evergreens overlooking the lake. It is stocked with Alder and the smell is as amazing as the view.

Ok. Enough of the nostalgia. On to the food!

Harold Cragg’s Salmon


Lay out your salon fillets.

Cover with brown sugar (Don’t sprinkle, cover! You shouldn’t be able to see the flesh through the sugar.)

Sprinkle with rock salt (Yup, the kind you use to make ice cream and melt sidewalk ice.)

Squeeze a lemon over it all. (Don’t worry about the seeds, you’re going to dispose of this crust before you cook the salmon.)

Let it sit in the refrigerator until the sugar liquefies (Overnight is best, but if you’re in a hurry, you can leave it on the counter and it will go faster.)

Knock off and discard the goo.


Place the fillets on the hot BBQ grill. (When using alder wood, the salmon is farther away from the heat and is getting grilled and smoked.)

Baste liberally with melted butter (add a little garlic if you like) while cooking.

Salmon is done when it flakes easily with a fork near the center.

Aura’s Lazy Indoor Version


Lay out fillet.

Sprinkle with True Lime (I love this stuff!)

Cover with brown sugar.

Sprinkle with rock salt.

When sugar is liquefied, knock off and discard goo.


Set oven broiler to high.

Set top oven rack to second highest placement.

Place fillet on foil covered broiling rack.

Brush salmon with melted butter and broil until flaky.

If any of my family want to interject their own interpretations of this recipe or would like to correct any errors, feel free to comment below.


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