Salmon with Ginger Marmalade

Salmon with Ginger Marmalade

About thirty years ago, Jerri and I decided to treat my mother and father to a fishing charter on Lake Superior.  Since they both loved to fish, I was surprised when they refused the offer.  Dad explained that since he had broken his leg the year before, he wasn’t as steady as he once was.  Thinking on my feet, I told him that we could rent a wheelchair for him. He huffed like an old buck, “Humph, I don’t need a wheelchair.”

I closed the sale. “So you’ll come, right?”

Mom’s excuse was even less persuasive than Dad’s.  “Why don’t you take Patrick in my place? Lake Superior is so big that I wouldn’t know how to fish it.  Besides, I like to fish from shore,” she added.  

“Mom, it’s a charter.  It’s a thirty-foot boat with a sonar fish finder. The captain sets up the rods, takes us out on Chequamegon Bay until he finds a school of fish then trolls the baits.  We take turns reeling in the fish.  Come on,” I pleaded.  She turned out to be a pushover.  We had snagged our two anglers.

When I called Captain Dave to reserve a date, he told me that his boat had room for six people at no extra cost.  We invited my brother-in-law and sister to join us and confirmed the date with Dave.  Three weeks later our Captain met us at the dock in Washburn, Wisconsin.  It was a beautiful morning with a light breeze and puffy clouds. 

After a short pause, Mom walked up the gangway and watched Dad follow her onto the deck. They sat down and leaned back against the railing.  Dave warmed up the engine and I cast off the bow line when he gave the order.  We were under way.  The wind became a little stronger as we moved out of the harbor and there was a light chop on the water.  A perfect day for fishing, I thought, until I realized that Mom did not look very happy.

Before I embarked for Germany as a graduate student in 1965 on the SS Berlin, I had researched seasickness.  I learned three useful facts.  First, seasickness was known to the ancient Greeks, who gave us the word “nausea” from their word for ship (naus) to describe the symptoms.  Second, seasickness is caused by actual or perceived motion.  And third, stay on deck and study the horizon if you feel seasick.

I can testify that some people suffer from seasickness without venturing far on the water.  They think that when they are in a boat, it is moving, and that makes them feel nauseous.  I saw this first hand when I boarded the Berlin in New York City. A woman was vomiting on the deck of the ship still securely docked at the pier.  

Mom’s case was different.  We were several miles from the dock and getting farther away every minute.“Mom,” I said, “are you okay?”

“Probably something I ate,” she answered.

“I think you might be seasick,” I told her, and suggested that she might feel better if she walked on the deck and looked at the scenery.  Her solution was was to go into the cabin and look out the windows.  When I checked a few minutes later, she said that she felt better, so I told Dave we could continue our trip.

When Captain Dave reached the area where he expected to find salmon, he slowed the boat, rigged the rods and watched the sonar screen.  In a few minutes  a fish hit one of the lures, and as the senior member of the team, Dad landed his salmon.  A few minutes later another rod bowed, and I opened the door to the cabin to find Mom looking worse than she had an hour earlier.  “Mom, there’s a fish on your rod.  You have to land it.”

She did not look like the excited mother I remembered when she got a six-inch panfish on her casting rod.  “I don’t feel very well, so you just do it for me,” she replied.

“I can’t,” I lied to her, “it’s a rule.  It’s rod number two and you are number two.”

She climbed the the steps carefully and gingerly took the rod Dave handed her, but when the salmon jumped out of the water, her fishing instinct took over.  The whole boat trembled as she shook with excitement.  We have a photograph of Mom and her salmon. She has a big smile, proof that catching a salmon can cure seasickness.


That fishing trip was long after I ate my first serving of salmon when I was just a toddler.  That salmon would have come out of a can, been mixed with onions, crackers and egg and baked into a loaf by my mother.  I am pretty sure that I first had fresh salmon was when I was in college.  Today, I love salmon whether it’s baked into loaves, made into soup, grilled over charcoal or fried with this marinade.


About 1 lb. salmon filets

2 large or three medium cloves garlic

2 T olive oil, divided

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup ginger marmalade

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp. liquid smoke flavoring


Make the marinade first.  Remove the paper from the garlic cloves and mince them.  In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the garlic, one tablespoon olive oil, soy sauce, marmalade, mustard, red pepper flakes and smoke flavoring

If necessary, remove the skin from the salmon.  Put three or four serving-size filets in a sealable plastic bag.  Add half of the marinade, seal the bag and massage the filets until all of them are coated with the marinade.  Put the bag in the refrigerator and let the filets marinate for about an hour.

When you are ready to cook the salmon, coat a non-stick skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Put the filets in the skillet and sauté them for two to four minutes.  Turn the filets and cook them for another two to three minutes.  Test for doneness after two minutes.  If the fish flakes, the salmon is done.

Remove the filets from the pan and tent them in a warm serving dish.  Add the reserved marinade (not the marinade in the bag) to the skillet, raise the heat and reduce the volume by half to create the sauce.  Place the filets on plates and spoon sauce over them.  

Serve with a good Chardonnay or Viognier.  If you don’t have either of these wines on hand, you could substitute a Sauvignon blanc.

Serve with simple side dishes that won’t distract from the flavor of the salmon.  White rice and green beans or asparagus sautéed in a little olive oil and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper are good choices.

NOTES:  Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc+Viognier is a wonderful domestic wine blend to serve with this salmon.  Panilonco Chardonnay Viognier is a good Chilean blend that pairs well also.

Assi’s Fish Soup

A few week’s ago we finally visited Assi and her family in Helsinki, Finland. Assi was a Rotary Exchange Student in 1994 when I was the District Exchange Officer for Finland. Today she and her husband, Pekka, have a two-year-old daughter named Jenna. They work for Tieto, one of the largest IT services companies in Europe, which is headquartered a few miles from their home.

Knowing that I like to eat, Assi made a point of introducing us to Finnish cuisine. She served us Karelian stew, which she had prepared the day we arrived, and introduced me to 8% beer at the Suomenlinna, the fortress built on six islands at the mouth of the South Harbor in Helsinki. After our tour of the fortress we met Assi’s parents at the Fish Market where we enjoyed a delicious salmon soup.

Like many midwesterners I had a bias against fish soup. I don’t really know why, since I like clam and seafood chowders, which are really just thickened soups. Maybe it was my father’s story about working one day at a neighboring farm where they had fish soup for dinner. “They were Swedes, and they ate stuff like that,” he told me, adding that there were fish heads in the soup pot. It would be an understatement to say that it was “not his favorite.”

Assi and her parents told us that the salmon soup at the market was delicious, and so we all had styrofoam bowls filled with a rich soup. We ate it while sitting under a canopy and watched the ferries, fishmongers and their customers along the pier. It was a wonderful lunch, and I asked Assi later if she had a recipe for salmon soup.

She emailed me her family’s recipe for fish soup, which I converted to English measurements. Here is Assi’s introduction to the recipe:

“I will share our family recipe of a fish soup. You can use any kind of fish, also leave out cream as we quite often do when eating this at home.”

When I asked what kind of fish she used, she said that they used whatever they caught including pike (walleye), northern pike and bass from any of the freshwater lakes in southern Finland plus saltwater fish that they caught from the Baltic. I used some pieces of bony bass saved from one of Jerri’s catches from this summer plus a half pound of wild salmon fillets.


2 or 3 medium potatoes
1 medium onion
2 1/2 cups water
4 – 8 whole allspice
4 – 8 black peppercorns
1 lb. fish (fillet or with bones)
1 scant cup of whipping cream
1/2 tsp. salt
3 T fresh dill
Butter to taste


Following Assi’s instructions, I first brought the bony pieces of bass to a boil in about two and a half cups of water in a covered saucepan and simmered them slowly for about twenty-five minutes. If you don’t have any bony pieces of fish, use fish stock and water. We didn’t have a pound of fish with the bony pieces, so I used two small salmon fillets to bring the amount of meat to a pound.

While the bony fish is simmering, peel the potatoes and clean the onion. Chop the potato into bite-sized pieces and the onion into a quarter inch dice. Cut the fish fillets into half or three-quarter-inch pieces. Set these chopped ingredients aside.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the pieces of fish from the water and let them cool on a plate for a few minutes. Separate the meat from the bones and set it aside in a small bowl. Be careful to remove all the small bones. Strain the water through a colander lined with cloth and return it to the saucepan.

Put the chopped ingredients and the meat you removed from the bones into the liquid. Add a half teaspoon of salt, the allspice and peppercorns. Cover the pan and bring the soup to a low simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender.

Mince the dill while the soup is simmering and stir it with the cream into the soup. Heat it until it begins to steam. Taste and adjust the seasoning. I like to add a grind of black pepper at this point.

Serve in bowls with a dusting of fresh dill and a pat of butter melting on top.

NOTES: When I asked Assi to look over the recipe a few days ago, she said that they never count the allspice; they use what they think they need for the batch of soup.

Then she wrote, “Also black pepper corns can be used. Sometimes I use just black pepper from my pepper mill because it is close at hand. As you can see, we make the recipe while cooking. :-)” I like the smiley face. Think of it as a reminder that you can adjust the seasoning before serving.

If you don’t have any bony fish to make the stock, you could use Fish Stock Cubes or canned fish stock.

And finally, here is a photo of the bass that provided the bony pieces for my first batch of fish soup. Jerri caught all of them. I was skunked, but I was handling the canoe.