Saturday, March 18, 2017

Fish-O-Gram #22! Saturday Scallop-O-Rama!! Your Scallop Questions Answered!! Inside Crab is Winding Down..Tribal Halibut....3/20/17!!! We Have a Date!!...Maybe...

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Fish-O-Gram Encore Presentation! Scallop Promos! Halibut is Here! Saturday Deliveries!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Fish-O-Gram #19

Fish-O-Gram!! Spring is Here, Sorta. Scallop Photojournalism!! Rock Bottom Rockfish!! Hagfish Fun Facts!! Bread Baker SuperStars!! Fare Thee Well, Paisley!!

Dear Peeping Customers,
Despite flying snow, constant wind and biting temperatures, we have been enjoying the music and re-assurance of the peeper frogs down the valley from us these past nights.  Our firewood is burnt up, the squash are rotten, the spuds froze out and all our winter greens failed.  The first nettles are up, but they are tiny and stunted.  So while Jones Ranch is still in the throes of deep winter, the frogs report otherwise.  We'll go with the amphibians.

Trust me.  Warmer weather ahead. 

Pink Scallops--Our Dream For Reals.
Long-time JFF friend and photographer Erik Johnson took to the seas this past to document a scallop harvest.  From the most beautiful place in the world, our home, the San Juan Islands, comes the rarest commercial seafood in the world.  Pink Scallops capture the aesthetic and Merroir of the San Juans like nothing else.  We hope you enjoy these photos as much as we do.  Feel free to use them in any promotional form you like.  Send us your scallop preparation photos!!
The Pink Scallop Fishery has now been been open and seamless for almost twenty days!!  We have been reveling in all the scallops we can eat and working to spread the word.   As ever, all credit to our intrepid dive partners.  Joe Stephens and his crew deserve a tremendous amount of credit for the scallops.  And, as a sharp-eyed reader pointed out last Fish-O-Gram, we need to specially call out Brady Blake of WDFW and his boss, Rich Childers for their role in opening the fishery as well as Bob Sizemore, dive harvest manager.  Thank you, Brady!, Thank you Rich! Thank you Bob! 

Pink Scallop Hall of Fame. 

Harvesting Scallops.
It is a rare privilege to bring such an animal to market.  Back in the go-go 80s Pink Scallops were a stalwart of the West Coast Culinary world--there is an amazing amount of pink scallop info on line, as it turns out.
Along the way we came to an interesting conclusion: Pink Scallops are the rarest for of legal seafood in the world.  We have long sung the hazards of scallop harvest--rampant bureaucrats, strong currents, anomalous PSP results, fragile product and more.  Pink Scallops lurk on the very downward edge of dive-able seafloor anyhow.  Harvesting them is highly technical and quite dangerous.  Divers use a nitrogen enhanced oxygen blend, but even that considered, work time at depth is as short as 15 minutes.  Divers collect them with bare hands or butterfly nets and stuff them into harvest bags. 

Pink scallops are biologically amazing. 
Pink Scallops have the ability to attach or detach themselves to rocks at will.  This allows the scallop to live in very high-flow areas--when the water is calm they detach and zip around like butterflies or water angels.  When the tide begins to run hard they snuggle down, bind themselves to rocks and happily filter-feed until the tide slackens.  They swim forwards, not backwards as one would assume, with a jet action.  Intake water is compressed by their mantle and fired out the slight apertures just up the shell from the hinge.  They can swim remarkably fast this way, but are not terribly good at aiming themselves.  Pinks have a series of eye spots around the outside of their mantle that, combined, fulfill the function of a complex eye.  In molluscan terms, a pink scallop is somewhere between an oyster and an octopus.  Most scallops are coated with sea sponge, which protects them from predators and has deeper, little known symbiotic functions.  When conditions are right pink scallops can breed in the millions per female.  We often get baby pinks settling in our oyster gear, meaning the larvae is so abundant they settle well outside of their optimum growing conditions.

Pink Scallops are delicious. 
Pink Scallops have a highly unique flavor profile--as a live, whole animal, in-shell scallop, they combine the sweetness of a sea scallop with the deep umami and slight funkiness of whole, live, shellfish, plus the tang and turn of caviar, as each scallop includes eggs or sperm.  Each pink scallop contains the foot or aductor muscle, what in other scallops is harvested and sold for meat, or what is punched out of a skate wing and sold for a scallop, anyhow.  Raw, pickled, steamed or grilled they are perhaps the finest seafood of our acquaintance.  They are also just flat-out beautiful. 

Department of Comparative Seafoods-- Scallop Edition.
Pink Scallops are found from San Diego to Alaska, but only occur in density in the inside waters of the San Juans and Canadian Gulf Islands.  Most sea creatures are much more widely dispersed--King Salmon occur from California to the Arctic Circle.  Urchins haunt kelp forests world-wide in the temperate band.  Even the elusive Olympia Oyster is found, sporadically, coast-wide.  So while our area is literally carpeted with pink scallops, this is true nowhere else.  Pink Scallops are the quintessential San Juans seafood.  Production is small--we are going to be lucky to harvest 100,000# this year.  Canada harvests another 60,000#, more or less.  This makes Pink Scallops the rarest commercially harvested seafood in the world.   Even Beluga Sturgeon caviar is more abundant--global production is upwards of 500,000#/yr.  Pink Scallops are expensive.  Dive harvest is pricey, our holding system is labor intensive and losses are high.  However, at a 15ct/#, they are substantially cheaper than premium oysters and much cheaper than beluga caviar.  Scallop meat yield is also much higher than clams or oysters or crab--the shells are thin and light and you are not paying for any retained water. Compared with urchin, king crab, premium meat cuts or spot prawns, scallops are a screaming deal.  Back in the day, scallops were served by the bucket at a wide range of restaurants.  But just as halibut will likely never again hit $3# and $5/hr kitchen labor is a distant memory, scallop prices have come up to level in the modern world.  We think they are worth it. 
Once out of the water, they need to be eaten within a few days.  This means that, unlike more ship-able forms of sealife, Pink Scallops will never be vaccumed up by our Chinese friends.  So Pink Scallops, the ultimate San Juans seafood, find their best application within overnight-shipment range of us and especially in our regional markets.  Beautiful, delicious, mysterious, elusive, abundant, sustainable, rare and ephemeral.  Pink Scallops are the ultimate taste of the most beautiful corner of the world.  THINK PINK!

Helpful Scallops Hints.
Pink Scallops are a deep-water species and unlike clams and oysters have not capacity to seal off their shells out of water.  This means they do not retain liquor in their shells, but in the meat, even when pulled directly out of the water.  Cooked or shucked, even an open, gaping scallop will have  plenty of liquor once prepped.  A gaping scallop does not mean a dead scallop.  A dead scallop is a stinky scallop.  Do not serve or sell stinky scallops.  Scallops should be stored in the dark, covered with a moist cloth and protected from direct contact with ice.  Too-cold holding conditions will substantially reduce scallop shelf-life.    
Once eaten, the shells make fine crafts or ashtrays.  Bust out the hot glue gun!

A nice sideline for the Saucier....

Rock Quotas Rise, Prices Fall.
They are coming for you.

Coastwide, green rockfish numbers are strong and rising.  The Pacific Fisheries Management Council has responded by increasing the quota for some of the most common rockfish species off the Oregon and Washington coasts.  Last year's quota for greenies was 7 million pounds.  This years' quota is 25 million pounds.  Correspondingly, rock prices are falling.  This condition should endure for most of the year, subject, as ever to the vicissitudes of weather, other fishery openings, boat breakdowns, government shutdowns and more. 

Science Corner--Department of Expanding Fisheries.
These past years a new fishery targeting Hagfish, or Slime Eels has blossomed on the West Coast.  Slime eels exist in huge numbers in deep waters in all western waters.  They are the ultimate scavenger/recycler at depths.  They use tooth-encrusted tongues to burrow into carcasses and eat them from the inside out.  They are long, slimy, and deeply strange.  Slime Eels have a superpower, in that when stressed they have the ability to gell vast volumes of water into the consistency of jello.  In the wild, this allows a threatened slime eel to escape predators, who are immobilized and potentially killed by the slime--it can plug fish gills to the point that they cannot absorb oxygen.
The Horror....

Starting in the mid-2000s fishermen began targeting the eels for the Korean market.  Barrels with holes drilled in them are baited with rotten fish and set in deep water.  Fishermen haul them back, hopefully stuffed with eels.  In recent times the fishery has been worth close to $2 million/yr just in Washington waters.  Eels must be shipped live to Korea, where intrepid chefs prod them to exude slime and thicken soups and sauces. Once eaten, the skins are stretched and preserved for leather production.  Slime eel slime is also at the forefront of food-science, military and biomedical research, with all sorts of applications.  Holding and shipping eels is an extremely specialized business.  Eel tanks must be constantly cycled to keep water fluid enough sos the eels don't suffocate.  Apparently eel meat tastes like squid.  Eel slime tastes like salt water.
The Slime.....
Staff of Life--Bread Baker Goes Pro.

The trick is not to get between the children and the bread.

Here at Jones Ranch we get a twice-weekly delivery of the best bread we have ever eaten from our good friend and Orcas Islander Heather Immoor.  Heather landed on Orcas a few years back after a decade and a half bouncing around the broader culinary world.  After a year's stint opening the Catkin Cafe, Heather retreated to her mountain-top redoubt to have a second baby and bake bread.  Dubbed "Hedder Bread" by our 4 year old, deliveries are the most anticipated event of the week here--sometimes the loaves don't even make it inside from the van--hungry young Joneses will tear apart a full boule like a wolf pack taking apart a sickly caribou.  Heather's bread has a depth, crumb and authority like no other, and her crusts are always beautifully crusted and caramelized.  Weeks without Heather bread, such as immediately following the birth of her son, are dark and difficult time.  Heather's bread is truly superlative.  Now she is making the leap to bake and sell under health department discipline and we are delighted to promote, recommend and deliver "Hedder Bread" to the wider world.  

In Heather's own words.....
"What do you do after twenty years of professional cooking? You bake! After bouncing around the country in more restaurant kitchens than I care to count, two kids and island life have led me down a new path: the Path of Sourdough. Water, salt, flour, wild yeast beasties. After years of fascination and experimentation with the complexities arising from the combination of those four things, I'm finally devoting my daily life to the study of them. And the eating of them. Lots and lots of eating of them. We're pleased to bring you Endswell Bakehouse, a microbakery that, come spring, will be turning out a range of sourdoughs and other goodies to fill Island bellies. Retail customers can look for us at the Orcas Island Farmers Market, and restaurants and others interested in wholesale inquiries can find us at (until our website emerges from the dust of construction). Endswell Bakehouse: All's Well."

God Speed, Paisley Madison!!

After a year and a half of representing JFF in Seattle, Paisley is moving on to other endeavors.  We have appreciated her persistence, dedication, cell phone skills and flare.  Thank you, Paisley! you will be missed!

Place Your Orders Here.
For the time being Ma and Pa Jones will be fulfilling sales duties.  In the weeks to come we will be making personal contact with each of you.  Do not hesitate to reach out to us.  Sara may be reached at 360-468-0533 or  Nick may be reached, when off-island, at 360-298-5407 or  
Until next time, we are your Scallop Cake-Walking, Rock Fish Low-Balling, Slime Exuding, Bread Eating, Post-Paisley JFF Crew.  Just a call or e-mail away!!