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Kitchener Market 2017

Arctic Char

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January 1 - December 31

Harvest Period

N/A - N/A

Wild Arctic char are anadromous fish that swim in the cold waters of the Canadian north.  This means that they migrate from rivers to rich feeding areas in the sea during the summer, returning to the rivers in winter to lay their eggs.  Belonging to the salmon family, Arctic char are brilliant blue/green fish with pinkish spots that generally weigh between 3 and 6 kg.

Arctic char have been commercially farmed for less than 20 years, a relatively short period of time when compared to salmon and trout that have been farmed for many more decades. The strains of Arctic char currently being raised in fish farms originated from wild eggs collected in Labrador and the Northwest Territories.

Selecting and Storing

Farmed char have redder skin than their wild cousins, along with cream-colored spots. These fish reach market size between 1 and 2.5 kg and taste somewhat milder than Atlantic salmon.

Choose fish that isn’t older than one or two days.  Look for blemish-free skin that isn’t slimy or soggy.  Fresh fish should be firm and will spring back when touched. If the fish has a strong ‘fishy’ smell, this is an indication that it is not fresh and should not be chosen.

The most economical way to purchase fish is whole. When you buy a whole fish, look for clear, glossy eyes, shiny red gills and a firm body. Again make sure that the skin is free of any dark blemishes. The tail should not be dried out, brittle or curled.

Fresh car can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days, and thereafter in the freezer for up to 6 months.  If purchased frozen, char can be thawed in the fridge for up to 2 days or stored in the freezer.

Nutritional Information

Arctic char are an excellent source of protein, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, phosphorous and omega-3 fatty acids.

100g of raw fish provides about 150 calories, 8g protein, 0g carbohydrates, and 20g protein.

How To Use

Being a fatty fish like salmon and trout, char can be oven-baked, poached, braised or grilled without too much concern over the meat drying out.  However, like all fish, the secret to a moist, flavourful end product is not to overcook the fish.  Fish get tough, dry and less tasty when cooked too long.

Cook fish only until the flesh is no longer translucent but opaque all the way through and separates easily with the touch of a fork. Thickness, not weight, determines cooking time. Freshness and quality can also influence cooking time. The basic rule is to calculate 5 minutes per centimetre (8 to 10 minutes per inch) of thickness in the meatiest part for fresh or defrosted fish. If cooking in parchment or foil, add 5 extra minutes.

A simple recipe involves baking the char en papillote: On a large, oiled sheet of aluminum foil, place some match stick sized vegetables (carrots, zucchini, onion, sweet pepper etc) that have been sautéed for a few minutes in a little olive oil.  Place 2 Arctic char fillets on top, with some salt, pepper, thyme and a splash of white wine.  Cook at 400 F for about 12 minutes.

Arctic char can also be smoked, salted, or marinated with excellent results.