River's Copper River Chowder

“This recipe is entirely my own. I created it last year to use up the trim (backs, tails, fins, cheeks, etc.) from two very large Copper River King salmons. It's a very Northwest chowder, and has received raves from everyone who has tasted it. It also makes a LOT of chowder; you will have leftovers for days, or enough to feed a party. Tips: You will need two heavy 8-quart or larger stockpots for this, unless you have a heavy one at least 16-20 quarts in size. I recommend allowing one day to cook the stock and one day to make the chowder rather than trying to do it all at once, because long, slow simmering really brings out all the flavors here. An oloroso sherry may be substituted for the Madeira. The butter may be omitted and skim or low-fat milk substituted for the half and half if you want a lower-fat version. Do not defat the stock. The stock fat is rich in beneficial Omega-3s and much of the taste of the chowder depends on the oiliness and flavor unique to Copper River King salmon. If using other wild fish, defat the stock or not as you prefer. I strongly recommend using only wild fish for this recipe. You may be able to obtain salmon trim at no charge if you live on the West Coast of the U.S. and know a fishmonger. Kids love the taste, even though it contains lots of fish. We've tried it on a three-year-old and a six-year-old. Don't be daunted by the number of ingredients, the number of steps, or the fact that it takes two days to make this. It's actually *really* easy; the hardest parts are chopping the vegetables and picking the meat off the bones.”
10 quarts

Ingredients Nutrition

  • For stock
  • 7 quarts water
  • 2 meaty salmon back fish bones, and other trim, from 2 30 to 40 lb. copper river king salmons
  • 1 large vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 scallions, chopped, including leaves
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dill
  • 1 teaspoon herbes de provence
  • 12-1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • For chowder
  • 12 gallon half-and-half
  • 12 gallon milk
  • 6 cups strong salmon fish stock, made with stock ingredients above
  • 4 -5 large red potatoes, diced
  • 8 tablespoons butter (optional)
  • 4 lbs corn kernels, preferably sweet backyard corn
  • 2 cups madeira wine (optional)
  • 1 lb bacon, ends and pieces, cut up into small pieces
  • 1 -2 teaspoon dill
  • 14-12 teaspoon thyme
  • 14-12 teaspoon basil
  • 14-12 teaspoon rosemary
  • 14-12 teaspoon marjoram
  • 12-1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon organic culinary-grade lavender (optional)
  • 12 cups copper river salmon, from trim
  • 4 bay leaves (preferably California Bay Laurel, but the more commonly-found and cheaper Turkish will do fine)


  1. First, make salmon stock: Cut up the salmon trim and split it between two large stockpots, unless you have a stockpot large enough to hold everything.
  2. Cover with water.
  3. Skim scum as it appears.
  4. Simmer just until the salmon meat is cooked, then take out the trim and pick all the meat off the bones.
  5. Reserve the meat and refrigerate.
  6. Put the bones, fins, and tails back into one of the stockpots.
  7. Cook on low for an hour or two, skimming off scum.
  8. Take out the rest of the salmon trim.
  9. Add the chopped veggies and spices.
  10. Simmer over low to medium heat until reduced by about 2/3.
  11. Strain through dampened cheesecloth, pressing out all the liquid or as much of it as you can get.
  12. Dump the mass of vegetables and what few bones remain, and reserve and measure the liquid.
  13. You should have about 6 cups; If there's more, reduce further or use as is.
  14. Second, make the chowder using the stock: Fry the bacon in a large stockpot.
  15. Pour off most of the bacon fat, saving just a little to coat the bottom of the pan.
  16. Add half-and-half and stock.
  17. Turn heat midway between low and medium.
  18. Add salmon meat.
  19. Add potatoes.
  20. Add pepper, dill, thyme, basil, rosemary, marjoram, and lavender.
  21. Simmer slowly for 1/2 hour to give the flavors a chance to marry.
  22. Get out a second stockpot and split the above ingredients between the two.
  23. Add 1 quart milk to each pot.
  24. Add 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter to each pot, if you're using butter.
  25. Add half the corn to each pot.
  26. Add two bay leaves to each pot.
  27. Bring both pots to a gentle simmer and cover most of the way (the lid should be cockeyed to allow a little steam to escape).
  28. Let simmer on low heat for about 3 hours, being careful not to let it boil; stir occasionally.
  29. Add half the Madeira (if you're using it) to each pot and simmer for another half hour.
  30. Serve.

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