Salmon heads are packed with tender meat and abundant fat along the jawbone. They are especially prized for making fish stock as a base for soup of all kinds and contain vitamin A, Omega-3, iron, zinc, and calcium.
I was apprehensive to make salmon head stock. Though I had experience with chicken and other meat stocks, I’d never made fish stock and imagined the whole house smelling ‘fishy’.
I knew the benefits of drinking this liquid gold and that fish head stock can strengthen bones and joints, reverse tooth decay, and is anti-inflammatory. I knew fish stock can heal the thyroid, eyes, and gut lining. What convinced me though was fish stock is a traditional food that’s been around for centuries and revered in most parts of the world.
As many of my readers know, I am a sucker for traditional foods like milk kefir, cod liver oil, unsalted kraut, marrow, and liver. These are the foods I give attention to, the foods I talk and write about. These are the foods gracing my kitchen on a regular basis with the hopes of normalizing them for my own children who will one day give them to their own children; my grandchildren.
This is what propelled me to the fish market to buy a pair of wild salmon heads. Upon making the stock, I was surprised to find the smell pleasant and the stock as savory as any chicken stock with a delicacy all its own …. was easy to make too, just two hours from start to finish ?
Fish Head Stock
Makes: about 5 cups
1-2 pounds of salmon fish heads
2-4 garlic cloves
1-2 bay leaves
1-2 Tbsp. ginger, thinly sliced
- Remove gills with kitchen shears; these are attached to the head on each end; cut them at the joint where they attach. Discard. If you skip this part, the gills will give stock bad color and off-taste. Ask the guy behind the fish counter to remove them for you.
- Clean thoroughly with water.
- Place them in a soup pot with enough water to cover heads by at least 1-inch.
- Add in 2-4 garlic cloves (peeled), 2 bay leaves, and 1-2 Tbs. of thinly sliced ginger.
- Bring to simmer and reduce heat to low.
- Simmer for 30-45 minutes, should only bubble slightly, note that cooking for more than an hour will turn the stock bitter.
- Skim off any foam that may rise to the top.
- Strain through a couple layers of cheesecloth.
- Pick the meat and soft tissue off bones, anything soft is edible, including eyes and brains.
- Return the meat and tissue to the stock.
- Store in fridge for up to 5 days or freeze properly for several months.
Tips & Tricks
- Add sauteed onions, garlic, leeks, cabbage, or lemon at any point while fish heads cook.
- Substitute fish stock for vegetable stock in fish chowder or creamy salmon soup.
- Squeamish about fish eyes? No worries, they dissolve into the stock and the fatty tissue around the eyes is a rich source of vitamin A in an animal’s body.
- The head is the healthiest part of fish to eat, but you can also add spine and other bones.
- Salmon heads give stock strong flavor; if you want milder flavor try halibut, bass, cod, or other white fish. You can use 1 type of fish or a combination.
- This is a friendly recipe for those on The Body Ecology Diet; a healing protocol for gut imbalances (i.e. yeast overgrowth, GBS+).
- If you have a leaky gut, Crohn’s, autism, ADHD, seizures/tics, then avoid long-cooked broth. Stick to short-cooked stocks because free glutamates (MSG, glutamine, glutamic acid) increase the longer bones are cooked. This can bother some people.
- Hard time sourcing fish heads? Special order them from these guys. Let us know if you find another good source!
- Here’s a good list of fish to eat, fish to avoid.
The recipe above is from Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel who says the best stock for bone/tooth decay comes from wild fish carcasses, heads, and organs.
Nagel, R. (2011). Cure Tooth Decay. Los Gatos, CA: Golden Child Publishing
Paula, CHS. (2012). Author of a website called Whole Intentions Fish Heads in My Stock Pot
Schuette, K. (2017). Stock vs. Broth – Are You Confused. Retrieved from Healthy Home Economist
Worker Bee (2016). Fish Head Broth. Retrieved from Mark’s Daily Apple
Photo credit: https://thedomesticman.com/tag/stock/
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May all bellies be happy