A workshop about roe, or fish eggs, last week covered everything from the market for roe to how to judge its quality. Almost 30 students took the course Thursday and Friday at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center.
Chris Bledsoe slaps a skein of pollock roe down onto a plastic tray. A group of workshop participants are standing around a table wearing hairnets and gloves and Bledose, a workshop instructor and the president of Aquatic Foods International – a consulting company – says the students are sorting the skeins according to grade for roe, which is important for marketing and selling roe in countries where it’s popular, like Japan.
“Color is one of the key components of it. It’s something that really becomes a major issue in Japan as far creating a finished product. So, it is something that they should see that as well as the cut and tears.”
He says the students should be looking for skeins that are brownish: tans and cream colors rather than very dark or pale skeins.
One of the participants, Dennis Ball, says he has a small processing plant in Bristol Bay and recalls Bledsoe telling them that most workers have to determine roe grade in five seconds. He says it’s taking them a whole lot longer to deliberate.
“Of course, I’ve only been at this for fifteen minutes.”
He says it’s the first time he’s ever seen Pollock roe and explains he wants to bring back a larger awareness about fish roe to Bristol Bay. He says he’s open to all types of ways of preparing and marketing it and says, previously, they’d thrown away many parts of fish, including roe.
“We were doing salmon fillets, and if we could do something with the tails, and the heads, and the backbones, then that’s why what we’re going to do – as many different products, try to utilize most of the fish as possible.”
Ball stands with other students and holds one of the skeins in his hands.
“Kind of reminds me chicken liver, the texture. Kinda slimy. So, those are the eggs there, and it just kind of turns into a paste.”
Bledsoe says that consistency may be due to a number of elements, including maturity and age of the product. But one thing that won’t sell? Parasites, like one a workshop instructor found on a skein. Gleyn Bledsoe, Chris Bledsoe’s father and a professor of food science at Washington State University, says the worm is called anisakis.
“Once you freeze it, it kills it, so it’s not a problem. It’s just a differeet form of protein, but like a product like this, you want to get it removed off I think.”
One of the local researchers slips the skein into a clear bag to study it later. That’s just one bonus Kodiak scientists get from the workshop.