Scenes from the Sitka Kitch classes on filleting and canning salmon for the Sitka Seafood Festival

As part of the rekindled Sitka Seafood Festival, the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen hosted two classes this week — Tuesday, Aug. 15, on how to fillet a salmon, and Wednesday, Aug. 16, on how to can salmon.

The Tuesday class was taught by Renée Jakaitis Trafton, chef-owner of Beak Restaurant. Renée taught students the basics of filleting a salmon (using freshly caught, ungutted salmon), and she taught them how to pull pinbones and how to skin the fillet.

The Wednesday class was led by Jasmine Shaw, who works for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service‘s Sitka District Office. In addition to teaching students how to can salmon, Jasmine also taught them how to make a simple raspberry-currant jam while the salmon was processing.

Slideshows from both classes are posted below, with the Tuesday class slideshow on top of the Wednesday class. In the Wednesday class slideshow there are photos of several UAF Cooperative Extension Service publications, including several free handouts that can be downloaded off the UAF CES website and a couple of books that can be purchased from Jasmine at her office (contact her at 747-9440 or jdshaw2@alaska.edu to set up a time to get them).

Also, don’t forget the Sitka Kitch still has openings in its Ring Around The Rose Hip class from its Preserving The Harvest class series. You can learn more about our upcoming classes by going to http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com and clicking on the class title to register.

Tuesday class slideshow

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Wednesday class slideshow

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Scenes from the Sitka Seafood Festival events on Saturday, Aug. 12

After a year in hiatus, the Sitka Seafood Festival returned this month with a variety of events from Aug. 6-30 around town. The big day for the Sitka Seafood Festival was Saturday, Aug. 12, when there were vendor booths, fun and games, a fishermen’s triathlon and other events at the Crescent Harbor Shelter and nearby locations.

A slideshow of scenes from the market vendor booths and fishermen’s triathlon (which featured two-person teams coiling line into a bucket, putting on a survival suit/Gumby suit, a three-legged race using a pair of Grundens, setting a skate, and a tote race) are linked below. There are still a couple of events left on the schedule, so check them out at http://www.sitkaseafoodfestival.com/.

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Fish to Schools program launches coho salmon donation drive for commercial fishermen

The Fish to Schools program needs help from Sitka’s commercial fishermen. The program needs a few hundred pounds of coho salmon to help make Fish to Schools meals for Sitka students during the upcoming 2017-18 school year. The program also is seeking photos of commercial fishermen at work, which can be used to teach the students more about how the fish got to their plates.

The coho salmon donation period is Wednesday. Aug. 16, through Thursday, Aug. 31. To donate, commercial fishermen can sign up and indicate how many pounds they want to donate when they offload at Seafood Producers Cooperative or Sitka Sound Seafoods during the donation period. The program can only accept commercially caught fish (no sport or subsistence fish). The hope is to get enough coho donated that locally caught salmon can be offered to students at least once a week. Sign-up sheets will be posted at the scale shacks and in the main offices. Only coho salmon will be accepted.

The Sitka Fish To Schools project (click here to see short video) got its start as a community wellness project at the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, and now is managed by the Sitka Conservation Society. It started by providing a monthly fish dish as part of the school lunch as Blatchley Middle School, and since then has grown to feature regular fish dishes as part of the lunch programs at Baranof Elementary SchoolKeet Gooshi Heen Elementary SchoolBlatchley Middle SchoolSitka High SchoolPacific High School (where the alternative high school students cook the meals themselves), the SEER School, and Mount Edgecumbe High School.

In addition to serving locally caught fish meals as part of the school lunch program, the Fish To Schools program also brings local fishermen, fisheries biologists and chefs to the classroom to teach the kids about the importance of locally caught fish in Sitka. The program received an innovation award from the Alaska Farm To Schools program during a community celebration dinner in May 2012, and now serves as a model for other school districts from coastal fishing communities. In May 2014, the Fish to Schools program released a guidebook so other school districts in Alaska could create similar programs.

For more information, contact Sophie Nethercut of the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509 or email sophie@sitkawild.org. If you would like to donate FAS (frozen at sea) fish, please call or text Lexi Fish Hackett at 738-5684.

Sitka Seafood Festival returns Aug. 10-19 after spending a year in hiatus

After spending a year in hiatus, the Sitka Seafood Festival returns Aug. 10-19 with a wide variety of events as Sitka celebrates its local seafood culture.

“Southeast Alaska is an amazing place, and the Sitka Seafood Festival is going to be a great opportunity to bring our community together to celebrate it,” Sitka Seafood Festival coordinator Emma Edson said. “There are a lot of great minds coming together to make it happen. It’ll be a lot of fun, and it’s all for a good cause.”

The Sitka Seafood Festival began in 2009 through the work of volunteers, and became its own nonprofit in 2012. But in 2016, organizers decided they needed to take a break.

The rekindled Sitka Seafood Festival now is sponsored by the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust and the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. The proceeds from the festival will benefit the Young Fishermen’s Initiative, which helps young Alaskans get into the fishing industry with financing for permits and boats, deck hand apprenticeships, and policy programs.

“Central to the mission of the Sitka Seafood Festival (SSF), as well as the mission of Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, is the belief that Alaska needs a vibrant and sustainable fishing industry supporting economically empowered and self-sufficient Alaska communities,” said Willow Moore, ASFT’s executive director. “Also, no one knows good seafood (and where to find it) like Alaskans. The Sitka Seafood Festival celebrates the fishing culture and heritage that local economies (and plates and palates) depend on, and the unique ecosystems of Southeast Alaska that sustain our local fish and families as they grow.”

In addition to the two host organizations, there are several partner groups hosting activities, such as ArtChange Inc., the Sitka Maritime Heritage Society, Sitka Film Society, Sheldon Jackson Museum, Sitka Local Foods Network, the Sitka Kitch, and Sitka Tribe of Alaska.

The main festival day is Saturday, Aug. 12, when there are vendor and food booths plus a variety of fun and games events at Crescent Harbor Shelter. Knot-tying games open the event at 9 a.m., followed by kids games at 10 a.m., the vendor market from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., older kids games from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a dock walk from noon to 1 p.m., tote races at 1 p.m., and the wild fishermen’s triathlon (which includes fish tote races and other obstacles) at 3 p.m.

Other highlights from this year’s event schedule include a pre-festival screening of the movie “Jaws” on Aug. 6 at the Coliseum Theater; Sitka Tells Tales hosting “Wet Feet: Stories On, In, Under, or Of the Sea” on Aug. 10 at the Beak Restaurant; seafood trivia on Aug. 11 at the Mean Queen; a lecture by Iñupiaq mask carver Erin Katherine Gingrich on Aug. 12 at the Sheldon Jackson Museum; a screening of the film “The Salmon Forest” on Aug. 14 at the Mean Queen; a class on filleting salmon on Aug. 15 at the Sitka Kitch; a class on canning salmon on Aug. 16 at the Sitka Kitch; a film screening of an ocean and fisheries documentary TBA on Aug. 17 at the Coliseum Theater; a “Coming to America: Invasive Species, Ocean Rafting, and Japanese Tsunami Marine Debris” lecture on Aug. a8 at the Sitka Sound Science Center; a walk about the docks on Aug. 19; an ocean treasures family day Aug. 19 at the Japonski Island Boat House; and a fish skin sewing class taught by Joel Isaak from Aug. 22-30 at the Sheldon Jackson Museum.

Don’t forget the Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting a Sitka Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 12 at the ANB Founders Hall, and another one at the same time on Aug. 19. So make time to attend both events.

The 2017 Sitka Seafood Festival grand finale will come with the Young Fishermen’s Expo and Season’s End Banquet, taking place in early November at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

For more information about the Sitka Seafood Festival, go to http://www.sitkaseafoodfestival.com, or call 747-3400.

Sitka Kitch to offer two classes in conjunction with the Sitka Seafood Festival

Sitkans love their seafood, and the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen is offering two great classes in conjunction with the Sitka Seafood FestivalHow to Fillet a Salmon and How to Can Salmon.

In the first class, held from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 15, at the Sitka Kitch (505 Sawmill Creek Road, inside First Presbyterian Church), local chef Renée Jakaitis Trafton of the Beak Restaurant will teach students how to fillet a salmon. This includes lessons on how to remove the pinbones from the salmon and how to remove the skin. Participants must bring a fillet knife or let the instructor know they need one in advance. Knives can be made available for $15 for those who need them. This class costs $15.

In the second class, held from 5-9 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 16, at the Sitka Kitch, Jasmine Shaw of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service‘s Sitka District Office will teach students how to can the salmon (using the filleted salmon from Tuesday’s class). In addition, she will teach students how to make a simple berry jam while the class waits for the salmon to process in the canner. This class costs $27.50.

As a special deal, the Sitka Kitch has a $35 fee for students registering for both classes. The Sitka Seafood Festival is providing fish and jars for the classes, so there should be little or no food/supply fee.

The registration deadline is 6:55 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 14. Registration is capped at 10 students so sign up early to secure your space in these classes.

Register online at our EventSmart page, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com/ (click on class title, there is a separate class title to register for both classes and get the discount), using a debit or credit card or PayPal account. You also can call Chandler or Clarice at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange payment by cash or check. For more information about the two classes, contact Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440 or email sitkakitch@sitkawild.org.

Check out the July 2017 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the June 2017 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes brief items about the Sitka Farmers Market kicking off its 2017 season on Saturday (July 1), information about Fourth of July booths co-hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network and Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4, and details about a new working group about food security in Sitka and Alaska. Each story has links to our website for more information.

You can sign up for future editions of our newsletter by clicking on the newsletter image in the right column of our website and filling in the information. If you received a copy but didn’t want one, there is a link at the bottom of the newsletter so you can unsubscribe. Our intention is to get the word out about upcoming events and not to spam people. We will protect your privacy by not sharing our email list with others. Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Sitka Local Foods Network to host seven Sitka Farmers Markets in 2017 summer

The Sitka Local Foods Network is bringing the excitement back to the Sitka Farmers Market, which opens its 10th season of markets on Saturday. There will be some new innovations at the market, and some of the vendors who skipped last year’s markets are back this summer.

“Last year was a learning experience for us,” said Sitka Local Foods Network president Charles Bingham, who is assisting Sitka Farmers Market manager Nina Vizcarrondo. “We tried to make the market’s focus be more on local food and less on arts and crafts, but we didn’t have enough local food producers to make up for the lost craft vendors. We lost some of the community-gathering feel to the market with the lost vendors. This year we returned to our 2015 vendor rates, which is bringing back many of lost vendors. We want the market to be a community happening again. The market is a great way to connect with neighbors and support local entrepreneurs.”

Other new innovations this year include a kids vendor program for youth ages 12 and younger, and new Alaska Grown food products for sale at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand. In addition to freshly grown produce from the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, there will be Alaska Flour Company barley products from Delta Junction, Evie’s Brinery fermented foods from Anchorage, and Kahiltna Birchworks birch syrup products from Palmer. There still is a focus on local and Alaska food products, with the Alaska Grown products being a way to inspire Sitka food entrepreneurs to try making new food items locally. The more local products we have, the more the money circulates in Sitka’s economy.

“Come support our local farmers, artisans and musicians,” Vizcarrondo said. “By keeping our money local, we create a more sustainable economy.”

The first Sitka Farmers Market of the season takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 1, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). The other markets this summer take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 15, July 29, Aug. 12, Aug. 19, Sept. 2, and Sept. 9, at ANB Founders Hall.

The markets feature a variety of locally grown produce, seafood, cottage foods, a hot lunch, locally made arts and crafts, live music and fun. The Sitka Farmers Market was the first market in Southeast Alaska to accept Alaska Quest (SNAP) electronic benefits transfers (EBT) and WIC coupons. We have a matching program where SNAP and WIC clients can double up to $20 of their benefits in local produce.

“In recent years we’ve been proud to welcome Alaska Quest EBT and WIC shoppers at the market,” Bingham said. “It is so important to make sure local food is accessible to everyone.”

The April 2008 Sitka Health Summit planted the seeds for the Sitka Farmers Market, as Sitka residents chose starting a local foods market as one of their community wellness initiatives for the year. About the same time, St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church was looking for a way to put some recently cleared land behind the church’s See House into use for a community project. St. Peter’s offered to lease the land to the group that became the Sitka Local Foods Network for $1 a year, and in May 2008 a group of Sitka residents built raised garden beds and planted a variety of crops. Later that summer, there was enough produce grown at St. Peter’s to supply our first three Sitka Farmers Markets starting in August 2008.

There were five markets in 2009, followed by six markets each year from 2010-15 and now seven markets in 2016. Led by lead gardener Laura Schmidt, the production of local produce at St. Peter’s has grown each year, and there now are satellite gardens, such as the one on land owned by Pat Arvin. Most of the food grown at St. Peter’s and the satellite gardens is sold at the Sitka Farmers Market, but there has been enough for the Sitka Local Foods Network to also have a table when Chelan Produce is in town and to sell to local school lunch programs and restaurants. The money raised helps support the Sitka Local Foods Network, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, in its mission “to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans.”

To learn more about the Sitka Farmers Market and how you can become a vendor, contact Nina Vizcarrondo at (907) 738-9301 (new number) or sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. The Sitka Local Foods Network website, http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/, has more info on the markets and links to vendor rules and registration forms. The Sitka Local Foods Network receives sponsorship funding from the Alaska Comprehensive Cancer Partnership, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), and the Sitka True Value.