Wilderness Food: Forager’s Fish Soup

We had a great trip to the BWCA last week. My main goal was to catch and eat fish, and the first one (my wife’s first lake trout) fit the bill perfectly. I had tentatively planned stops at other lakes to fish for brook trout and splake, but the weather forced us to make choices that prevented it. Total time spent fishing was not what I’d hoped, but that’s why we don’t count our successes until afterwards. Persisting through the rain was a triumph in its own right, and fish soup was our reward. Therefore, I considered our time on Crystal Lake a resounding success with a lunch of lake trout soup and supper of fried walleye.

This recipe is by no means revolutionary. But its successful execution is confirmation that: a) we don’t have to bring a ton of food items to eat well on a canoe trip, and b) we don’t have to eat freeze-dried meals or fried fish all the time. Believe me, fried fish is great, and so are the add-hot-water options (especially in the rain). But making a soup with fresh fish is a great way to mix it up, especially on a cloudy windy day with occasional drizzle, as we had. (I was also glad to have the opportunity to use my new X-Pot, and give it a real-world test.) 

The ingredients to get started are minimal and can be flexible, and don’t take up much room or add much weight. The only ingredient that was dedicated for soup-making was the bouillon cubes. I brought some dried morel mushrooms I still had, but would have skipped those if I had found any aspen oysters in the woods, as I thought was likely. Other mushrooms would also be available later in the season, of course, like chanterelles, boletes, and maitake. And you could buy dried ones at the grocery store anytime. If mushrooms were fresh, I’d prefer to sauté them lightly in butter with the onions. The Old Bay would also have been good on fried fish or trout roasted over the fire; any similar seasoning would also be just fine. I also thought fiddlehead ferns would be a nice addition if I found some, but I didn’t once spot any on this trip. I look forward to trying this with other fish, including panfish, walleye, even bass or bullheads. The recipe could also be shrunk or expanded, depending on your needs. Really, any way you want to tweak it would be good if you start with the following:


•6 cups of water

•1 Cubed-up lake trout (could be any fresh fish)

•Half an onion, diced

•Oil (or butter) for frying the onions

•Chicken bouillon cubes

•Handful of dried mushrooms, broken up

•Old Bay seasoning

•Salt and Pepper

Fry the onions in some oil. When they’re reaching carmelization, add the water and the mushrooms. Let it barely come to a simmer and turn off the heat to let the mushrooms rehydrate and saturate the water with their flavor. After 15 minutes or more, turn the heat on and bring the pot back to a simmer, adding a couple cubes of chicken flavor. Add seasoning and S&P to your taste, and more bouillon if needed. Simmer this while you fillet and cube the fish. Drop the fish in and watch it turn opaque white; it should only take a couple minutes. You may heat it all further, but ours was plenty hot at this point. 

This was a super way to eat lake trout. Its flavor, which is not so different from salmon, was well-suited for this dish and permeated the broth. I drank every last drop from the pot. I had toyed with the idea of bringing some of those little half-and-half coffee creamers that don’t require refrigeration, to give the soup a richer creamier quality. But I couldn’t find a viable container to keep them from being crushed, so they stayed home. Maybe next time. 



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