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5 Ways We Save On Waste

Improving sustainability and reducing food waste should be a goal of any restaurant (or deli), and with the proper planning and creative thinking, isn’t terribly difficult to accomplish.

In your home kitchen, you’ve surely found that certain undesirable or inedible parts of food—carcasses, stems, papery vegetable skins, et cetera—make some of the best broths and stocks, and the burnt bits clinging to the pan are the basis of the most flavorful sauces. And of course organic material properly handled eventually yields nutrient-rich soil. One can extrapolate this philosophy to many areas of food production and life in general.

We need to move away from the idea that the unaesthetic, or not immediately necessary, parts of food are bad, or “waste,” or in some capacity destined for the trash. Today, let’s look at the ways we at NWS make the most of our food production. We’re not a perfect example of sustainability and optimization in food production, but we’re always looking for ways to innovate and improve.

Crostini/Croutons.

Bread—it’s gotta be fresh, right? For a sandwich, we wholeheartedly agree with you. That’s why we methodically cycle through frozen loaves of our haus-baked Pullman rye and white bread loaves, and bake off hero rolls and haus-baked ciabattas steadily throughout the day.

But sometimes there’s a slow few days, or too many heroes and ciabattas for a slow evening. Sometimes the closers like to bring a few rolls home, but relying on that just isn’t sufficient.

The solution was simple—throw them into freezer-ready bags, and let them dry out in the deep freeze. The moisture-sapped bread, though somewhat tedious to cut through, is primed for making crostini and croutons. 

Cut them to the appropriate size and shape, spread them out in a single layer on a sheet pan, dress them with olive oil, garlic powder, coarse salt, and dry thyme. Bake at 350°F for 10-15 minutes (know thine oven!) rotating the pan once at the halfway mark. Guess what: You’ve got crostini (or croutons!)

Smoked Salmon Pâté.

We could make our smoked salmon pâté exclusively with whole pieces of smoked salmon. That would be fine—in fact, it would be good. It would also mean we’d need to order and process twice as much fish.

Somewhere along the line we found an elegant solution to this problem. We prep Cajun, Traditional, and Black Pepper & Coriander smoked salmon daily for our sandwich line. Only the finest slices of that smoked salmon end up in sandwich portions.

(An adjacent category is the salmon that, during the kippering process, just becomes overwhelmingly moist and practically falls off the skin. This salmon is great for eating, but doesn’t look as nice as a gift, or on a platter, or as we’re placing it on the scale to weigh it.)

This is more for ease of use on our end of things than it is for the customers receiving the sandwiches. It all tastes roughly the same, and some would even argue that the seasoned belly-fat scraps taste a little bit better. 

That’s why they end up in the pâté. The “scraps” of “waste” from prep are oily and have a steeper ratio of seasoning to meat, and most importantly, they’re not going in the garbage. Additionally, we have the flexibility of making smoked salmon pâté on a daily basis (if need be) without needing to take salmon out of our fish case.

By the way, our debut cookbook, which is currently in development, will feature a recipe for making NWS Smoked Salmon Pâté from a single chunk of Traditional Smoked Atlantic Salmon, so you can take matters into your own hands!

Snack Stick Ends.

The main problem with selling our non-fish snack sticks (Bison Buddies, Big Jims, and Royales With Cheese) by unit price ($3/per, $2/per, and $2/per respectively) is the need to make those units a consistent side. This means we cut about 1/2” off of each stick. These ends get vacuum sealed and tossed in the deep freeze. To combat this mountain of cured meat nubs, we’ve implemented a handful of plans. 

1.) When we have cheese curds, we package cheese curds and meat nubs and sell them out of the Grab & Go case. 

2.) Sometimes we just package meat nubs with each other and sell them out of the Grab & Go case. 

3.) Frequently, Patricia will have an awesome pasty idea that utilizes some of the meat nubs, and I bet you can guess where we sell them.

4.) And, of course, they make great fodder for sample platters in the deli. 

Dip Sauce.

The zesty three-pepper sauce we serve alongside our Big Dipper sandwich is not only delicious—it is also very clever. Preservative liquids may not make the tastiest beverages, but they’re basically water, salt (sometimes sugar), vinegar, and seasonings, so they can easily be repurposed. 

Our Royale With Cheese snack sticks include pickle juice in the recipe to emulate the pickle slices on a bacon-cheeseburger. The dip sauce contains a sacred/secret ratio of the following—liquid from the roasted red pepper can, liquid from the pepperoncini (pickled sweet yellow peppers) tub, and a healthy dose of sriracha.

Sure, it’s easy enough to just dump such things down the drain, but next time you’re thinking about dumping your kimchi juice, or pickle juice, or what have you, down the drain—think again. There’s seasoning potential with which to experiment.

Fish Skin Dog Treats.

The skin of your smoked fish is not garbage. We used to compost them, but recently we’ve had a change of heart. Pets love fish skins—certain mushers in the area have even come to us asking for fish skins to feed their sled dogs.

However, keeping those skins around in our cooler is poor management of space. Again, the solution is simple: Bake them. You can do this quite easily with your own leftover fish skins.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Scrape the excess fat and meat off of the fish skins and place them on a baking sheet in a single layer, scale side up. Bake them for 10 minutes, rotating the pan at the halfway point.

After they cool, you’ve got some shelf-stable snacks for your pets. They break into smaller, bite-sized pieces easily, and animals love them.

If your animals have plenty of treats, or if you’re living in an animal-free zone and still want to make the most of your fish skins, just salt them (with coarse sea salt) right out of the oven, while they’re still hot. Now, instead of animal treats, you’ve got a nice little salty snack, or salad topping, or whatever you might want to do with a crispy, salty fish skin.


How do you save on waste in your kitchen? We’d love to know. Leave some love in the comments.

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Patricia’s Baked Goods

It’s in our motto—we’re always smoking something—but we’re not just a one-trick pony, and lately, it seems like something is always getting baked.

We have several bakers on staff—which I wouldn’t have been able to say a year ago*—but today we’re showcasing one of our recent hires, Patricia. If you’ve been reading the 5 Things™ blog the past few weeks, there have been several mentions of her work at the Smokehaus. It’s making waves.

Carrot cake cream cheese cookies, peanut butter curry cookies, triple ginger cookies. Ugh.

Patricia has been baking off-and-on for the last fifteen years. At nineteen, she attended a six-month intensive baking course at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts in Vancouver, British Columbia, which she described as, “pretty old-school. A lot of old French men yelling at me.” Eventually, she and her brother opened Elfvin’s Bakery, a wholesale bakery in Grand Marais, which they owned and operated for three years before selling it to new owners who rebranded it as the Gunflint Baking Company.

Stack these decadent cookie sandwiches high.

After a move to Duluth and several years of living it up on our end of the North Shore, she arrived at our deli, and immediately brightened it up with her easygoing and upbeat personality—and her baked goods.

Triple- (sometimes quadruple-) ginger cookies.

In addition to cookies, she’s also been heating things up with a variety of savory pastries, including scones using the end-pieces (see: repurposed “waste,” a very exciting for our sustainability-oriented hearts and minds) of the snack sticks that we have begun cutting to exact sizes—Smoked Salmon Buddy & Scallion Cream Cheese Scones and Royale With Cheese Scones, by way of example—and rotating meat & cheese combo puff pastries. At press time, she is plotting Pastrami, Swiss & Red Onion Pastries for tomorrow. Croissants, she informed me, are coming soon, as well as crackers. The anticipation is real.

Sweet peanut butter cookies with a complex chord of curry.

Patricia is brimming with ideas of new pastries and sweet treats to debut in the shop, and we’re grateful for it. As her coworkers, we are the first line of defense in testing these treats for proverbial “poison.” It’s not much, but it’s honest (and delicious) work.

The savory pastries make for a quick and easy light lunch. Non-sandwiched cookies are also an option with your Box Lunch. Enjoy a few more photos of her work. Perhaps stop in and enjoy a few examples of her work in-person.

Scones by Patricia, Cheddar Chive Chorizo Biscuits by Jerry.
This one looks like a map. I like that.
Helpful diagram.

*My baker comment might be taken as fighting words amongst our talented staff. Surely, we have many talented bakers among our coworkers, but only recently have we utilized their talents in a large-scale commercial sense.

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A New Bearing: Smokehaus Smoked Atlantic Salmon and True North

a piece of smoked Atlanitc salmon cut into slices on a wooden board

By Fiona O’Halloran-Johnson, NWSH Sustainability Chief and smoked Atlantic Salmon lover

Here at the Smokehaus we go through a lot of fish, specifically smoked Atlantic salmon. It goes on our sandwiches both at the deli and the restaurant, on catering platters, it’s shipped straight to your door, or goes home in your bag on your way out of Duluth.

For many years we have been committed to providing you with delicious smoked fish and smoked meats, while adhering to sustainable practices throughout the business – from composting to bike delivery. We have been working on creating programs to decrease our overall waste and impact here at home, but that’s not enough. We have a responsibility to know about our meat and fish, not just the process of how we make it so tasty, but where it comes from.

We are one of the largest buyers of Atlantic salmon in the United States. Yes, our humble little shop buys more Atlantic salmon than restaurants in New York, or huge resorts in California. With this, we have felt a responsibility to look for a sustainable source of salmon that could keep up with our high demands. Prior to the switch, we have been getting Atlantic salmon off the coast of Chile.  While there were many positive attributes to this salmon, simply the length of travel was enough for us to realize we needed a more sustainable source.

We began to look for an option closer to home, but we were not willing to compromise our commitment to sustainable aquatic farming. There is so much that can go wrong when farming fish, from assuring water is not permanently polluted, to making sure the fish are not carrying disease, such as sea lice, that can be transferred to the native populations of aquatic life. We also wanted product that was not full of chemicals, dyes and hormones. We had set our standards pretty high.

And then we found True North.

We are thrilled to announce that we are now selling  Smoked Atlantic Salmon made from True North Salmon Company, a family owned company based out of New Brunswick, Canada. This is exciting for us because we have been concerned about our environmental impact on aquatic life for some time now.   

True North is certified to the Best Aquaculture Practices and the British Retail Consortium Global Standard for Food Safety.

True North is the quintessential sustainable fish farm.

True North uses ocean pens, but rotates crops regularly and uses a fallowing system to ensure that the water and ocean floor rest in between crops. They also stock their salmon in pens at a rate of less than 2% percent of the volume of the pen, which means these salmon have plenty of room to swim around freely and develop healthy muscle tissues naturally.  Their fish also grow on a natural cycle, with no growth hormones, taking two years for the fish to make it to market.

True North is committed to finding fish food that is made sustainably. They use fish meal and oil that are byproducts of fish that is harvested for human consumption, maintaining equilibrium in the local aquatic life. True North has decreased its carbon footprint by using fuel-efficient trucks, and driving a little slower to reduce their carbon emissions when transporting their fish. With their commitment to preserving fresh water they also have a water recycling and filtration system at their freshwater hatcheries. They have also invested in shipping boxes that are made from 100% recycled material.

We are excited about our new Atlantic salmon provider, and we’re excited about taking another big step towards consuming smoked Atlantic  salmon responsibly so we can keep making all your delicious snacks for years to come.

For more information, please peruse:

True North Atlantic Salmon

BAP