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Strange, "dirty" tasting salmon trout (Lachsforelle)

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The other day I picked up some salmon trout (which apparently might also be called river trout or steelhead trout?) from the farmer's market. I roasted it in the oven after basting with an orange-sage butter and stuffing with fennel trimmings.

Although the fish was well-rinsed and seasoned, the flesh had this strange sandy flavor. Almost as if it had been eating something nasty from the dregs of wherever it lived. It was a kind of dirty, mucky flavor, similar to that of poorly prepared mussels. I am not normally a picky eater, but there was no salvaging this fish.

Does anyone have any idea why it was so nasty? The fish was still fresh. Maybe this particular variety has an off flavor? Or it was farm-raised and tasted too much like its low-quality feed? We normally eat regular trout, which are about 1/3 smaller than the salmon trout, and have never had any problems. I have seen Chinese preparations for salmon trout that call for a lot of strong-flavored ingredients. Maybe it's naturally a stronger-flavored fish?

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  1. Fish (and salmonids in particular, in my experience) tend to taste a lot like whatever they've been eating. I'd guess that this particular fish was farmed, and kept in a pond that was muddy or dirty.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ricepad

      farmed fish all have that flavor to me. they eat an unnatural diet of corn or soy-based pellets, don't swim around all that much and even though the water if filtered, they dwell in their own waste. just yuk.

      i love real rainbow trout, but that steelhead junk tastes more like farmed salmon to me. also yuk.

      1. re: hotoynoodle

        I completely agree with you!!! I thought for awhile it was just me or my imagination that strangely is connected to my taste buds. Farm raised salmon tastes muddy to me too.
        Real trout or trout that is in a snow fed stream no matter how shallow the little stream is, is just plain wonderful.

        Before I had the experience of eating fresh stream trout, as a kid my Dad and Mom would take me, my brother and sister to catch trout at a farm in Oregon. It was a place for familes with kids that were learning to fish, and the trout in that pond tasted pretty much like the salmon being sold as farm raised now. Catch and release.
        So when my husband and I were lucky enough to go with my parents to the Pecos Mountains to fly fish in New Mexico, my Dad didn't have to talk too fast to get me to eat the trout he was catching. We cleaned and ate them right away. That's a great food memory and changed the way I feel about eating trout.

        I don't think I've eaten steelhead unless it's the very red salmon,and yes that's yuk,

    2. The compound responsible for that muddy flavor is called 'geosmin'.

      "Earthy-musty taints have been reported in edible fish around the world. While this has no adverse health effects on either the consumer or the fish, it does have a profound effect on consumer acceptance and marketability. Earthy-musty taints have been reported in farmed rainbow trout in the UK but little was known about the source of the problem. In this study it was found that geosmin (GSM) was the main compound associated with the seasonal occurrence of earthy taints in UK farmed trout."

      If you do a search on geosmin and farmed fish, you'll get a lot of hits. Here's a link to a wiki entry about it:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geosmin

      The bottom line seems to be that geosim is a naturally occurring compound, especially at certain times of the year, and it affects the taste of fish who ingest it. The fish can be 'purged' by being held in cleaner water for a while. But how can you know if the fish are clean or geosmin-ed? I don't know any way to tell in advance. I simply avoid tilapia and trout, having had bad experiences with both of those. I've been lucky so far with catfish. Maybe the vendor I buy it from has a particularly careful source. Or maybe I've just been lucky.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Karen_Schaffer

        Thanks so much to everyone for your answers. I did some googling and reached the same conclusion you all did...yuck. I have one of these salmon trout left in the freezer (we bought them fresh, but two was too much food). I am going try to take it back and argue my case with the fishmonger. In German. FML.

        1. re: ChristinaMason

          If your fishmonger won't take it back, steam it Chinese-style with some salted black beans. The strong flavors of the beans will help mask the muddiness.

        2. re: Karen_Schaffer

          Cooks Illustrated had a tip about soaking the fish in a slightly acidulated liquid to get rid of the muddy flavor of geosmin. Buttermilk works particularly well, although depending on the preparation, it might not be the ideal acidulated liquid for steelhead trout. Maybe soaking it in some lemon water would help.

          Catfish and Tilapia are notorious for having that muddy flavor that comes from geosmin

        3. farm raised fish have a different fat content and distribution than wild, same goes for all animals and what they eat also affects their fat and protein structure.

          In Salmon, there's a greyish colored tissue right down the middle of the fillet, that's the fat; trout would have one to, just harder to see, try cutting it out.

          1. Could be something else. I love all fish, salmon, trout - everything - but once someone gave me a salmon they caught in NY on the Salmon river. It was disgusting, grey and I couldn't eat it -I've never turned down fresh fish. I've been told it's because they are about to die, they are on their last run and not good to eat! Does this make sense? Why does everyone keep them, I wonder?

            1 Reply
            1. re: lexpatti

              the flesh was grey? i would not have touched it with a 10 foot chopstick.

            2. Where I come from (England), salmon trout is usually called sea trout, and is a different fish to river trout.