Mr. Bunkycooks has Gone Fishin’ at the Sunburst Trout Farm in Canton, North Carolina!
The temperatures in the water at Sunburst range from 50’s to 60’s in the Winter and can be in the 60’s in the Summer. One interesting fact is that a water temperature of 73 degrees is lethal for trout. We never knew that and obviously, that is a concern with this incredibly hot Summer. Sally did say that a good rain will quickly cool down the temperatures of the water, so thank goodness for those afternoon showers that we have here in the South!
We also wanted to know why their trout is such a pretty reddish/pink color. Most of the trout I have had has a
really gross rather unappealing grayish cast. Sunburst Trout is Rainbow Trout, not a hybrid (which might explain the pinkish flesh). The pinkish tint for the Sunburst trout is actually created by a naturally occurring carotenoid called astaxanthin. This is a powerful antioxidant that comes from Phaffia yeast and microalgae (and I bet you didn’t know any of that and nor did I prior to our visit!). It is added to the special feed that Sunburst has created for their trout.
The amazing thing to me is how quickly the harvest process is (one hour). They harvest about 2,000 pounds of trout per day four days a week. We were able to follow the entire process from taking the trout out of the raceways to seeing (and getting to take home!) the final fillets. (I will however, skip some of those photos with all the details!) The average size of a harvested trout ranges between 2 to 3 1/2 pounds.
In addition to selling to many local chefs and businesses, Sunburst ships some of their trout to chefs all over the country (as far away as California). Sally said that some chefs insist on 6 to 7 ounce fillets and others want 7 to 9 ounces (we all know how fussy chefs can be!). A few even want them with pin bones in! (You can take mine out before sending me home with the fish!) The larger fish are also used for their cold smoked trout (that is Mr. Bunkycooks favorite!). This cold smoked process is a revival of a centuries old Scottish tradition of smoked rainbow trout. Wow! If it’s been around that long…no wonder it’s so good!!
When I asked Sally about the shelf life of the trout, she said that because it is harvested so quickly (we saw it with our own eyes!) and the fish will be in coolers at 36 degrees within an hour of harvesting, their trout will hold for 12 days! She said that this is not true for every species of fish and varies depending on how clean the water is where the fish originates. Obviously, their water must be really clean!
In addition to the fast processing, Sally said their water source is another reason for the long shelf life. Their water has a very acidic base because of the forest and the hardwoods and this makes a difference in how long the fish will stay fresh. Here is a nifty tip. If you ever need to freeze fresh fish, be sure to add a little bit of milk to the freezer bag. Calcium will help preserve the tissue of the fish better.
I must say that this visit was truly a pleasure. The Eason family works side by side in this business doing everything from harvesting the trout to picking out those nasty old pin bones! We have even seen Steve Eason (Sally’s hubby) delivering their yummy trout dip to local stores.
This is yet another wonderful farm here in Western North Carolina that is producing and supplying local and sustainable food. Sunburst is certified by ASAP (Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project). Thank you to all the Easons that I met that day (and see around town periodically!). We know that we were were
running around with cameras in your faces a little bit in the way while you were in the harvesting process, so we appreciate you allowing us to do that.