Fresh, 'local' salmon? In Minnesota? Twin Cities-based Surrender Salmon has it

Live in Hennepin, Minnesota, or Ramsey County? You can get this smoked sockeye shipped straight to ya.

Live in Hennepin, Minnesota, or Ramsey County? You can get this smoked sockeye shipped straight to ya. Laura Rae Photography

When we think about sustainable food, the usual buzzwords are "fresh" and "local" -- tomatoes at the farmers market, strawberries from the u-pick farm, apples from a nearby orchard.

Salmon is definitely not the first thing that springs to mind in landlocked Minnesota. But fisherman-owned, Twin Cities-based Surrender Salmon wants to change that perception, arguing that their flash-frozen Bristol Bay sockeye salmon is not only a sustainable choice, but also one of the tastiest seafood options on the market.

“I say this all the time, and I stand behind it 100 percent,” says Surrender Salmon founder Grant Niver. “This is the best salmon on planet Earth.”

Surrender Salmon is a family affair; the company name comes from the Fishing Vessel Surrender, which is owned and captained by Grant’s father, Mark Niver, and crewed by Grant and his brothers Blake and Bryce Niver. Each summer, the F/V Surrender plies the waters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay, the largest commercial wild salmon fishery in the world.

A portion of the F/V Surrender’s catch is shipped to the Twin Cities, where Grant lives and works for the majority of the year. He says his inspiration came from the mediocre seafood available in local grocery stores -- Grant realized there was a market for high-quality, direct-from-the-fisherman sockeye salmon.

“People want to know where their food is coming from,” he says. “That makes our business possible.” He emphasizes that Surrender Salmon provides consumers with a connection to the fishermen who caught their meal, and that’s not something he takes lightly. “When I’m on the boat, I know each fish is going to make it to someone’s dinner table … it’s not a random fish, it feeds a family.”

Grant explains that two things set Surrender's sockeye apart from the competition. First, they bleed the fish -- maybe not a process that’s pleasant to think about, but an important step that preserves the meat and prevents the overly fishy taste some people complain about in salmon. Next, the fish is refrigerated until it can be flash-frozen at negative 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which locks in the texture. The result? A product consumers can keep in their freezers for up to a year, and one that, according to Grant, tastes just as fresh as the fresh-caught salmon he and his family eat on the boat.

In addition to its distinctively clean, consistent flavor, Grant notes that Surrender Salmon’s Bristol Bay sockeye is one of the most sustainable seafood items consumers can buy. Thanks to the management efforts of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, record numbers of salmon have been returning to Bristol Bay from the open ocean in recent years -- an indication of the fishery’s continuing health. During the salmon run, the department’s careful monitoring ensures that enough fish make it upriver to spawn the next generation of sockeye.

Surrender Salmon is available for purchase at all three Mississippi Market Co-op locations, and starting April 29, they’ll be at the Minneapolis Farmers Market Annex on Saturdays and Sundays. In addition, Sprout Salad Company and meal-kit subscription service Local Crate feature Surrender Salmon on their menus. Residents of Hennepin and Ramsey Counties can even order salmon through Surrender Salmon’s website and have it delivered directly to their doors.

“[Our] goal is to be the go-to salmon source for Minnesota,” says Grant. “Tasting is believing … People notice the difference and keep coming back.”