Monday, September 13, 2010

Candy smoking salmon

Right now it's salmon season in the NW, and many of the local fisherman are selling fresh-caught salmon right off their boats; usually for $2.50-$3/lb, either whole (head on, guts in) or head-and-gutted (heads off, guts out).  I usually buy my yearly salmon around now, and then can some of it, freeze some of it, and then smoke some of it.
Click on the picture for a larger version.

When I smoke salmon I'm usually after something that I can't get locally for any price I'm happy with:  Candy smoked salmon.  I think that fresh king salmon smokes into the best stuff on earth.  Here's the recipe: 

Brine: 
1 lb brown sugar
1 cup pickling salt (regular salt has additives to prevent clumping, don't use)
1 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons dark molasses
1/2 gallon water

Brush mix:
 3/4 cup honey,
 1/4 cup water

This will make enough brine for 2 10-pound salmon, filleted and cut into 1" strips.  I use 1 gallon ziploc bags, and pour half the brine into two bags after I've filled them with salmon.  Let the salmon soak for 12-24 hours, refrigerated. 

After soaking, put the salmon onto a rack and allow to dry to a tacky consistency, unrefrigerated.  Usually an hour or two.  You want the salmon to be moist to the touch but not wet.  The picture below shows the salmon right after being taken out of the brine mix.  if you don't let the strips dry your smoke will not stick to the meat and you won't get the good smoked flavor you want. 

Brined salmon drying on a rack

I use a big chief smoker; mine is a top loading model, and it holds about 20lbs of strips at a time.  I feed it with green alder chips that I get from tree service companies.  You can use any wood you choose, alder is a traditional wood in the NW but apple, pear, cherry and other woods also provide a nice flavor.

My alder chip supply for smoking, in a 30 gallon garbage can. 

With big strips like I use, smoking time is between 6 and 10 hours.  About halfway through, when the strips are partially smoked, I brush with 3/4 cup honey and 1/4 water, and then return to the smoker until they're at the right texture.  I'm looking for something similar in texture to soft leather.  I don't want to make jerky, but I do want there to be some drying. 

Notice that there's a piece that is a little white looking, at the left center of the photo.  That's a piece of the salmon belly -- a very fatty piece of the fish.  I think that it makes a really tasty smoked tidbit and that's actually my favorite part to eat.  Oily and sweet and delicious. 

This year I smoked 60lbs of silver salmon and 40lbs of king salmon.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where do I go to get salmon right off the boat? Someplace in Everett? I had no idea this was possible in Seattle.

Bruce King said...

Most of what I buy shows up in bellingham, 90 minutes north of seattle, but occasionally fishermen bring their catch to seattle.

Here's a search for bellingham:
http://bellingham.craigslist.org/search/?areaID=217&subAreaID=&query=salmon+fresh&catAbb=sss

here's a search for Seattle:
http://seattle.craigslist.org/search/?areaID=2&subAreaID=&query=salmon+fresh&catAbb=sss

the market is seasonal; right now $2-3/lb is typical for in-the-round fish sales of both silvers and kings. After you clean and fillet them it works out to around $5/lb fillets, which compares favorably with $8-12/lb in the store or market.

Enjoy!

John Schneider - Gold Forest Grains said...

Just wanted to comment that you cant use any wood you like...DO NOT USE PINE or SPRUCE! learned from experience many years ago. LOL You can use any hard wood and certainly any fruit wood. The conifers make a horrible smoke with all their tar and other contaminants. Alder is a great smoke and is what I was taught to use.

John Schneider - Gold Forest Grains said...

Cant wait to try your candied brine! Has my mouth watering looking at the pics. Great post Bruce!

weliveintheforest said...

How do you store it after smoking?

DefunctProduct said...

Hey Mr. King. I purchase home smoked and fresh caught salmon courtesy of a local family fishery in my town and their sons also do King Candy around the same size strips you make at home, but there is no nutritional info included and the ingredients only list salt brine and kippered smoke. Can this be done without any sugar honey or molasses? I love this healthy food but the candied smoked is a special treat and I don't want to gobble up too much of this particular kind at once. Perhaps you can tell me from your recipe, about how much of the ingredients are in each serving? So for 8oz of the king candy there is this much honey and sugar etc on each piece? Also, if you think the ingredients on my king candy are not all listed for some reason? I would ask the family, but they went fishing to Alaska this month and I missed the opportunity. I would very much appreciate discussing your thoughts about this! Thank you!

Oregon Native said...

Trying this recipe!!! I have large amount of salmon brining as im typing....

I mixed the ingrediants and let it sit tell salt was desolved mixed welll, i didnt put into gallon bags i put into 5 gallon bucket and will be able to mix/ stir salmon from time to time... Really hoping this recipe is good!

Oregon Native said...

Trying this recipe!!! I have large amount of salmon brining as im typing....

I mixed the ingrediants and let it sit tell salt was desolved mixed welll, i didnt put into gallon bags i put into 5 gallon bucket and will be able to mix/ stir salmon from time to time... Really hoping this recipe is good!