Monday, August 12, 2013

Salmon season: Smoked salmon

There are certain times of year that you see a surplus of a particular type of food.  Hay, grain, salmon -- they all have their seasons.
Smoked Sockeye Salmon:  Yum!

I particularly love smoked sockeye salmon, and I smoke 25lbs of it each year.  I'll carefully seal each piece of salmon in an airtight bag, and they'll come out over the next 12 months as smoked salmon pate, and linguine with Smoked Salmon, and just plain old delicious smoked salmon.    
The smoking process is pretty simple, here's the recipe for candy-smoked salmon:  
3 parts brown sugar
1 part salt
Ground chile pepper to taste; usually 1/2 part,
all ingredients by weight
Fresh sockeye salmon of the best quality you can obtain

You'll need about 1/2 cup of dry rub per pound of salmon

Mix the dry rub ingredients together in a bowl, set aside

Slice the salmon into strips about 3/4" wide.  I cut them into 6" pieces to make handling easier.  Leave the skin on; it contains delicious oil that make the salmon even better, and will help keep the pieces together.  
Uniform pieces are what you're after so that they smoke at the same rate.  
Lovely stuff.  Hot out of the smoker

In a clean, non-reactive bowl (stainless steel, glass, ceramic) put a layer of dry rub, and then a layer of fish, and then a layer of dry rub, making sure that all exposed salmon has a good coating.   Coat the top with the dry rub.  

Put a plate on top of the packed bowl of fish, and put a weight on it; a glass  jar of pickles works; you want a few pounds.  This will press the liquid out of the fish as it cures.  Make sure that your bowl has enough free space so that it won't overflow - put it on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator for 6 to 12 hours.  About halfway through, pull it out, and mix up the pieces to ensure even coating, and then return to the refrigerator.  

After brining, rinse each piece off to remove excess salt and sugar, and then lay out to dry.  You want it to dry to a slightly sticky texture;  couple of hours.  If you don't do this the smoke won't stick to the meat properly.   The salmon in the pictures above is air-drying just before being smoked.  
Smoked to perfection, ready for the freezer. 

Smoke at 150 degrees for 4-5 hours; check it about 2 hours in. You want to see the salmon brown and sweating a little bit as it smokes.    You'll want to play with the amount of smoke that you introduce to the fish, and the length of time for cooking.  Longer cooks mean a firmer, drier smoked salmon.  

 You can smoke  in a BBQ, or a dedicated smoker, or in a cardboard box if you wish.  I use this smoker and I've been happy with it, but I'm smoking all sorts of stuff over the course of a year; ribs, sausage, fish and the odd bit of cheese or vegetables.   I got it from a clearance rack at a local sporting goods store.  

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