Saturday, August 30, 2014

Alder Smoked Sockeye Salmon

(about 3 lbs)

I've wanted to try smoking salmon the moment my mum mentioned she had a smoker in her garage. I finally got around to it this week. This was my first attempt at smoking anything and boy was I ever thrilled with the results! The salmon was amazing! I'm having a hard time keeping out of it. It's like having a box of chocolates in the house.

This recipe came together after I looked at several sources both online and at the local library, as well as tidbits gleaned here and there from chatting with people in and around Sequim. I used alder chips because that appears to be the preferred wood for smoking salmon here on the Olympic Peninsula.

I used less salt than some of the recipes suggested because I was fearful my salmon would turn out too salty, especially if it sat in a brine for close to a day. That length of time appealed to me, although I can't really rationalize that sentiment. In any case, the amount of salt I did use appears to have been plenty. Despite the 17 hours or so the salmon soaked in the brine, the finished fish turned out fine.

3 cups water (1 cup hot, 2 cups cold)
1/4 cup kosher or non-iodized salt
1/2 cup sucanat or brown sugar
2 tsp crushed black peppercorns

Combine the salt with one cup of hot water (in a non-reactive bowl or dish large enough to hold the brine as well as the salmon) and stir until the salt has dissolved. Add the sucanat and stir until that has dissolved. Stir in the crushed peppercorns. Set aside until the mixture has cooled down.

Add the remaining two cups of cold water to the brine.

3 1/2 lbs fresh wild caught sockeye salmon fillets, skin left on

Rinse the salmon in cold water and cut into large pieces. I had two large fillets. I cut each into 3 pieces, each piece about 5-6 inches in length.

Place the salmon into the brine skin side down making sure it's submerged in the liquid. (Skin side down makes it easier to remove the pieces the next day). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Use a small plate to weigh down the fish if necessary.

Allow the fish to soak for about 15 - 24 hours. The longer the fish is in the brine, the saltier it will become. I soaked mine for about 17 1/2 hours which seemed just about right for me.

coarsely cracked black pepper (optional)

Remove the fish and pat dry. Sprinkle with freshly cracked black pepper, if desired. Arrange on a rack, skin side down (I used the rack from the smoker) and let it dry for about 3-4  hours in a cool place. Ideally this should happen underneath a fan or in a breezy location. My mum's back deck was perfect for this; cool and windy. The surface of the salmon will become smooth and shiny. This is called the pellicle. Once the pellicle has formed, you can store your salmon in the refrigerator for a few hours if you plan on delaying the smoking for a bit.

alder wood chips soaked in water for about 30-45 minutes (amount of chips determined by the smoker you are using)

Remove the fish from the rack. Clean the rack and lightly oil it. Place the salmon on the oiled rack, skin side down, not touching.

Prepare your smoker.

The smoker I'm using has a thermostat which I set to roughly about **100°F. I smoked the fish for about 1 hour at this temperature before brushing it with the glaze I made, below.

fresh lime juice
fresh lime zest

Combine the honey with the lime juice until you have a glaze thin enough to brush. The amount of juice will depend on how thick/stiff your honey is. Stir in the zest and brush some of this mixture over the salmon. (Brush the salmon with the glaze every hour or so). After the glaze was applied I smoked the fish for another 1 1/2 hours at around 100°F.

Then I increased the temperature to about 150°F and smoked the salmon for about 3 hours (for half this time I left the vent on the hood of the smoker open and then closed it for the remaining time). All together the salmon was in the smoker for about ***5-6 hours. The internal temperature of the fish should reach about 130°F to 140°F when it's done.

The thicker pieces turned out perfect and the thinner pieces were a bit on the dry side, although they weren't any dryer than the hot smoked salmon I've picked up at the market. I didn't have an instant read thermometer which might have helped determine how much time the salmon needed to remain in the smoker.

** Several people mentioned it's best to begin with a low temperature and increase that slightly over time. The reason for this is that if the temperature is too high, especially at the beginning, the salmon will "bleed" a large amount of a white substance which means the fish will likely be dryer than it should be. A small amount of this stuff is normal.

***This time will vary depending on the thickness of your salmon and the temperature and type of smoker.

I'm told the smoked salmon will keep for about a week or so, well wrapped in the refrigerator. I also froze several pieces.


Sippity Sup said...

I've been thinking about trying my hand at this too. You results are so inspiring. I got the bug after eating at The Willows Inn on Lummi Island recently. It's up by you, have you been? GREG

Gerlinde in Washington said...

Greg, I haven't been up that way yet. If I do, I'll definitely check out The Willows Inn.

Carole said...

Hi Gerlinde just stopped by to let you know you've been featured today over at Carole's Chatter. Cheers

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