smoked salmon

Nom nom nom.

I love smoked salmon. Living on the West Coast of Canada, you kinda have to. It’s pretty much a pre-requisite to living here.

Problem is, it’s expensive. Darn expensive.

Obvious solution? Make your own.

Pink Salmon are pretty much at the bottom of the salmon totem pole. Poor things. Their flesh is pale and mushy and to be honest, they kind of stink.

For these reasons, in season, they’re cheap as chips. We’re talking 6 to 7 dollars per good-sized fish.

Better yet, you can spend a lovely day on the water or at the river and catch some of your own.

Did I mention that they’re stinky? Also slimey.

Stacey with a fresh caught wild pink salmon

My first wild Pink Salmon in all it's stinky, slimey glory.

Anyway. I digress.

Curing Pink Salmon completely erases all it’s poor qualities, turning it into firm, delicious, wild salmony goodness.

Hot Smoked Salmon Recipe

Smoking salmon is easy-peasy.

Clean and gut your fish, or have your fish-monger do it for you. You will want two nice fillets with the skin and bones removed.

You will need a shallow tray large enough to hold all of your fish. You can do as much, or as little fish as you like. I’m greedy, so I did a lot.

smoked salmon

The first go round we sliced it into strips, but it’s not necessary at all. Totally up to you. Again, I’m greedy, so second time around I just left each side whole.

Next you’ll need some dark brown sugar and a bit of coarse sea salt.

This isn’t so much a recipe as a ratio. We used about four cups of sugar to about a half cup of salt. So, say about 8 to 1. Sugar and salt are both preservatives, so mess around with it. Find a ratio that works for you. Whatever you do, don’t believe the recipes that tell you to use sugar to salt on a one-to-one ratio. We tried it. Yech.

We were feeling like smarty pants and also added a few glugs of maple syrup and a couple shots of Spicebox Wiskey.

Lay your fish out in your pan (with high sides, you don’t want this overflowing in your fridge) and coat it in the sugar / syrup / salt / whiskey mixture. Put it in the fridge and forget about it for a day, two days, four days, whatever.

The salt and sugar draw the moisture out of the fish and it will get firmer and yummier the longer you leave it. 12 hours is enough, 4 days is plenty.

When you’re ready to smoke, pour off the resulting liquid, allow the fish to air dry until the surface is tacky and smoke away. Alder is the traditional wood used here on the coast, but you can use anything mild and sweet. Apple, cherry or maple would probably also be tasty.

This type of salmon is hot smoked. Keep your smoker between 180 and 220 degrees F. Don’t let it get hotter than this or you’ll dry out your fish. The fish is done when the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees. Be sure not to over-smoke or you’ll cover up the lovely flavour of your fish.

Fish prepared like this can be frozen in freezer bags. Just defrost them in the fridge when you’re ready to chow down.

To eat, you can flake it into salads, add it to scrambled eggs with dill, mash it into cream cheese to make a spread, toss it with pasta, or if you’re like me, just devour it on it’s own. It’s that good.

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