As I’ve mentioned, I always hated fish and seafood. Never ate it growing up – ugh. But a couple years ago, I wanted to like it, as I was pretty sure it was just a screwed up mental block of some sort… So I began with halibut – and I liked it! Ate it maybe like, 3 times in a year… Which was a lot for me. And then I go and get this MS diagnosis, where the only meat acceptable to eat is fish. And the fish is good for me – with the anti-inflammatory omega-3’s, I knew I needed to get over my dislike stat and start expanding.
Most white fish are now edible to me, though halibut is still my favorite. 🙂 What I *really* want to like is salmon and shrimp, though. Shrimp has always given me a gag response, but salmon was just an “eww” response, so that may be change-able. There’s this cedar planked salmon recipe M makes – I had a few bites without the negative response! Then Whole Foods gives out tasters of their smoked salmon… I started liking that (holy. crap. right?!). So the past couple months, we’d buy some smoked salmon (the salmon candy and a couple others – tequila lime and jerk seasoned) and I’d eat them as snacks. Just a couple bites here and there, but it grew on me! Holy schnikes, I like salmon now.
Proof that tastes do change – you just gotta get over any mental blocks first! At times, I still have to tell myself not to focus on the fact that it’s fish – just focus on the flavor. That helps. I’m sure in time it’ll be like when I ate chicken or a pork chop – but you gotta start somewhere!
Anyhoo, smoked salmon ain’t cheap. And what we bought, though good, was not delicious. There has to be a way to do this ourselves… We used to smoke up the most delicious brisket, ribs, pork butt, etc., so we could smoke salmon, too! Why not?
Reading up on it, it’s a bit more complicated than a rack of ribs. It takes about 4 days – 1 to brine, 1 to dry, 1 to smoke, and 1 to chill. If you can do things in the middle of the day, you can cut it down to 3 days, and if you don’t sleep, 2! Ours took 3 days (we like sleep).
The two types we made were a salmon candy (with maple) and a “regular” salmon, with just a basic brine. We used alder wood to smoke – you want a milder wood, and alder is perfect for this. And of course, we used the BGE (big green egg) with the bbq guru to hold the temp steady at 180 degrees (low and slow).
For both, we cut the salmon into strips about 1-1.5″ wide, and about 4-6″ long. We used wild caught salmon. A lot of what we read said to use farmed salmon, as it’s fattier, but I just can’t get behind farmed salmon and all the negative stuff around it, so I have to do some research to see if there’s a type/location of OK farmed salmon that doesn’t destroy the Earth, but until then, we’re going with the more expensive wild caught salmon.
Brine the salmon pieces for 18-24 hours. We put them in a large zippy to do this. Then, remove from the brine and place on a large cookie sheet and put it in the fridge (uncovered, and the pieces not touching each other) to dry out overnight. My fridge has an air filter that I can program to stay on for 24 hours, so I hit that button so everything didn’t end up smelling fishy. After this, the fish should be tacky to the touch.
The brine recipes (and note that this is for about 3-4lb of salmon, we did half/half, about 7 strips of salmon each):
We found this one online. The thing with brines is that they are more method than exact science. You can eyeball the amounts.
- 1/4 C brown sugar
- 2 T pickling salt
- 1/4 C maple syrup
- 1 T molasses
- 2 C water
Mix thoroughly and then pour in the zippy with the salmon. Increase the amount if you have more salmon.
During the smoking process (details below), brush the salmon 2-3 times with a mixture of 3 parts honey to 1 part water (if you microwave the honey for a few seconds first, it’ll whisk in with the water much more easily).
For this one, we found this recipe online.
- 1/4 C sugar
- 2 T pickling salt
- 1 C soy sauce
- 1/2 C water
- 1/2 t each: onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, hot sauce
- 1/2 C white wine
No need to baste this one during the cooking process.
Now for the smoking – after the salmon has air dried and gotten tacky, it’s time for smoking! We use a Big Green Egg (a ceramic grill/smoker), which is the most amazing piece of cooking equipment ever. Prep it with fresh charcoal and a few chunks of alder wood (we used about 4-5 good pieces). Get it steady at 180 degrees F, with indirect heat.
Place the salmon on nonstick foil or a sheet or something, and then on the grill. Let it smoke 5-8 hours, until the internal temperature is about 150 degrees F (it took us about 5-6 hours). Remove from the grill and let it cool. Chill it well in the fridge before eating. Then devour it.
The next post will be a delicious way to serve this amazing salmon! So stay tuned!