Secret recipes? I guess I could understand if you are marketing something in stores, or in a restaurant – but if you’re not, why keep it a secret? Remember the Baldwin Sisters from the 70’s TV show The Waltons? They had their homemade booze, but you could only enjoy it if you went to visit the old spinsters. Thank God we aren’t like that at Majestic View!
I figure about 1500 people come stay with us at Majestic View Bed and Breakfast every summer. Salmon fishing is an extremely popular activity around here, and hundreds of our guests do it. Lots of them go out fishing on the bay with me. They go home with boxes of fresh-frozen salmon for sharing with their family and friends. The ones who have tried the smoked salmon that we (almost) always have available out on the counter – are always asking me for the recipe. Well, I’m tired of repeating myself, so here it is!
It doesn’t take anything that special to smoke salmon. Our Bradley smoker is old. It has four racks inside. It has been tossed like a pinball by the pinball wizard himself (God) about the deck in big storms, and it has survived; the door is duct taped on now – but I have a system down, and I am not ready to change it. I’m going with what works. 🙂
First, the brine: Four quarts of water in a big bowl. Two pounds of brown sugar. Two cups of canning and pickling salt. A quarter cup of vinegar. Feel free to improvise if you have a good taster and ideas you are curious about. Anyway, stir all that up in the water until it is dissolved. Then, take however many pieces of salmon your smoker will hold, and immerse them in that brine for 8-10 hours. Longer time in the brine will make it stronger, and a harder cure.
After the fish is brined, I dump it in a clean sink, and rinse it off. Then fill the bowl with icy cold water, and again, immerse the fish for about 90 minutes. We think the fish is too strong if you don’t immerse it. Again, you can play with this. More or less rinse will make it stronger or weaker to your preferred taste.
Once you have rinsed the fish, it’s time for drying. We like to put it on racks that will have some air space underneath. Separate the pieces of salmon on the racks according to thickness. Thick pieces on the same rack, thin pieces on the same rack. Dry with fans for 8 or 10 hours. While it is drying, we like to baste with a honey/water mixture (about 50/50) three or four times. Honey sweetens the fish, and is also a good natural anti-bacterial ingredient. Once the fish is starting to look dry and crusty on the outside layer, it is time to smoke.
Our smoker has four racks. The top and bottom layer tend to get the most smoke and heat, so that is where I put the thickest pieces. The thin pieces (tail sections) go in the middle. We use Alder Bisquettes by Bradley. About ten bisquettes, close the door, plug it in, and come back to check 8 hours later. In our smoker, the thin pieces are always done by then. I pull them out. If other pieces that are thicker appear to be too fleshy or raw, add a few bisquettes and let it smoke for another couple hours. Worst case scenario – you wind up with fish that has a heavy smoke, is very dried out, and is more like jerky than a medium rare steak. Up in Alaska, we call that “Squaw Candy” because that’s what the Native American women do to preserve their salmon for long periods of time. It’s a good, healthy snack to chew on when I’m out in the boat for a long day.
And if you think I’m politically incorrect, you can kissa my grits! I have tremendous respect for the Native People and their squaw candy. I didn’t name it, but it sure as heck works for me!
Ok. Enjoy! Comment! Share! Come visit and get some salmon of your own!
BTW this is the recipe Maria has always used. She taught it to me so she gets the credit. I’m just the guy who winds up smoking the fish. We do a batch or two every week in summer and the guests snatch it up for their lunches, day trips, road trip, or to bring home to loved ones. It must be good!