Mike caught these HUGE king salmon during the 2014 Bristol Bay season and they've been sitting in our freezer, whole, ever since. We had good intentions of smoking them this winter, but smoking salmon is quite a project, and we just never got around to it. So, it only makes sense to cram it into the final 48 hours before leaving for the 2015 Bristol Bay season, right? Of course!
Here's a look at how we smoke our salmon at home. First, we thaw out the salmon and takes lots of pictures with it... (Note: only smoke salmon wearing salmon themed clothing by the fabulously talented Salmon Sisters)
Then, Mike filleted it. He is very good at filleting salmon and we usually have very little waste.
We cut this batch into little cubes, which are great for sharing on a hike, or at a party. The cubes go into a bucket with the brine, which can be as simple as brown sugar, pickling/canning salt, and water. I've added other things in the past, like bay leaves, cloves, wine, maple syrup, and other expensive ingredients, but to be honest, it all comes out tasting the same to me.
Smoking salmon is always a bit of an experiment- we change our brine and smoking times frequently. We left this batch in the brine overnight, then Mike freshened it in the morning before putting it into the smoker. We used a Little Chief smoker with alder wood. We checked the smoker frequently to make sure it wasn't getting too hot. We raised the temperature gradually to prevent the white protein coming out of the skin (looks like curds)- that's a sign that it's getting too hot too fast. This batch was hot smoked, which means that during smoking, the internal temperature of the salmon is over 160°F. Cold smoked salmon, like lox, maintains an internal temperature of under 90°F. We smoked it for about 7 hours this time. For more specific information on smoking fish, check out this guide from the University of Alaska Fairbanks:http://www.uaf.edu/files/ces/publications-db/catalog/hec/FNH-00325.pdf
Of course, we taste tasted the salmon all day, so when it was finally done, we had both eaten about 1/2 lb. of smoked salmon. Here's Mike, enjoying a home brewed beer with some of the finished smoked salmon.
We ended up with about 40 lbs. total. In the past, we've canned smoked salmon, which is delicious, but very time consuming. This time, we simply vacuum packed it and threw it into the freezer. It's super convenient to take anywhere, and it's obviously much easier than bringing along a jar. We use a simple, Food Saver vacuum packer.
Good news- Starting soon, you can have some of our hot smoked sockeye salmon too! The process is similar- but it's smoked at a commercial facility in Homer and frozen in their commercial freezers afterward. Each vacuum package is 4-5 oz. each. We will offer it as an add-on to Fill Your Freezer boxes Monthly Salmon Shares. We can also ship smoked salmon alone with a 5 lb. minimum. We'll post more information and pricing soon.
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