This article is from the Food Preserving FAQ, by Eric Decker firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
From Brian Bigler ...
I recently responded to a thread concerning oily versus non-oily fish by
listing my recipe for smoked salmon. I figured it may be of use to others on
this newsgroup, so I'm posting this to the group. I hope to hear from some
of you who have improvements on this, but be advised, this recipe has received
rave reviews from my colleagues in the salmon business:
First of all, the smoker you use will greatly effect the final product. I'm
not familiar with all the various brands, but the hobbyist smokers that I've
seen tend to be small, for the sake of shipping, and not really practical for
the performance I need. I like to use cool smoking for cheeses, as well as
warmer smoking for salmon or trout. I'll describe my ideal smoker at the end
of this. [I put a copy of this under equipment sources--LEB
I use the following for at least two-six pound fish
1 gal water (at least a gallon, I use a couple)
1/2 lb (at least) pickling salt
1/4 lb (at least) brown sugar
3-4 tbs pickling spice
2-3 tbs paprika
Put the water on to boil, adding the entire 1/2 lb of salt, stir until salt
is dissolved. Add sugar and stir. Add the pickling spice and paprika. You
may not be able to get the sugar to dissolve, but if you can, add more salt.
Irrespective of the amount of water, you want to achieve a super-saturated
saline solution with the salt and sugar. The mixture will be super-saturated
when you have salt granules on the bottom of the pot at a boil. Speaking to
details, the sugar is absorbed by the meat much slower than the salt. I've
used half salt/half sugar mixtures with great success, but the amount I re-
commend here will allow you to reach the point of super-saturation and keep
the salt content down.
Boil the mixture (covered) for five or so minutes, and either set it aside to
cool, or put it in a sink of cold water (change the sink water several times
as it gets hot).
I cut my fish in fillets and then in pieces about two to three inches wide.
Brine the pieces for 3.5 to 5.0 minutes, depending upon thickness. Timing is
important, don't brine longer than 5 minutes, no matter the thickness of the
meat. This brine time imparts salt/sugar/pickling spice flavors to the outer
tissues, that then diffuse through the meat as it dries. I've tried the pro-
ducts of people who leave the meat in brine for so long all you taste is
salt. Don't make that mistake, too little salt is MUCH better than too much.
Take the pieces from the brine and place on a paper towel-covered board.
Allow to dry at least until a pelicle (hard outer surface) has formed. This
could take up to two days if the weather is wet, a lot less if you put it in
the sunshine. I like to dry mine for a long time to attain a chewy texture,
but you at least want the excess moisture to evaporate off.
Smoke the pieces, skin side up, alternating the ones on the lower racks with
those on the upper racks between chip loads.
If your smoker is warm, the paprika will cause the meat to darken without
your having to smoke the heck out of it. Too many hobbyists impart a creo-
sote flavor to their meat in the attempt to make it LOOK like it's smoked.
Paprika is a great way to make it look really well-smoked without having to
leave it in too long. If your smoker is cool, the cooking will turn it dark.
Remove the pieces to a cookie sheet and place in an oven that has been heated
to 350 degrees. Put the cookie sheets in the oven, close the door, and turn
off the oven. Leave the smoked meat in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or
until you can see that it's cooked.
I vacuum pack mine, one to three pieces at a time, right out of the oven
while it's still hot. At the least, use Freezer Bags to store your fish.
I've had success with Freezer bags by closing the ziplock to one end and
sucking out the air to mimic the vacuum sealer. Vacuum packing assures
that the salt/sugar/pickling spice flavors will be diffused through the meat.
I hate to have to freeze mine, but I do anyway out of necessity. My vacuum
packages will stay fresh if I refrigerate, but freezing makes certain.