Home smoked Salmon is a wonderful thing tasting like nothing you’d ever buy from the shops, but before embarking on making your own home smoking quest it’s worth knowing the basic principles of storage, handling, curing and smoking and you’ll live to enjoy your smoked food for another day.
When buying fresh Salmon make sure it is fresh and that it has been kept refrigerated. It should have fresh smell about it somewhat counter intuitively not a strong fishy smell. Now, get it home quickly or keep it refrigerated on the way home with some frozen peas. Ideally one should aim to get fresh salmon in your fridge within 15 minutes. Handling the fish is important too. Don’t over handle or bend the Salmon as this will separate and pull apart the flakes of flesh allowing in bacteria and too much salt when we come to cure it. You don’t want too much salt getting into the flesh as it can make the fish a little too salty.
Lightly sprinkle some salt in the bottom of a non-metallic tray and lay the fillet skin side down. Add more salt lightly sprinkling it on the tail and graduate the amount of salt you apply as you move towards the thicker part of the fillet. You should aim to just cover the fillet with about 1mm or 2mm of salt at the thickest end. The salt will render water from the Salmon, reducing its weight, firming up the flesh and inhibiting the growth of bacteria. I cure a tail end of Salmon fillet for about 4 hours covered in the fridge allowing the salt to work its magic. Rinse off and pat dry, loosely cover and return to the fridge for 24 hours to dry further and develop the pellicle and allow the salt in the salmon to equalise throughout the fillet. The pellicle is a thin sticky salt glaze that will allow the smoke to adhere to the surface of the Salmon more readily.
And now to its time to smoke. Which wood, for how long and at what temperature? Well, the first two are a matter of taste. I like apple or cherry wood smoke as it has sweet notes but my absolute favourite is Oak smoked Salmon. But remember, ensure you know where the wood comes from as you’ll be eating the products of combustion. I tend to smoke for only around 4 to 6 hours but you can smoke for up to 36 hours if that’s your taste. I like to think less is more where Smoked Salmon is concerned. I get all my wood from reputable suppliers like www.coldsmoking.co.uk who only supply food grade traceable woods from sustainable sources just to be on the safe side.
The temperature is very important when cold smoking. Too much and you’ll either cook the Salmon or cause conditions that support the development of bacteria. I always aim for below 25C. Now on summer days this may involve smoking at night but as I use a small smoke generator which doesn’t produce much heat things are usually OK. My smoke generator only uses about 100gms of wood dust every eight hours. Now that’s what I call economical.
Now it’s time to eat your quarry. Long sliced Smoked Salmon with cracked black pepper and a twist of Lemon. That’s it. Food doesn’t get any better than this to quote a phrase.
If you’d like to learn how to smoke food why not visit my youtube channel