Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Smoking Copper River Salmon

People in Alaska know summer has arrived when we can drag out our electric smokers and smoke almost the rest of last year's salmon. I've left enough Copper River reds in the freezer to get us through the end of July, but am trying to smoke the rest and will be making batches of blueberry and raspberry jam in between to clean out and get ready for this year's crop.

Jin prefers the saltier, soy brined salmon to the sweeter apple juice brined. I don't have a preference, but I like my smoked salmon on the dry side as opposed to the moist stuff that a lot of people prefer. I've found that by smoking the salmon, then pressure canning it in 1/2 pint jars I get just the right consistency AND I don't have to store it in the freezer. I will put all 15 lbs that I am smoking today and tomorrow in the freezer. In speaking of smoking, I prefer to use Alder. If you can't get Alder, my suggestion is to wait until you can. With almost everything else, I prefer to use Mesquite or a blend of Apple and Cherry---but in the case of FISH---Use ONLY Alder.

The smoke from this wood really does make a significant difference in the outcome of the product.

Everyone knows that Copper River salmon is the best you can get in the world, is extremely expensive if you try and purchase it at the store, and that it is high in Omega-3. We eat smoked salmon just as it is as a high-protein snack, add it to cream cheese for a dip, use it in potato chowders, top baked potatoes and too many other recipes to even begin to list.

I learned from an elder in Hughes, Alaska at fish camp one summer that, for salmon to really absorb a smoky flavor, one should score the salmon slightly (not all the way through) about every 1/4"-1/2".

Soy Brine

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup PLAIN salt (MUST NOT be iodized)
2 cups soy sauce (you may want to use the reduced-sodium variety)
1 cup water
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire pepper
1/2 tsp. Slap Ya Mamma seasoning
1/2 tsp. tabasco sauce
1 cup chardonnay

Thoroughly rinse and drain salmon. Pat salmon dry with paper towels. Score the salmon as shown above. I brine my salmon in a bucket I purchased at Home Depot inside of a clean plastic garbage bag. Drop scored salmon in the bag. Mix brine ingredients listed above and pour over salmon. Make sure all pieces are covered and I make sure skin side is up so fish is submerged in the brine. Brine the salmon for 12 hours. Remove salmon to clean paper towels and allow to air dry for about 60 minutes. Fish should begin to acquire a sticky or tacky feel (this is GOOD!)

Place the thickest fish on the bottom tray of the smoker. Use 3 pans of Alder chips and smoke for 10-12 hours. Allow to cool in the smoker, then remove and vacuum seal in bags.

The next recipe comes to you from my dear friend, Kristi Baker. She is an awesome lady who taught me so much as a greenhorn to Alaska. This is Kristi's brining recipe which is a little sweeter and very yummy.

Kristi Baker's Smoked Salmon Brine

1 large can Tree Top Apple Juice
1 gallon water
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup plain salt (NON-IODIZED)

Scored fish should marinate in brine for at least 12 hours. Remove fish to drain and air dry for 2 hours. Smoke for 4-6 hours or longer for a firmer fish.

Today I am also trying a new recipe for smoking already cooked fish to use in frying patties. I loved my mother's salmon patties, were always a favorite at the table and I love them cold as well as hot. As an experiment last year, I pressure canned some halibut as well and trying a smoke on this (see the picture.

Halibut on the left, salmon on the right, stand-up-sit-down, fight-fight-fight...Notice again that I am using Alder chips to smoke.

Here is the recipe for Smoked Fish Patties

This is a terrific appetizer I invented and will be entering this one in the next AK cooking contest!

Halibut Patties:
2 cups cooked, flaked halibut
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Dill weed
Lemon wedges

Mix fish, eggs, bread crumbs, onions, salt and pepper together thoroughly and mold into patties to fry to golden brown in a non-stick skillet.

Lightly dust with dill weed and serve with lemon wedges.

Salmon Patties:

2 cups cooked, flaked salmon
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup cracker crumbs (*I sometimes use food processed pork rinds-higher protein content--but Jim hates the thought of using pork rinds in anything)
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom (thank you Chef Kirsten Dixon for teaching me that cardamom and salmon are best friends)
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Spanish paprika to garnish

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly and mold into small patties to fry in a hot non-stick skillet. Like the halibut patties above, if made into silver dollar sized pieces, this makes a great appetizer.

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