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254 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
You see and hear all kinds of recipes for creating the salt or brine for smoking fish. Ingredients often include rum, lemon juice, pickling spices and so on.
Forget all that.
Save the rum to pickle your liver.
Here's an easy recipe I came up with years ago at my cabin in British Columbia, for smoking rainbow trout. Only three items are needed.
I've also smoked salmon, bass, crappie, whitefish, squawfish and perch with this recipe.

2 lbs. table salt (not rock salt)
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. liquid smoke
Mix ingredients together until you get an evenly tanned, slightly damp mixture.

LEAVE the skin on the fish. The skin will keep your fish from sticking to the grill.
For larger fish like salmon, cut into chunks and split down the backbone, so it lies flat. These split pieces should be about the size of your hand. Trout and other thick fish over 14 inches or so should also be split down the back for good coverage of the smoke.
Smaller fish like bream, perch and crappie that aren't too thick may be smoked whole.
I cut the heads off fish, but some people leave the heads on.

NOTE: Most fish and game departments demand that any smoked fish be whole, so they can determine catch limits. No problem, just cut it in half, leaving the head and tail on each piece so an accurate count can be had.

Sprinkle a little of the salt mixture in the bottom of a plastic, glass or wooden basin (never metal).
Place the fish skin-down on that first layer of salt. Then sprinkle the salt mixture over the fish, covering evenly with a light coat. Add the next piece on top of this, cover evenly with another light coat. Continue on, stacking the chunks or fish on top of each other, ensuring all flesh is evenly covered.
Cover with cheesecloth or put a plastic lid on to keep flies off it.
After 30 minutes, drain off brine.
Allow to soak another 15 or 20 minutes, then rinse all salt off each fish under a cold stream of water.
The flesh should feel slightly leathery. Allow no salt to remain on the flesh.

Oil the smoking racks with vegetable or olive oil, or spray with Pam.
Place fish immediately into smoker (which should be producing ample smoke by now). There no need to dry the fish, just pop them in wet from their rinse.
Place thicker pieces at the bottom of the smoker, nearer the heat source.
Depending on the size of your smoker, the fish should be smoked in 6 to 10 hours. Check every hour because some smokers work faster than others.

Check with a finger on the thicker parts. If you push against the flesh and it stays depressed, the flesh isn't smoked enough. The flesh should rebound firmly when pressed.
Smaller or thinner pieces at the top will be done sooner, so check them first.
Some people prefer a "hard smoke," leaving the flesh hard and dry. I've never preferred this, so can't comment on it.

If you feel you're in danger of drying out the thinner edges of the thick pieces, before the thick areas are done, finish off the thicker flesh thoroughly in the microwave for two or three minutes on high.
If no microwave is available, move the thicker pieces to the top and place a small dish of water, or a clean, wet rag, near the bottom of your smoker for a little extra moisture.

Serve the still-warm smoked fish with crackers, dark beer at room temperature, and bleu cheese.
Put a piece of smoked fish on the cracker, add a little bleu cheese to the top, and chase it down with a swallow of dark beer.
This makes a meal in itself. A tossed green salad with bleu cheese dressing on the side complements it well.
If you don't like dark beer or bleu cheese, experiment. This is the only way I've enjoyed my smoked fish.

And yes, before I forget, squawfish makes good eating. I use squawfish 14 inches or smaller. The larger ones tend to have a skanky aftertaste. But the smaller ones will easily pass for whitefish if you don't tell anyone.
Bones? Heck, trout and whitefish have just as many small bones. And if anyone complains about bones, simply take their plate away --- and watch them protest! LOL

254 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Damnnnnnn Mike!
You're supposed to make the act of smoking fish appear very difficult, so others admire your skill.
I purposely left the Brine-O-Matic-Auto-Drain out of the recipe, so you could say it was work.
But truth be told, I've done the same thing myself.
I keep an eye out in grocery stores for sales on salmon. One time, I managed to find frozen Alaska salmon at 99 cents a pound!
These bargains often appear just before Christmas.
Then I set to work, smoking salmon and giving it to friends as a gift. Everyone loves it, it's unusual, and they appreciate it more than a plate of cookies.
So, keep it in mind as a gift. I've also smoked fish and given it as a wedding gift, in a basket, along with crackers, bottle of wine, bleu cheese, a couple of wine glasses, mint candies and so on.
The bride and groom have always raved about this gift, and when it's learned that I smoked the fish myself they love it.
Word gets out to other guests at the wedding and it's a good conversational ice-breaker. People are naturally curious about this ancient culinary art.
Some will offer to pay you for smoked fish, but that's not a good idea. You open yourself to a lawsuit as an unlicensed food supplier if you sell it.
Once they take receipt of the fish, who knows what condition it will be stored under?
I smoke fish for myself and friends and leave it at that.

By the way ... try smoking oysters.
Blanche raw oysters in boiling water for about a minute to firm them, soak them in the same salt for 30 minutes or so, rinse thoroughly, and place on greased rack.
Mmmmmm ... wonderful! No oil like the canned smoked oysters, either.
I tried smoking shrimp in the shell once, but it didnt' work. The smoke wouldn't penetrate the shell. Then I removed the shell and all it did was dry the shrimp to unpalatable, dry nubbins. It was a failure.
Oh well ... nothing ventured, nothing learned.

254 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
At my cabin in Canada, I use chips of aspen to smoke fish. It's readily available and does a splendid job.
Here at home, I buy the plastic sacks of apple, cherry or alder.
Frankly, I can't tell the difference between them. The taste of the fish and, to a lesser extent, masks any subtle differences in the wood smoke.
All I taste is that wonderful smoky flavor in my fish, not apple, cherry or alder. It all works well. Use what is cheapest and readily available.
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