by Carl Hyland
In these harsh economic times, many are now turning back to traditional ways of storing food for the future. One such method being reintroduced is the smoking of fish.
Nothing quite like your own smoked fish.
Smoking fish is relatively cheap, easy to do and safe, if the correct methods are followed.
I aim to try to help those who are starting out or at least divulge a few recipes that may be of interest to anglers.
We are talking about’ hot’ smoking here as this I find, is the safest method of preserving fish, traditional cold smoking takes a fair time and is best left to the experts.
In the Atlantic, all smoked salmon comes from the Atlantic salmon, much of it farmed in Norway, Scotland, Ireland and the East coast of Canada.
In the Pacific, a variety of salmon species may be used. Because fish farming is prohibited as a matter of state law, all of Alaska's salmon species are wild Pacific species. Pacific species of salmon include chinook ('King'), sockeye ('red'), coho ('silver'), chum (keta), and pink ('humpback').
In Australia, many, many species are smoked and the most popular are trout, salmon and some saltwater species. Freshwater eels are considered a delicacy.
In Tasmania, smoked salmon is farmed and sold fresh and smoked by companies such as Tassal and this company is recognised as being one of the expert leaders that produce quality farmed smoked fish anywhere in the world.
Atlantic salmon really does lend itself to smoking, its delicate flesh and grain allows smoke to seep into the brine and its keeping qualities are second to none. The same goes for trout and this includes Brook, Brown and Rainbow trout. Saltwater species of the Mackerel, some tuna and other ‘oily’ fish are also quite compatible with smoking.
Preparation: There are three main curing methods that are typically used to cure salmon prior to smoking.
Wet brining: Brining in a solution containing water, salt, sugar, spices, with (or without) sodium nitrite for a number of days.
Dry curing: This method is a traditional method typically used in Europe, in which salmon fillets are covered with a mix of salt and sugar. Dry curing produces a drier, silkier product and typically is faster than wet brining.
Injection: This is the least typical method as it damages the delicate flesh of salmon. This is the fastest method of all as it injects the curing solution — hence allowing a faster cure throughout the flesh.
The proteins in the fish are modified (denatured) by the salt, which enables the flesh of the salmon to hold moisture better than it would if not brined. The sugar is hydrophilic, and also adds to the moistness of the smoked salmon. Salt and sugar are also preservatives, extending the storage life and freshness of the salmon.
Here’s a great Port Brine recipe:
6 Tb honey
6 Tb spoons salt
3 litres boiled water
Dissolve salt and honey in boiled water.
Stir until luke warm ,then let the brine cool.
Cover your trout or salmon fillets/cutlets with brine and leave for at least four hours in fridge or esky.
No need to wash off brine with this recipe before smoking as it is a fairly weak salt concentration.
Fish should be hung or dried before smoking.
Smoking Method: The cold smoking method is designed to infuse the fish with smoke flavour prior to it being cooked with the heat. If you use damp wood it does the same thing. If your wood is dry, then just get a small axe and make half a bucket of woodchips. This depends on how strong a smoke flavour you want. I use dry apple wood or wood from just about any fruit tree. The smoke from apple is very subtle.....so I usually chuck half a bucket of chips on the fire throughout the smoking process to increase the smoked flavour of the fish.
Hot smoke all the way! Just remember not to incinerate your fish! For an average size trout of say 2lb, it usually takes four hours with the smoker being hot enough so you can just keep your hand on it. The flesh should be firm and moist when done. ... (keep an eye on the head of the fish, when the eyes go white like a hard-boiled egg, the fish is done.)
A great book with basic recipes.
I deliberately haven’t mentioned how to build a home smoker as it is a complex procedure, but there are heaps of Youtube clips on such a subject and the actual process of building your own home smoker can be just as interesting as smoking fish itself. There are many commercial brands out there, one such brand is Hark, a New Zealand product which is available in either electric or gas……….I had a gas Hark and I reckon they are the bees knees. Another popular brand is Aldi or Bradley, all big smokers that you can hang whole fish in or other products such as fowl or meats.
Salmon or trout cutlets are ideal for smoking.
Some like me; like to keep it simple and I’ll be honest here, the best smoker I built was an underground one with an old beer barrel in which I used to hang my fish. I could never quite get that exact same smoky flavour from the commercial smokers available.
Cryovac your fish and they will last longer!
After smoking, many like to further preserve their smoked fish by cryo-vacuuuming them and this is a great way to keep fish indefinitely in the freezer. Home cry vac machines and their bag refills can be purchased at most food shops that deal in that sort of thing or online.
Whatever method you choose to use, the simple small frypan smoker or the large freezer size smoker, you will find that smoking fish can be an enjoyable and delicious past time, there is nothing better than a ‘coldie’ and watching for that first fish to come of the smoking production line.