by Kristen Barchers
To many, smoked salmon brings to mind the UK’s traditional layers of thinly sliced lox atop a bagel and shmear. I like to think of this very different style of salmon as the ‘manly man’s’ smoked salmon. The recipe for the brine was perfected by my dad, the master of ‘manly food.’ Many a professed salmon hater has been converted after a taste. For those who already love salmon, you’re in for a treat. The smoky, slightly sweet flavor and hearty texture will make this dish ideal for any occasion. While I often use this brine on salmon, it works well for foods like beef jerky and tempeh as well.
A note on choosing salmon:
With all of the warnings about mercury, PCBs (carcinogenic chemicals found in some predatory fish) and irresponsible farming, knowing which fish to eat can seem like a daunting task. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has developed Seafood Watch, an informative guide to purchasing all types of seafood. Good quality salmon, such as wild Alaskan, is typically more expensive than farmed Atlantic salmon, however the benefit to your health and the environment are well worth it. One money saving alternative is purchasing frozen or previously frozen salmon instead of fresh. Due to the nature of this recipe and the great amount of flavor the brine adds, it is not necessary to purchase fresh salmon.
Manly Man's Smoked Salmon
1 large or two small salmon filets (approximately 2 lbs)
1/3 c. sugar
¼ c. non-iodized salt
2 c. soy sauce
1 c. dry white wine
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ teaspoon pepper
½ tsp Tabasco sauce
1 tsp orange zest
2 tsp grated ginger
- Mix all brine ingredients in a large bowl and stir until sugar is dissolved.
- Place salmon filet in a large, sealable plastic baggie and pour in brine. If needed, add water until salmon is fully submerged in liquid. Place the bag in a large bowl or container that will catch any spills in case your bag breaks.
- Refrigerate salmon for 24 to 48 hours. The longer the salmon is in the brine, the saltier and more strongly flavored it will be.
- For the prettiest filet, remove salmon from brine, pat dry and let air dry under a fan for 1-2 hours. This will create a smooth sheen on the surface of the salmon once it is smoked and dried. If you chose to skip this step, simply pat salmon dry and proceed to step 5.
- Place the salmon in your smoker and smoke/dry according to your smoker’s instructions. This typically takes 10-12 hours for large filets. When the salmon is done is partially determined by preference. I prefer my salmon very dried out and flaky, however it is completely safe and delicious to eat while still slightly moist inside. Once the salmon is brined or cured, bacterial growth is inhibited. The drying process helps to preserve the salmon, but it is the curing that makes the salmon safe to eat.
Note: I use a Smokehouse Little Chief smoker for all of my fish smoking needs. This type of smoker is designed for a cooler smoke/drying (<140°) as opposed to other smokers on the market that are designed to simultaneously smoke and cook meats at much higher temperatures. For best results, make sure your smoker is designed to smoke and dry fish.