Recipes for smoked salmon are as varied as Alaskans themselves. Cold-smoked, or hot? Spicy bring, or sweet? Whatever your preference, smoked salmon is a signature of Last Frontier autumn weather.
The Flying Chef's tried and true recipe is rather simple, and follows much of the traditional Alaska Native practices of drying salmon outdoors in the cold, dry, air.
It is recommended that you brine salmon for at least 24 hours (and up to 48), then dry on a rack with a box fan providing dry, cool air, or even out in the back yard during a brisk autumn windstorm, just until the surface of the fish is "tacky" to the touch. While September weather has dropped below freezing at night, daytime temperatures are still well above that; so it's best to wait until our days are at a consistent 40F or lower, AND -- the bears currently wandering around are fat, happy, and asleep for the winter (usually mid-October).
A cold smoke (around 90F for six hours or so in a simple plywood smoker) will impart flavor but result in a softer cure, as for salmon lox, perfect for breakfast on bagels or with crackers, capers, and perhaps a pickled onion or two as a happy hour treat.
A hot smoke, The Flying Chef's choice, starts with your choice of wood (alder is a good one), and generally starts at about 120F for two hours, then at 140F for two hours. Then, depending on the thickness of the fish and space in the smoke locker, the final two hours should reach between 160F - 180fF, for a total of six hours.
Want to get truly Alaskan? Dry the salmon strips on your porch after the first snow. For this method, The Flying Chef highly recommends king salmon, or at the very least, a solid sockeye. The oil content must be high for this method to insure a moist interior of the flesh. Be sure to use light salt brine and let nature take its course.
Enjoy Alaska; the next season is upon us.
About that brine....Here is The Flying Chef's go-to recipe. It's a secret. Or, it was.
Be sure to refrigerate and cook all fish thoroughly before consumption.
8 cups soy sauce
4 pounds brown sugar
8 cups water
5 Tbs garlic powder
3 Tbs seasoning salt
1 Tbscayenne pepper
Mix all ingredients in a large, clean, non-reactive (as in, non-metal) bucket or Rubbermaid tub with lid. Refrigerate.
Cut fish according to your desires and specifications.
Put fish in marinade and place in refrigerator.
Brine for a maximum period of two days.
At the end of the brining time, rinse fish thoroughly, and dry or smoke.
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