With fall salmon season in full swing on the Klamath and the first big Chinook about to return to the Smith, it's that time of year again when anglers begin enjoying freshly smoked salmon. There are dozens, probably even hundreds, of great smoked salmon recipes. In Alaska, where I guide during the summer before heading back to the Wild Rivers Coast in September to chase big fall Chinook, I keep my boat well stocked with fresh smoked salmon, thanks to a quick smoking process using a dry cure instead of a wet brine. Clients love my recipe, which is as simple as it gets for smoking salmon.
Salmon in less than 24 hours
You can enjoy fresh smoked salmon the morning after you catch a big fall king. While brined-then-smoked salmon tastes great, it also takes a couple days to finish. By using a dry cure, like Morton Sugar Cure, the smoking process only takes several hours.
While filleting my salmon or the catch of my clients, I will cut it into smoking-size chunks. This eliminates the need to cut it into chunks later.
I then coat the salmon pieces in Morton Sugar Cure, which is available at most grocery stores in the baking section. The cure is ready to go right out of the bag, already containing salt, sugar, sodium nitrate (a preservative), natural hickory smoke flavor and a few spices.
Place some of the cure in a plastic container or bag, add the salmon a couple pieces at a time, and shake or roll fish until it is covered with a light coating, just like you would coat chicken with Shake and Bake. Then place the salmon in a plastic bowl or plastic bag.
The curing process only takes 45 minutes. As it cures you will see the salmon expel liquid and take on a glazed appearance. Don't leave the salmon in the cure for more than 45 minutes, as it will be too salty for most people's taste.
After curing, rinse the salmon and dry with a paper towel. A quick rinse with a hose or under the facet is all that's needed.
Place the salmon on a smoking
rack or in a smoker and allow the fish to air dry for at least another half hour.
I smoke salmon in my Smokehouse Products Little Chief smoker for about five hours, or overnight, adding at least four trays of chips. If I am in a hurry, I'll finish the salmon in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or allow the salmon to finish cooking in the smoker over night.
I also put up a good supply of canned smoked salmon during the late summer. After four hours of smoking I place the salmon in jars and pressure cook. Canned smoked salmon maintains its fresh smoked flavor for several months, although it rarely goes unused that long.
Smoked salmon will last a week in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. It also can be vacuum sealed and frozen for several months. Plastic freezer bags will also work, but use a straw to suck out all the air for better storage. Be sure to use freezer bags and not the cheaper storage bags for best results.
Outdoor writer Andy Martin is a former editor of Fishing & Hunting News and runs a halibut charter boat in the Gulf of Alaska during the summer and guides on America's Wild Rivers Coast in the winter.