My husband and I fell in love with smoked salmon in Latvia. We lived in England for a year which made visiting different places in Europe very affordable. Hubby had a good friend Alvis who lived in Latvia. He and his family were wonderful hosts. One day, he took us to a huge market in Riga that was held in old blimp hangers and had all kinds of crazy good food. Alvis bought some fresh salmon from one of the stalls and when we got home, he brined it with salt and sugar and left it in the refrigerator over night. Then next morning we ate it over a brown bread spread with butter and topped with thinly sliced onions, black pepper and a few squeezes of lemon. It was delicious. Best I ever had.
I am still not adventurous enough to try his method which is more of a cold smoking but thought we could handle hot smoking and so I bought my husband a small smoker for Christmas to try. I wasn’t sure he would like it but he ended up becoming a great smoker. Our first smoke was a steelhead trout that looks and tastes much like salmon but was cheaper at Costco and he did a stellar job. This smoked salmon (or steelhead trout whichever is cheaper at the time) is now on our regular rotation. We smoke one at least once or twice a month and eat it for dinner. With the leftovers, my hubby prepares an Alvis-like dish on an everything bagel for breakfast and I eat the fish on top of my salad for lunch. We get many meals from this fish and it’s oh so good.
The first thing you have to do is brine the salmon. You use a lot of salt but it also gives it a lot of flavor. I originally got the recipe here and adapted it a bit. I’ve decreased the salt and added a few things and I suggest you do too. Mix the ingredients in a 4 cup measuring cup or large bowl. Place your salmon in a marinading container or a large ziplock (if it will fit…you may need two) and then pour the brining solution to cover the fish. Refrigerate overnight and until 1 hour before you are ready to smoke. It takes us about 2 to 2 1/2 hours to smoke a 2.5lb salmon so I take it out at 1pm or 2pm and let it sit on on the racks for an hour.
You let the salmon dry on the racks in order to form a pellicle which is a coating of proteins on the surface that allow smoke to adhere on the surface while smoking. It’s an important step so please don’t skip it.
Smoking times will vary from smoker to smoker. Ours does not get very high. Actually we now have two smokers but the one we use to make fish is the older, cheaper one and it does a fine job. As I’ve mentioned it takes 2 to 2 1/2 hours to smoke.
And here is your final product. I was in a hurry to take pictures (which seems to be the norm these days) so they are not the best but take my word that it’s is a very flavorful dish. We use this brine on other things such as chicken, cornish hens, turkey breasts, etc. If you are an avid smoker and have any tips or recipes, please drop me a comment as we are always looking for new things to try. Enjoy!
- 2½ lbs fresh salmon
- 4 cups water
- ½ onion chopped
- 2 stalks celery chopped
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 2 Tablespoons salt
- 4 Tablespoons brown sugar
- Add all ingredients in a bowl and mix. I used a 4 cup measure bowl.
- Pour over your salmon and brine over night in the refrigerator.
- One hour before cooking, take out your salmon and let set out on your rack.
- Cook in your smoker until done. Different smokers work differently so I can't give you an exact time. Ours takes about 2 to 2½ hours.
- Enjoy hot or cold, on bagels, salads, etc.