In Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry (W.W. Norton & Company, 2014), food preserving expert Cathy Barrow presents a beautiful collection of essential preserving techniques for turning the fleeting abundance of the farmers’ market into a well-stocked pantry full of canned fruits and vegetables, jams, stocks, soups and more. This Hot-Smoked Salmon recipe is from the section “Preserved Meat and Fish.”
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Smoked salmon is a staple in my household. It’s great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s healthy and satisfying, and it keeps well. If I have the option, I ask for a center-cut fillet, from the thickest part of the side of the salmon, but a salmon steak, the tail end, or whatever piece of salmon you have all smoke beautifully.
This is hot-smoked salmon, moist, flaky, and lightly scented with alder wood. Cherry and maple woods also suit, but heavier mesquite and hickory will overwhelm the taste of the fish. This is not cold-smoked salmon or lox, which is cured and lapped with smoke—this method thoroughly cooks the fish in the smoker.
Smoked salmon starts out like gravlax, salt-curing in the refrigerator for 2 days before the smoke flavor is layered on. Once you have this technique under your belt, start to branch out: Add herbs. Change the sugar and use maple syrup. Experiment with spices like cinnamon or fennel seeds and chiles like ancho or dried chipotle.
Flake some smoked salmon with mascarpone and stir in minced cornichons and a squeeze of lemon juice to make a salmon spread that’s great with bagels and fancy enough to top baguette toasts at cocktail hour. Mix smoked salmon and canned salmon with fresh breadcrumbs and an egg, form, and fry up a salmon cake. Top with an egg and call it brunch. You’re going to be happy to have smoked salmon in the house.
• One 2-pound (1 kg) center-cut organic or wild-caught salmon fillet (skin on)
• 5 tablespoons (1.75 oz., 50 g) kosher or sea salt
• 1 cup (8 oz., 220 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
• 1 tablespoon (1/2 oz.) Cognac
1. Inspect the salmon for any pin bones and remove with tweezers. Combine the salt, brown sugar, and zest in a small bowl and rub it all over the flesh side of the salmon. Sprinkle the same side with the Cognac.
2. Wrap the fish tightly in plastic wrap. Place in a gallon-size zip-lock bag and put in a shallow baking dish to catch any leaks. Place a small baking pan on top of the wrapped fish, then weight with cans or a brick. Refrigerate for 2 days. The fish will exude liquid. Turn it once after 24 hours and put the weight back on top of the wrapped fish.
3. Remove the fish from the wrapping, scrape off any excess cure, and dry with paper towels. It will be firmer and a deeper color. Place the fish skin side down on a rack set over a baking sheet and refrigerate for 12 hours to develop a tacky, dry pellicle.
4. Heat the smoker to 175°F, using alder or another mild wood. Place the salmon skin side down on a center rack, or suspend it from an upper rack (see Note), and smoke to an internal temperature of 150°F, about 2 hours.
Note: To suspend the fish, make a small hole in an outside corner of the fillet with a sharp knife. Push kitchen twine through the hole and use it to tie the fish to one of the racks in the smoker.
More Recipes from Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry:
Reprinted with permission from Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, by Cathy Barrow, and published by W.W. Norton & Company. Buy this book from our store: Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry.