What Are You Smoking?: How to Smoke Salmon

Reader Contribution by Angela Pomponio
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Mornings like this tucked away into weeks like this are giving my life a rosy hue. Sun glinting off the fresh dry powder snow, ducks waddling out to greet the morning with gusto and a 3 3/4 year old still asleep under the down comforter. The mountains across our river valley look like a monochrome postcard circa 1900. The fresh snow makes everything quiet, clean, and shows me where and who roams these 20 acres at night. I am starting to feel like me again, after two weeks home from India. Not any more sleep-deprived than usual, embracing the good cheer and magic of Christmas through my little boys eyes and enjoying friends, food and family.

Prepare a Brine

Monday and Tuesday this week were more productive than the rest of December days combined. Sunday I thawed 13 whole frozen kokanee salmon. That night, I boiled up a brine of 2 quarts water, 2 cups brown sugar, 3/4 cup Mortons Tender Quick, and 1 1/2 teaspoons concentrated liquid smoke. I let it cool and poured it over the fish in a turkey roasting pan. I weighted the fish down to ensure a good soak, and put in in the fridge overnight.

Smoke the Fish

We have a propane smoker (hand-me-down gift!) that had a defective ignitor and was replaced by the manufacturer with a new smoker.  We just use a lighter and it worked great, not too shabby for a freebie. Dom and I wrestled the thawed, slippery and slightly smelly bakers dozen. I looped kitchen string over the rack and tied it around each tail so the fish were hanging nose down, with room around each for the smoke to circulate. Only one slipped his noose, I flopped him on his side on the top rack.

We checked our friends every hour, adding more hickory and applewood chips a couple of times to keep it smoky. 170 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 4 hours provided flake-from-the-bone tender, beautiful fish. Follow food handling guidelines for doneness. We brought in our catch, popped tails and heads off, pulled our the spine and vacuum sealed up 16 nice portions to gift (we ate about that much while wrapping it up!)

Enjoying Smoked Salmon

The process was way easier than I expected. And the results were mild and rich, better than any store-bought smoked salmon I’ve had. This was a rare low-intensity food preservation experience, just time and patience. Now my husband has the smoking bug. He is eyeing our homestead apple trees for wayward branches to chip up and asked me to get an on sale turkey to smoke.

Besides the fish my kiddo and I made double batches of spiced walnuts in the crockpot, cranberry orange bread, sugar cookies with raspberry jam middles, spritz cookies with sprinkles of course, walnut and almond toffee (my first candy making experiment), and canned orange ginger cranberry sauce to grace those turkey sandwiches of the new year. The only thing better than coming home after a long arduous journey is waking up under down to sunshine, sparkling white everywhere, your family warm close by and the feeling of being home. Home in your heart, happiness, routine, gratitude, and possibilities.

Angela Pomponio is a Registered Nurse and aspiring homesteader in Idaho. Connect with her on Facebook, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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