by David Johnson
It's mid December now and with the Chinook tapering off and the steelhead trickling in I finally got some time off for holiday/family stuff as well as do a little fishing for myself.
I was able to put a couple Chinook and a couple steelhead on my tag.
My way of doing a little Christmas shopping. Is there a better Christmas goody/gift than some fresh smoked fish?
Yesterday I ran a batch of Chinook and steelhead through the smoker.
When I was a kid we had a Little Chief Smoker and my dad's recipe was to alternate layers fish between layers of rock salt in a large bowl then fill it with water. After 45 minutes to an hour we rinsed them off and placed onto the smoker racks with a sprinkle of brown sugar. Then into the smoker.
I went quite a few years without a smoker of my own and during that time I had an arrangement with a retired gentleman who would smoke my fish for me in exchange for half.
Bill passed away a few years back so I had to start doing it on my own. I asked for a smoker for Christmas and started my career of fish smoking.
The recipe I have been using is the one I got from Togiak River Lodge three summers ago while I was up there fishing. It is easy and turns out a great product.
It's a simple dry rub:
4 cups brown sugar, one cup non-iodized salt and a dash of garlic powder.
I will cut my fish into pieces and roll them in the dry mix and place into zip-lock bags for two to three days in the fridge.
After their stay in the fridge I will take them out. Some people say don't rinse off the brine, others say to rinse. For me the verdict is still out. I've tried both ways and I'm not sure if it has mattered. Some of the pieces look a little slimy so I will give them a very quick rinse under cold tap water and then place them on the smoker racks skin side down. Make sure they are not touching.
I will let them sit for about 20 minutes to form a glaze. At this point I will either sprinkle a little more brown sugar on the pieces or I will drizzle some honey over each piece. Then I will give them a good sprinkle of some Johnny's "Jamaica Me Crazy" seasoned pepper.
The Native Americans used alder for smoking their salmon so I see no reason not to stick to that tradition. I will also add some apple wood.
About five hours at 140 to 150 degrees and it's hard to not eat it all right off the racks before it gets into the house.
Besides the stuff I ate right away, Tesha formed a ball of cream cheese and then encrusted it with crumbled smoked salmon and served it on a platter with crackers for her works Christmas party. The rest of the fish will be either dropped off at friend's houses or I'll wrap with saran wrap and then vacuum seal and freeze for later.