Fish, properly vacuum sealed and frozen, thawed slowly over a 24 hour period in the refrigerator.
Measuring the brine formula: use a measuring cup or kitchen scale.
In a plastic tub mix 8 parts sugar, 7 parts non-iodized (kosher) salt, 1 part granulated garlic.
Rinse filets well and dry thoroughly.
Cut filets into your preferred portions
For collars (pectoral fin area) trim the fin so they fit better in the brine and smoker.
Skin the inner layer membrane off the collars. You’ll need a sharp knife and some knowledge of skinning a fish.
Removed membrane (left) and the readied collar (right). Discard the membrane.
Thoroughly cover the fish with the dry brine.
Leave thicker filets in for roughly 2.5 to 3 hours. The collars come out after 1.5 to 2 hours. You’ll have to experiment a little to suit your taste. The thicker the pieces the longer you brine. Also, different species of salmon have different rates of uptake of salt. Coho should be brined less time than equal size pieces of king salmon.
Metal pan readied with paper towel liner to receive fish after brining and rinsing.
Thoroughly rinse brine off under cold water.
Pat the fish dry with a paper towel. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least an hour, preferably closer to two hours.
As the fish sits at room temperature it should form a glossy sheen. With fresh caught fish, this is pretty obvious. With previously frozen fish, less obvious.
We use a Luhr Jensen Big Chief smoker. They are inexpensive, last forever, and do as good a job (in my opinion) as any of the more sophisticated and expensive smokers I’ve owned. The wood chips come from Luhr Jensen and I’m unable to taste a different between types of wood used in the chips. Cherry, apple, mesquite – it all comes out as smoke to my unsophisticated pallet. I do use the insulating jacket if it’s cold out. On warm summer days, it’s not needed.
My smoker’s hottest shelf is on the bottom. Next hottest is on the top. I put the thickest pieces on the bottom, next thickest on top, then scatter smller pieces in the middle shelves.
The fish is done when it’s a nice darker brown as pictured.
Nearly finished coming out of the smoker.
Heat honey in the microwave until it’s watery then paint an ultra-thin layer onto the fish. This gives a nice glazed finish and a hint of sweetness.
Store the finished product in the refrigerator but DO NOT cover it or bag it in plastic. The fish needs to breath and set up in open air. It will get better and better the longer it sits – within reason. I like the collars after at least a week in the refrigerator uncovered.
Before serving, place the fish on a dish and let it come to room temperature. It will have more flavor that way. I store mine on a dish at room temperature for days and it only seems to get better. Again, not covered, not wrapped – open air and allowed to breathe.