Today is fish smoking day at the Bennett's house. I was given a Little Chief Smoker by John Sutherland and today I learn to smoke Blue Back/Kokanee!
Smoking fish and meats and the recipes that go into creating the finished product can be like finding two snowflakes alike, there are so many possibilities and secret family recipes that it would take forever to look at them all. I searched and talked until I was confused.
Everyone has their own opinion on how to smoke fish. What do you do when there is such a wide variety of ways to prepare and smoke meats? I went to a couple different sources that I believe would give me good information. Mark the Steelhead man and Jim Headley, via Alex. I have tasted both their results and when I compared their production processes they were about the same. Once I made the decision to go with their methods, I consulted Darren who smoked fish years ago and we agreed that the recipes I would follow are solid performers so I proceeded.
The brining processes go as follows (remember you don't know where you heard this and the Secretary will disavow all knowledge of these actions): Marks Super Secret Brine - 1.5 gallons water, 2 cups dark brown sugar, 1 cup pickling salt. Mix, taste, adjust; brine for six to eight hours. Jim and Alex's Magic Smoking Technique - Cover fish inside and out with brown sugar and salt, let set for about eight hours.
For my first attempt I chose Mark's and followed his advice as best I could. Both smoking techniques call for a light smoke, like Alder, Apple Wood or Cherry Wood. I chose Alder. They call for smoking the fish six to eight hours and so that is what I planned.
You can see the progress in the photos, and I will continue the post as the entire process unfolds.
Friday I purchased a digital meat thermometer from Cabella's and so I can get a temperature reading any time I want to. You can see the thermometer in the photo of the smoker. When the smoker is heated up with no cover on it the inside temperature was reading about 135 degrees. When you put the cover over the smoker the temperature climbs up to about 165 degrees and was riding about 170 degrees when the smoke was being put on.
The smoke is applied by putting the Alder chips in the little smoke pan and they proceed to burn causing the smoke to permeate the fish or meat. It take two pans of chips/smoke to complete the process. Man, I sound like I know what I am doing!
The weekend is over and so is the smoking. I was able to smoke 24 Kokanee in two sessions. As this was happening I got to thinking about how I would manage all the smoked fish when I was finished with the project and so after a great deal of thought I went to Costco and bought a food saver. Now i can package the fish and freeze them without the worries of freezer burn.
In the end I gave a bunch of the fish away. I guess it will be good trading material for the future. I will eat the fish, Linda won't, but it will be great to have some available to use for parties and gatherings as appetizers. My ultimate plan will be to catch Salmon, Steelhead and Kokanee, smoke them and then keep our friends happy with the results. That does mean I have to be able to catch the fish first, but that's another project.