Citizens, there is nothing finer than a properly-smoked piece of cold-smoked salmon, with its gentle smoky flavor and translucent orange meat lavishly streaked with fat!
Yes you can buy the real deal from Scotland – but as a member of the undimmed glory that is TFD Nation, you are now capable of the ultimate: making your own, without compromise!
The most prized variety of salmon is the Atlantic salmon, of the genus salmo salar. All European salmon are salmo salar, as are all eastern U.S. salmon. So, if your smoked salmon is made from salmon that was caught or raised in Scotland, Norway, Ireland or Maine, it’s salmo salar. It is highly prized because it is very oily and makes for a lush smoked salmon.
The other main type is the Pacific salmon, of the genus oncorhynchus, which means “hook-nose.” Generally speaking, the Pacific type has less fat than the Atlantic type—which means that smoked salmon made from the western swimmers is usually less velvety and transcendent than the eastern-based smoked salmon.
However, there are five different species within this hook-nosed genus, and some species are more desirable than others. Leading the quality list is Chinook salmon (also known as King, or Tyee), which has the most fat of all Pacific salmons, and makes the most luscious western smoked salmon.
It is VERY important that you tell your fishmonger that you are planning to make cold-smoked salmon when you purchase your fish. You aren’t heating this fish, which means if it has parasites they will not be killed by the heat of normal cooking.
The FDA says you can kill parasites by freezing to -4°F for seven days, but no home freezer can reach that temperature. Sashimi-grade salmon has gone through this process already and is the ONLY choice for making cold-smoked salmon!
You can customize this recipe to your personal taste by choosing the type(s) of wood you smoke over – excellent details may be found here.
You can also add mixed ground spices of your choice to the smoking wood, if you’re so inclined. Experiment and find your ideal blend!
I add a more than a wee bit of Drambuie to my recipe, as I find its combination of Scotch whisky, honey and herbs eminently suited to this recipe! You can choose your own favorite whisky for yourself, or go with TFD’s selection.
Citizens – gird your loins, fire up your low-temp smoker (I’ll show you how to do this, it’s easy!) and follow me, your Shining North Star pointing you to the true path of smoky piscine glory!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
3 pounds Atlantic salmon fillet (strongly preferred) or Wild King Salmon (one large or several small), pin bones removed with needle-nosed pliers – feel along the salmon meat with your fingers to find them
⅛ cup, ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons Drambuie or use your favorite whisky
1 cup kosher salt
½ cup sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
Your choice of wood smoking pellets – buy here
Mix salt, sugars and pepper in a bowl.
Use a pan long enough to hold the fillet without doubling over the tail. You can cut the fillet in half if you don’t have a large enough pan.
Spread half of the salf/sugar/pepper mixture on the plastic wrap in the shape of the salmon. It should be ¼” thick.
Rub salmon meat with ⅛ cup Drambuie.
Place salmon on top of the mixture and top with remaining mixture, which should also be ¼ inch thick. (The cure should extend ½ inch beyond the edges of the fish on each side.)
If using multiple fillets, make sure every surface of fish is covered in the mixture.
Tightly double wrap the salmon with plastic and foil.
Cure in the refrigerator for 13 hours. Remove the fillet from the pan and wash the salt off the fillet with cold running water.
Wash out the pan of salt and fill the pan ¾ of the way with fresh, cold water mixed with a generous ¼ cup of Drambuie.
Place the fillet in the water and put back in the refrigerator for one hour. This controls the salinity of the salmon and it also desalts the outer surface while driving the salt through the fish to the center.
Unwrap and rinse thoroughly with cold water.
Pat salmon with paper towels then place in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator) until the surface of the fish is dry and matte-like, 1 to 3 hours depending on humidity (this is called the pellicle and is an absolutely necessary step!). A fan can and should be used to speed the process.
Now comes the fun part – cold smoking. You should use this fantastic cold smoker, placed on a baking sheet inside a standard BBQ grill.
Fill pellet smoker with ½ the mixed wood pellets, sprinkle on smoking spice then cover with remaining pellets. Light the pellets, close lid.
Be sure you have a digital thermostat probe inside the smoker! TFD prefers this model: Maverick M Remote Smoker Thermometer [ET-73] – White
Cold-smoke salmon at 70 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours. Do not let the temperature go above 70!
Carefully remove fish and gently rub 2 tablespoons of Drambuie onto the meat. Wrap in plastic tightly and place in the fridge overnight to mellow out the smoke. Slice at an angle as thin as possible starting at the head end at about 45 degrees.
Make sure you keep this always refrigerated!