Cold smoked and candied is my all-time favorite way to cook the amazing salmon I bring home from Pybus every fall. just a fair warning, this recipe takes some time and preparation, but I promise the reward far exceeds the effort. This recipe will work with any Salmonid (fancy word for fish in the Trout and Salmon Family). I love using the Pinks, Chohos, and Chum we catch at the lodge.
Okay, let the fun begin! Start out by mixing the salt and brown sugar together in an appropriate size mixing bowl, and mix together thoroughly. Next, find a large NON-METALIC bowl preferably one with a tight sealing lid, Tupperware mixing bowls work great. Lay down a layer of the salt/sugar cure about 1/4 inch deep. Put a layer of salmon on this, Meat side down. Cover the salmon with more salt/sugar mixture. make sure the layer of salt and sugar between each layer of fish is thick enough so that the pieces of salmon are not touching. Basically you are making something that resembles a salmon and brown sugar lasagna. I like to Cover it and let cure in the fridge overnight (8hours). After making this salmon a few times you will be able to dial in what cure time you like the most. The longer the cure time the saltier the fish will be.
Remove the salmon from the cure, which will get wet, and briefly rinse the fish under cold water. Pat dry with a paper towel and set the salmon on a drying rack skin side down. Let this dry in a breezy place for 2 hours. I put the racks on the kitchen table and use a box fan blowing at the fish from the side. You are doing this to form a pellicle (film like skin) on the salmon, which helps it smoke properly. Don't skip this step!
This may depart from what you are used to doing with your smoker or pellet grill. Traditionally natives in Alaska cold smoke their fish, and that’s what we’re going to do today. Place all the fish in the smoker then bring your smoker up to 160-200 degrees Fahrenheit with the smoke level setting on high (if you have one). you want to bring the temperature up gradually and let it sit at around 165°F to 200°F for at least 3 hours, and up to 6 hours if you like your salmon candy harder and smokier.
Every 90 minutes, paint the salmon with the maple syrup. This also helps to remove any albumen (the white stuff) that can form between the grains in the meat if your smoker gets a little too hot too fast. (I often add Cayenne Pepper to the syrup for a little kick)
When the salmon is glistening and smoked to your liking, typically about 3 to 4 hours, remove it and place it on the drying racks and let it cool. This salmon is served cold on crackers or eat it right off the skin on the trail. If smoked properly your salmon should have a refrigerator life of about a week, and may be longer if you smoked the salmon till the meat is jerky-like. This meat also freezes well, especially when vacuumed sealed.
It’s my humble opinion that there is no better way to wow friends and family at parties then a charcuterie board filled with candied salmon, and other wild fare. I hope you enjoy these salty sweet nuggets of oily deliciousness as much as I do.