At Alaskan King Salmon Adventures on the Nushagak River, we get a lot of anglers who go home with a lot of king salmon early in the season and many silver salmon later in the summer. One of the questions we’re most often asked is, “Do you have any recipes to cook up all this salmon?” And the answer is yes, we do. Here’s a favorite recipe developed by noted outdoor cookbook author, Tiffany Haugen…it’s a camp favorite, and one many of our clients love.
Remember, the best eating salmon also makes the best tasting smoked salmon. Smoking fish is a favorite preparation of many anglers and home cooks. Whether you have a fresh caught salmon or many packages of king salmon in the freezer, smoking it up is a treat everyone will enjoy. Styles of cold and hot smoked fish vary greatly and depending on your preference, can yield moist, almost rare fish to the opposite extreme of being dry, firm and almost jerky-like.
Smoked Salmon Candy comes out like a salty, sweet, caramelized jerky. The recipe can be tailored slightly to individual tastes but desired end results feel much drier than other smoked fish preparations. Chopped small it can be used like bacon bits to top soups, salads or mac-n-cheese.
There can be a difference in how fresh and frozen salmon absorb the brine so if you have a previously frozen fillet, try the recipe using the least amount of recommended salt. If your final product is too salty, simply soak the Salmon Candy (before glazing) in cold water 1-2 hours, drain and put it back into the smoker and dry to desired consistency. Glaze with honey or maple syrup the last 15-30 minutes of smoking time if desired.
Smoked Salmon Candy
2-3 pounds salmon fillets
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4-1/3 cup Kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon granulated garlic
1/2 tablespoon granulated onion
1/2 tablespoon white pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup for glazing, optional
Remove skin from salmon fillets and remove any protruding bones if desired (bones are also easy to remove after smoking but it can get messy with the glaze). Cut fish into thin strips, 1/2” to 3/4”. Belly meat can be cut into longer, thinner strips.
In a mixing bowl, thoroughly combine brown sugar, salt and seasonings. Place a small amount of the dry brine in the bottom of a shallow dish or crock. Add one layer of fish pieces and cover lightly with more dry brine. Continue layering fish pieces and dry brine, taking care to finish with a layer of dry brine.
Cover and refrigerate 12-18 hours. To ensure even brining, gently rotate fish around in the brine at least 4 times during the brining process, taking care to keep pieces separated. Once fish has brined, it needs to air dry to achieve the best texture.
Prepare smoker racks by placing them on an elevated plate or baking sheet (to catch drippings). Remove each piece of fish from the brine, wiping it clean of excess liquid. Do not rinse fish unless you are looking for a more mildly seasoned end product. Place fish on smoker racks taking care to keep uniform pieces together; if smoking belly meat, put it on one rack. Keep thicker pieces of fish together to make rack rotation easier during the smoking process. Air dry fish 4-6 hours, turning fish over 2-3 times. Use a standing or tabletop fan to expedite this process. Once fish is dry to the touch, it is ready for the smoker.
Smoke fish 4-8 hours, keeping smoker temperature under 165º, until it reaches desired consistency and doneness. Rotate racks occasionally during smoke time if needed to keep an even temperature. For best results, replace smoke chips at least once during the smoking process. Glaze fish, 2-3 times, with honey or maple syrup during the last 15-30 minutes of smoking.
Remove fish from smoker and let cool slightly. Smoked Salmon Candy can be eaten right away but for best results, place in a sealable baggie or covered container to allow flavors to develop overnight in the refrigerator. Fish will keep in the refrigerator up to one week but should be vacuum sealed and frozen for longer term storage.