Big King & How to Smoke Salmon

  • We really enjoy our king salmon so we were thrilled to catch a 20 pounder the other day. Kings are naturally less common than red salmon so each one is something special. They can also be quite large. The world record sport-caught king was 97.25 pounds and the commercially caught king was 126 pounds! Ours was just over 20 pounds but that was fine with us. We had fresh salmon that night and froze the rest for the winter. Although we have not smoked king salmon before, we are experimenting with that now. King is so much higher in fat than the other species of salmon. This makes it delicious when eaten fresh and extremely rich and oily when smoked. We haven’t figured out exactly how long to brine and smoke the king yet but we’re almost there.

    We smoked another 5 red salmon today and froze them for the winter. Nicole really likes taking smoked salmon to her Georgetown Soirées so we want to be well stocked. I also really enjoy the ritual of smoking fish. First we create a 100% salt brine (salt added to water until the water is totally saturated–an egg floats); then, after filleting the salmon and cleaning each piece, we let the fish sit in the brine for exactly 30-minutes. Then we remove the salmon from the brine and wash each piece by hand. Then comes the seasoning and glazing. All the pieces are set out and rubbed with brown sugar and dusted with roasted, crushed pepper corns. We either place the salmon in the sun or near a fan to “glaze.”

    But before any of this can be done, however, we go out and harvest alder branches which will supply the smoke. There are no trees in this landscape but there are a few small stands of alder, perhaps 10 feet high. We harvest branches from these small stands, strip the bark then let the branches dry for a few days. When dry, we use a hatchet to make small chips from the branches.

    When the wood is harvested, dried and chipped, and the fish is filleted, cleaned and glazed we can finally get some wood smoking then put the fish in the smoker. This is where it gets tricky. The amount of time each batch of fish needs to smoke can vary from 4 hours to many days depending on the weather. With cold, windy or rainy weather, the fish can smoke for days and still not be done. On a still, sunny day we can smoke one batch in the morning and one in the evening. The weather this summer has been rough so our smokes take days.

    This is the glazing stage with red salmon. Look at that amazing color!

    The weather can turn rough in less than an hour when the tide turns and rips 7 knots against the wind. A large tide and an opposing wind of 30 knots creates large standing waves. We had some rough weather the other day, but we’re still here!

    July 14th, 2011 | Traveler | No Comments |

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