NEARLY EVERY ALASKAN WHO HARVESTS SALMON HAS A SMOKING RECIPE OR TWO (OR A DOZEN!) UP THEIR SLEEVES. INCLUDING EVERYTHING FROM TRADITIONAL STRIPS TO KIPPERS AND PRESSURE-CANNED TO FROZEN, PIECES OF SMOKED SALMON GRACE FREEZERS AND LINE PANTRY SHELVES IN MANY ALASKAN HOMES. THE FOLLOWING IS A BASIC RECIPE THAT WAS PASSED ONTO ME BY MY DAD AND TWEAKED TO SUIT MY OWN TASTE. SMOKING SALMON ALWAYS INVOLVES A LEARNING PROCESS NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES IT IS UNDERTAKEN, AND FLAVOR PROFILES CAN EASILY BE ADJUSTED TO SUIT.
– Susie Brito (Set the Net)
● 2-4 wild Alaskan sockeye salmon fillets, cut into 2-inch-wide pieces
● 1 cup salt
● 2 cups organic brown sugar
● 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced fine
● 1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, peeled and finely shredded
● a healthy pinch of cayenne pepper
● a hot smoker like a Little Chief, Master Built, or Bradley, or an arrangement that is as simple as a wooden box with racks and a small pot for burning wood chips
Clean and prepare your salmon by filleting and cutting into 2-inch wide chunks. In a medium bowl, mix together salt, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, and cayenne to make dry brine.
Sprinkle a fine layer of the dry brine in the bottom of a deep baking dish. Place the first layer of salmon pieces skin-side down and cover with another layer of dry brine, taking care that some dry brine coats all of the surfaces of the salmon pieces. Place subsequent layers flesh-side to flesh-side with a layer of dry brine in between. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to cure for 3-5 hrs in the refrigerator.
Once cured, quickly rinse the salmon pieces in cold water to remove the excess brine, and place on baking racks to dry in a strong breeze or wind from a fan. Leave to dry until the salmon is no longer tacky, but dry to the touch, and the flesh has taken on a dark-tinged crust. Approximately 24 hours.
Once dried, place the salmon pieces on racks with the flesh side up and smoke for 6-10 hours at approximately 100-120° Fahrenheit in a heavy alder smoke. Smoke salmon pieces until desired dryness and smokiness is achieved, as flavor profiles vary.
Store vacuum-sealed or in tight plastic wrap in the refrigerator or freezer.