This month for Charcutepalooza, Cathy and Kim challenged us to make either hot smoked salmon or hot smoked pork loin/pork shoulder. I chose the former because smoked salmon is one of my very favorite foods (and because making hot smoked salmon meant being able to take the month off from discussing pink salt).
I tried to make hot smoked salmon a few months ago, using my wok set up like this. I loved the DIY-feel of making it that way, but really wasn’t thrilled with the results. So I took Cathy’s advice and purchased the Camerons Stovetop Smoker. I am very glad that I did as it wasn’t very expensive and I think I am going to use it a lot.
To make my smoked salmon, I started with a fillet of wild salmon and a dry cure based on salt and sugar (the recipe is at the end of this post). When you rub salmon and allow it to cure like this, you’re basically making the Scandinavian delicacy gravlax (although gravlax is generally made with dill, which I didn’t use). You could eat it without smoking it when it’s finished, and it’s quite delicious that way, just so you know.
While the salmon is curing, you want to have it wrapped very well and weighed down. I used a couple of big jars of tomatoes to accomplish this task, but you could use whatever you have around: even some rocks.
After 2 days in the cure, I rinsed the salmon thoroughly and allowed it to sit on a rack in the refrigerator, uncovered, for about 24 hours. The purpose of doing this is so your salmon will form something called a “pellicle”, a shiny tackiness to the exterior of the fish. According to Rulman’s Charcuterie, allowing the salmon to form a pellicle means the smoky flavor will better adhere to the fish and there will be less chance it will dry out in the smoker.
The concern about moisture loss is a real one when you’re hot smoking with a stovetop smoker because there isn’t really a way to control the temperature. I was very worried my salmon would overcook, so I kept the salmon in the smoker for only about 16 minutes. This is less time than is recommended in the smoker’s manual, but I figured that since I’m perfectly happy eating raw gravlax, I’d prefer the salmon to be underdone rather than the other way around. Despite having no idea what the temperature was inside the the smoker, the results were really fantastic.
I pretty much devoured the smoked salmon over a couple of days. I ate it on it’s own, in scrambled eggs, and on open-faced sandwiches, like this one with goat cheese and watercress (on Rudi’s gluten free bread).
Recipe for Hot Smoked Salmon
The cure for the salmon was adapted from this recipe over on food52
*1 pound wild salmon fillet
*2 tablespoons pernod
*2 tablespoons coarse salt (or kosher salt)
*2 tablespoons organic light brown or muscovado sugar
*1 teaspoon coarsely ground peppercorns (I used a four peppercorn blend)
*2 teaspoons organic orange zest
1. Place salmon skin-side down on a large sheet of plastic wrap in a container large enough hold the salmon. I used a round and deep baking dish; the salmon will ooze some liquid while curing, so make sure your receptacle has sides to contain this liquid.
2. Drizzle the salmon all over with with the pernod, then mix salt, sugar, pepper, and orange zest and rub the mixture all over the salmon (or, rub the salmon first, then drizzle on the pernod).
3. Wrap the plastic around the salmon (wrap it tight to contain the liquid), then cover the salmon with something to weigh it down: a sheet pan or a dish of some sort; I used a pie dish. Place something heavy on top (I used 2 large cans of tomatoes).
4. Place salmon in the refrigerator for about 48 hours, then remove weights, unwrap and rinse very well. Note that at this point you basically have gravlax, which when sliced very thin, is quite the treat on its own.
5. If proceeding with smoking the salmon, put the fillet on a rack atop a sheet pan in the refrigerator. Allow to air dry for about 24 hours, or until the surface is shiny and a little tacky (this is called the pellicle).
6. Smoke the salmon in a stovetop or other hot smoker according to manufacturer's directions. I used a Cameron smoker with hickory chips and smoked my salmon for 16 minutes. It was perfect.
I will be making this recipe again, for sure. And I can’t wait to try other foods in my smoker!