Sometimes - when fishing has been good, when the weather cooperates, when the Capt. feels like manning the barbecue – we feast on Ron’s special Smoked Salmon with a Honey Lime Pepper Glaze. This delectable treat isn’t a quick, spur-of-the-moment preparation. While not difficult, it does require planning ahead to accommodate overnight brining and an hour or two of carefully tending the barbecue. It’s well worth the time spent monitoring, and taste-testing, the low-and-slow batch of smoked salmon.
When smoking big batches of salmon ashore, I use multiple Little Chief smokers. These electric units make it easier to regulate the temperature with minimal tending, but smoking aboard seems to add something special to the flavor. Either way, freshly smoked salmon has been a major hit with both crew and guests.
Kalinin Barbecue-Smoked Salmon
Brine:Makes 5 cups, enough to brine 4-5 pounds salmon
4 cups water
¼ cup kosher salt or other non-iodized salt
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon garlic granules or powder (not garlic salt)
1 tablespoon pickling spices, crushed
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon ground Indian coriander
3 or 4 splashes liquid smoke (optional)
4 to 5 pounds skin-on salmon, cut into 2-inch strips
Honey Lime Pepper Glaze (see recipe below)
Untreated wood boards, strips or sticks/branches soaked in water for at least one hour prior to use on the barbecue (alder preferred)
Add the brine ingredients to a large glass or other nonreactive container. Whisk together and microwave until the sugar dissolves. Chill thoroughly.
Place the salmon strips in the brine, one at a time so each piece is coated on all sides. When all of the salmon strips are in the container they should be completely immersed. If necessary, weight down the top surface with a plate to keep everything submerged and covered in brine. Cover and hold in the refrigerator overnight or at least 8 hours.
When ready to smoke the salmon, remove the strips from the brine. Lightly rinse to remove the bits and pieces of pickling spice, dry with a paper towel and air dry on a baking rack for 3 hours. Air-drying sets up a dry finish and will encourage absorption of a smokey flavor.
Preheat the barbecue grill to its lowest setting (85-120 degrees F), arrange the wet wood pieces across the grate, leaving small gaps between each piece for smoke and air flow. Place the brined-and-airdried salmon chunks on top of the wet wood, leaving a gap between each piece. Close the lid and let cook at the lowest temperature possible for 20-30 minutes.
After the salmon has cooked for 20-30 minutes, baste with the Honey Lime Pepper Glaze. Cover and continue smoking. Continue to baste and check for doneness frequently; for the thinner pieces check every 15-20 minutes and remove from the grill as they finish. RL likes to add one last coat of the honey/lime glaze as he takes each piece off the grill.
Sampling is the recommended best test for doneness. <grin> It may take several hours, up to 2 to 3 for thicker pieces of king salmon.
Serve immediately or cool and store covered in the refrigerator. Use as an appetizer, snack, or an amazingly tasty addition to soups, salads, or breakfast dishes.
Honey Lime Pepper Glaze:
Use a 4:3:1 ratio (by volume) to mix batches of this glaze, for example
4 ounces honey
3 ounces lime juice (fresh or bottled)
1 ounce freshly cracked black pepper
*Quick Cook Note: if I’m in a hurry or the weather is really crummy, I’ve brushed the fish with a few drops of liquid smoke diluted in some water, and slow-baked the racks over baking sheets in a 180 F or lower oven. It works, sort of. One step better is to partially cook on the barbecue grill and finish in the oven, but nothing is as flavorful as a total smoke on the barbecue (or in an electric smoker with wood chips).
*Canning Note: after the salmon cools I pack it into pint or half-pint jars and have to refer to a canning book or on-line link for the time and temp details. Smoked salmon takes as long as fresh salmon; some of the oil will come out of the fish, so I turn and up-end the jars every so often if I store it a long time.