First a little information I picked up in Alaska last year. One of the things that make Copper River and Kenai Wild salmon better than other wild salmon is the way they are handled when they "pick' their nets. Their fish are handled carefully and are never picked up by the tail (I doubt this applies to Kokanee much). Some of the other things they do seems to help though. They immediately bleed their fish. Just slit a gill. I toss mine in a bucket of lake water to bleed out. The Kenai wild folks ice their fish immediately when they get to shore. As soon as I get my Kokanee line back out, if I don't have another hookup I clean the fish and put them in a cooler with lots of ice and leave them on Ice till I get home. This truly does make a difference over letting them float around in a bucket or live well all day, even later when the lake water has cooled down to 50 or 55 degrees.
O.K. so much for that little sermon. On to getting them smoked. When I get home I wash the fish thoroughly, cut the heads and tails off and put them in fresh water in the refrigerator over night. If you were so inclined they could be soaked in the brine and smoked the next day. I like to mix the brine and chill it overnight, then soak the fish the next day and smoke the following night.
I use Morton's Sugar Cure including the spices that come inside in the foil packet. The only thing I add is a couple of tablespoons of liquid smoke and that is really optional. I think some of the other mixes are good too. I tried one of the local commercially sold mixes recently and it was excellent. The most important thing to remember about the brine is how strong to make it. Mix enough to cover the fish plus a little. If you start with a gallon and a half of water use a cup of Morton's for a start, then add enough more to float a raw egg. You want the egg to just float, not pop to the top. If you drop it in it should sink and then slowly come to the top and eventually float with just the top showing. Add the spices, liquid smoke or what ever else you like after the egg floats.
The brine should be cold when you put the fish in and stay in the refrigerator till you are ready to drain and smoke the fish. Put a plate or something on top to make sure the fish are all covered with the brine. With the above mix soak the fish 12 hours, plus or minus no more than an hour. Plan your brine time so you can thoroughly drain the fish before putting them in the smoker. I do not wash the fish again when I take them out of the brine. I just take them out and put them on the smoker racks, making sure that they don't touch each other. I try to spread each fish out to provide maximum exposure to the smoke. Spreading them out and laying them cavity side down on the racks works good for me and I get five fish on each rack in the Little Chief. Always let them drain thoroughly, an hour isn't too long.
I start the smoker a few minutes before putting the fish in but I'm not sure this is important. In the Little Chief 12 hours is about right for my taste. They are cooked through and about the right texture. I have gone as much as 16 hours but after that they tend to get too dry. Less than 12 hours leaves them too moist for me. I do my smoking over night. This may be a problem for some folks as the Little Chief needs to be restoked every 3 to 4 hours. Not a problem for me as I am up at least that often anyhow. Before I go to bed and in the morning I put fresh chips in every 2 hours at most.
I use almost exclusively hickory. I do this for two reasons. One, I have access to all I want of it as Doug, my son-in-law is in the wood floor business and brings me lots of scraps. Two, you just can't go wrong with hickory smoke. I think there are lots of other good woods. I have used alder (Western Alder, not the tag alder we have here in north Idaho). I have heard fruit tree wood, particularly apple is excellent. Probably lots of others are good.
Wood shavings or fine chips work best for me. The larger chunks just don't give me enough smoke. I take Doug's scraps and run them through my jointer (a plainer would work better) and catch the shavings in a box. Before using them I put them on a large zip lock bag and add enough water to wet them thoroughly but not run off. It is better to do this a day or two ahead of time and just seal the bag. If I forget I just wet them and go ahead but seal the bag up for next time.
All this said, here is the caveat. Smoked fish is really an individual thing. You should consider the above as only a starting place. If you start like this you won't be too far wrong and you can adjust to your own liking on the next batch. Try different woods. If they come out too moist smoke them a little longer. If you like them more moist shorten up the smoke time a little.
Fish smoked like this make excellent sandwiches. We also make fish soup with them. I am going to try the smoked salmon dip recipe on your web site with some. The old timers used to can their smoked bluebacks and I intend to try that if I get enough ahead. I think they will keep better than in the freezer.
Thought I'd throw another recipe into the pot (ha-ha). Whenever my husband manages to bring in a reasonably sized steelhead or salmon and the BBQ is still active, I try this:
Clean it, cut off head and tail, leave it whole (HE does this, I don't clean the things!). Salt and pepper the inside, throw in some lemon juice, dill weed, butter pats, and white wine. Wrap it all up in double foil and put it on the grill. Check it often for doneness. Remove, chill, and serve cold with lemon wedges (and tartar if desired). We have done this for parties and it is truly a big hit among fish lovers! See you at work.........Sue
Many people tell us that they don't like venison. "It's too gamey" or "It's too tough" are often heard complaints. Yet when they eat venison at our home, they sometimes say "What is this? It couldn't be venison!" Though no recipe can help when the hunter doesn't take good care of his kill, or takes an old buck in the heat of the rut, a properly cared for buck or doe is one of life's treats on the table. This is how we prepare steaks. Remember, venison is LEAN and will be harmed by overcooking!
Start with a nice, heavy frying pan. Over medium heat, melt a couple tablespoons of bacon grease. (We often buy a couple pounds of bacon ends and pieces and cook it slowly in a large pot to render the lard and obtain our supply of grease. It keeps well in a container in the refridgerator.) While the fat is melting, take your steaks and put garlic powder or fresh garlic on the meat. The amount you use will depend on your personal preference. We prefer to be somewhat liberal. Pepper the meat, but leave the salt off for now. It will draw water from the meat and make it tougher. Set the steaks into the pan and fry until brown on one side, then flip over. Fry the other side, checking the meat part way thru to check the degree of doneness. Keep in mind that if overcooked, venison is as palatable as your kid's old tennis shoes. We prefer to remove the meat from the heat when it is medium-rare to medium. The meat is adequately done at this point, and should be served ASAP! For some reason, venison's gamey qualities are more predominate when the meat is cool. Offer steak sauce, if desired. We think that served this way with salt and pepper available at the table, your guests will not want the sauce!
Another variation, and one to tempt even the most cynical venison hater is similiar to the one above. Take out venison steaks not more than an inch thick. Sprinkle "Garlic Pepper" on (it DOES contain some salt) and then sprinkle lightly with Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs. Beat the crumbs and spices into the meat with a meat pounder to force the spice flavor into the meat and to help tenderize it a bit. If you don't overdo the meat, it won't usually need help to be tender, but this helps. Now flip the meat and repeat the process on the other side. Beat the steaks until they are reduced in thickness by about HALF. Now, fry the steaks in a bit of bacon fat until medium rare to medium and serve. If you over do your meat, you might as well do to McDonalds instead because (A) you have ruined your steaks and (B) You don't know how to cook! ;o)
Give these methods a try and I think you'll be on your way to other tasty venison taste treats.
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons whipping cream
4 to 6 ounces smoked salmon, boned and minced finely
2 teaspoons chopped chives or green onions
a squeeze of lemon
a little ground black pepper
ground cayenne pepper (optional)
Combine the cream cheese and cream in a bowl and whip until light and fluffy. Stir in the smoked salmon, chives or onions, lemon juice, and pepper(s). Makes enough dip for about 10 people. Serve with fancy crackers, vegetables, bagels, or rye bread. Delicious!
Fish Soup??? Yes, you heard it right! This is an excellent way to use fillets of white fish in a tasty meal. Don't put it off...if you are stuck indoors on a cold and rainy day, this is a great way to warm up and use up some of those sea bass fillets.
Two white fish fillets, boned and cubed into 3/4 inch chunks
6 cups water
4 chicken bullion cubes
1 bay leaf
Assorted vegetables for soup-cut into pieces suitable for soup
(try carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, or maybe a little dried tomatoes
Noodles or cooked rice (as desired)
Other seafood treats, like Clams, shrimp, etc.
Bring the water to a boil and dissolve the chicken bullion in the water. Add the bay leaf. Reduce the heat to medium and add your vegetables-first the ones that take a long time to cook, such as the potatoes and carrots. Then add the softer, quicker cooking varieties when the first veggies are part way done. Right before the veggies are cooked through, add the noodles or cooked rice. Be sure to not overdo the rice or noodles, as too much will overpower the rest of the soup. Then add the fish chunks to the soup and any other "seafood treats". You want the fish to just cook thru, then serve it. If the fish is overdone, then it will fall apart and not be as tasty in the soup. On a good simmer, the fish takes 5 minutes or so to cook thru. Test it with a fork to see if it flakes easily. Serve the soup hot with crackers and sandwiches. ENJOY!
So, you caught your first steelhead or mackinaw and don't know what to do with it? Or did you catch a fish close to spawning time and it's a little dark? Try this easy recipe for sure fire success! First, clean and wipe off the fish, removing all sea lice and slime possible. Fillet the fish and remove all the bones. Remove any fat along the back or the belly, especially on the mackinaw. Use tweezers or hemostats to remove the small bones--your spouse and kids will be grateful! Be sure to leave the skin ON for this recipe!
Now, either prepare or buy a teriyaki sauce. Kikoman or Mr. Yoshida's brands are excellent. To make your own teriyaki sauce, combine the following ingredients. Use 2/3's soy sauce and 1/3 white wine (enough to cover the fillet at least half deep). The wine can be omitted if you choose. To the soy mixture, add a couple shakes of garlic powder and a shake of dried ginger. Fresh garlic and ginger are even better, but more work! Pineapple juice is an excellent addition to this marinade. Purchase it in the small 6-packs (each can holds about 6 ounces). Mix all ingredients together and place fillet in the mixture anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour before barbecuing. Turn the fillet over half way through the marinading process. If the fillet is marinated too long, it will be ruined.
Place the fillet on foil over a fire of moderate heat. Cover the BBQ if possible. It is better to bake the fillet than to char it! Watch the fish carefully. When you insert a fork into the thickest part of the fish and if flakes all the way thru, it is done. Do not overcook fish. Prepared this way, it should be moist and flavorful.
Have you ever been camping or over on the coast and caught a small steelhead or salmon and wanted to fix it for lunch or dinner? This is an easy and quick way to prepare it, and the results will astound you.
8 ounces raw salmon or steelhead fillet, skinned and boned
Lipton Creamy Garlic of Alfredo Noodle mix
Water, milk and butter as directed on package
After filleting and boning the fillet, cut it up into chunks about 3/4" in size. Boil the milk/water/butter as directed on the package. Add the noodles. After stirring in the noodles, stir in the salmon chunks. Cook as directed until the noodles are done. The salmon will be done when the noodles are cooked thru. Serve immediately with vegetables and garlic toast.