Today I'm actually doing my 3rd cold-smoked salmon run. But before I get to some of the details, I'll briefly describe attempt #2, which wasn't as problem-free as my first run.
The main stumbling block was that I could not easily keep the smoking chamber under 100 F on the 2nd attempt. Apparently, my first attempt -- and the ease with which it happened -- was nothing more than random luck. For attempt #2, I again placed a couple of small burning embers atop the tinder box full of wood chips, but this time it caught quickly and burned too hot. I spritzed it with water -- trying to cool it off -- accidentally putting it out completely. From there, I had no choice but to start another chimney of lump and begin the process again. I eventually came out of it ok but instead of a 'set it and forget it' experience, I missed much of the Bears game during my frequent trips out to the smoker. I was tweaking things every 10-15 minutes for several hours.
The finished product was again, excellent. The 2nd time through I also made some adjustments to the pre-smoking steps -- the main one being the omission of pink salt. I knew, based on what Michael posted upthread that there was some risk in this method. Still, I figured that salt + smoke + refrigeration would mitigate the risk. Again, I was using a relatively lean piece of wild coho and, as Michael suggested, I reduced the curing time from 36 hours to 24. Texture-wise, this helped me get closer to the final product I had visualized making. It was softer and more closely resembled the commercially-made lox which I was trying to duplicate. The main visual difference in this case was the color of the fish, which, without the addition of pink salt, did not remain as bright orange as it was on attempt #1. No worries though; the final product was still of acceptable color and was absolutely delicious.
Today, I decided to change a few more of the variables. Instead of wild coho, I started with a 4.5# piece of wild king Salmon. Instead of a dry cure, I decided to brine the fish in the following solution:
1 gallon water
1 pound kosher salt
1 cup dark molasses
1/4 tsp pink salt
because it was such a large piece of fish, I brined it for about 20 hours (for a smaller piece I would have only brined it for 12 or so). Instead of 24 hours of drying, I let it dry for only 12 hours. But the main thing I did differently was set up a crazy, cold-smoking rig, which seems to be working perfectly at the moment. . .Weber kettle was started with a half chimney of lump charcoal. Once dumped, I topped the burning pile off with big chunks of apple and cherry wood.The dampers are adjusted to maintain at about 225 F.A better look at the whole contraption. The aluminum dryer-duct is actually held in place with very thin wire. I used "Gorilla" tape over the wire to hold things in place and seal a few leaks.Almost no problem in conveying the smoke through the duct to the smoking chamber. I did place a fan just outside the top damper, which is helping to move the smoke through the smoking chamberWild King Salmon smoking away. You can see the smoke entering the smoking chamber through the damper on the left side of the frame. Even now, after nearly 3 hours in the smoke, it's still cold to the touch.
I'll report back later after the smoking stage is completed. I'm actually not sure how long I'll let it smoke. I'll just play it by ear.