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David Ross

Cook-Off 59: Cured, Brined, Smoked and Salted Fish

155 posts in this topic

I suspect someone in the work cafeteria is an eG-er, because today's special salad featured 'house smoked' salmon, a first.

It was very good - a nice light smoke flavor and scent, the salmon was moist and delicate. It was pinker than is shown. The dressing is lime-based, but not so sharp as to overpower.

2012-05-01 smoked salmon salad.jpg


"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Hi BB

Understand your frustration:) How long did you cure your salmon?

According to Jmolnari for one kilo of fish you'll need 30g of salt and 15g sugar. Jmolnari mentioned curing for about two days. Depending on thickness, your fish may equilibrate sooner but will not get saltier if left another day or two.

Vacuum wrapping is probably done to keep brine in contact with all surfaces. Same thing could be achieved with a well purged ziplock bag.

I've got to try the vacuum technique. In the old days we were taught to weigh down the salmom in the brine using a can of beans!

The dry cure technique works well in a zip bag too but i've found that in a vacuum bag everything stays cleaner, no chance of leaks and i'm sure that the cure mixture stays in proper contact with the meat without having to turn the bags.

I cure my meats the same way. Salt and vac pack.

To report on my vacuum pack dry curing using 3% salt and 1.5% sugar with Atlantic salmon. I left the salmon in the pack for 52 hours. The reason I didn't remove it sooner is that I couldn't see any noticeable change in either the colour or texture of the salmon, as I can with the non vac pack procedure. The vacuum stayed relatively tight and there was very little liquid visible in the pack.

On removing the salmon it felt very 'wet', sodden in fact which made it difficult to cut. Taste-wise it surprised me given the small amounts used - the salt, sugar and flavourings had penetrated through the entirety of the flesh. However, because of the vacuum, moisture could not drain out of the flesh and the end result is salmon with a texture akin to raw salmon but with the taste of cured salmon. To be honest I'm not sure what to make of it.

Would love to hear what others think.

BB


Belgian Blue

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This thread has become a great resource. Great work everyone.

Hi BB

I don't think vacuum packing prevents liquid from leaching out. Liquid is displaced from inside the flesh to the outside.

I tried the same with two trout fillets. In my case there was quite a bit of liquid. in the bag after 24hrs.

P4225661.jpg

I too was pleasantly surprised at the saltiness of the smoked fish, but was turned off by the texture which was kind of gummy. Of course the fillets I used were the kind that had sat on ice and misted with water for who knows how long (at the store), so I attributed the texture to perhaps a water soaked fish to start with.

Must try again.

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My only experience so far was with vacuum-packing the sea scallops for a short time so I'm not sure what the effect would be on salmon. My thought is that it wouldn't be a matter of moisture or flavor but one of texture, especially if the salmon was left too long in the bag. I'd worry that the meat would become gummy or pasty in texture.

My next attempts will be working with Copper River Salmon once the season opens in Alaska. Latest I heard was a May 12 date for the fishery to open.

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This thread has become a great resource. Great work everyone.

Hi BB

I don't think vacuum packing prevents liquid from leaching out. Liquid is displaced from inside the flesh to the outside.

I tried the same with two trout fillets. In my case there was quite a bit of liquid. in the bag after 24hrs.

P4225661.jpg

I too was pleasantly surprised at the saltiness of the smoked fish, but was turned off by the texture which was kind of gummy. Of course the fillets I used were the kind that had sat on ice and misted with water for who knows how long (at the store), so I attributed the texture to perhaps a water soaked fish to start with.

Must try again.

Hi ChefCrash and Hi David (I tried 'multiquote' - but I'm obviously not sufficiently proficient at it)!

ChefCrash, my bag had about the same amount of liquid as in your photo, but that is a tiny amount compared to the amount of liquid that would occur in a more 'traditional' dry cure (the type I usually do). Each time I bought the same salmon from the same supermarket (we're not talking 'wild' salmon, but farmed salmon and the supermarket displays its produce on ice and I'm aware that's by no means optimal but, at least, my experiment is consistent). With the more 'traditional' method, I have always had a good result, apart from the last time, when I (way) over-salted.

As the salt enters the flesh, it chases the moisture out, but if the vacuum is fairly tight, the moisture cannot escape and so the texture is, to say the least, not optimal (at least that is how my challenged brain sees things - if I'm wrong, please accept my apologies).

It's the underlying process that baffles me - I just can't figure out how the moisture (liquid) is supposed to escape from the flesh, as it would in a more 'traditional' process, if it's trapped by the vacuum?

No matter - the texture was so unpleasant that it was not good to eat. The whole lot has been binned but that's also part of the learning curve and I'm loving this thread!

BB

p.s. David - I've already made the 'sweet pea risotto'(with scallops) twice. A HUGE culinary joy both times.

Thank you!

BB


Belgian Blue

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Hi BB

I think that you and I agree that our experiments show that using 3% salt by weight give about the right saltiness to the fish. Yours cured for 52 hours, mine for about 24. Also, we both didn't like the texture of the final product after being in the brine for those periods.

As far as the amount of liquid leaching from the fish, I think that's proportional to the amount of salt used.

A vacuum-packed bag may be devoid of air, but does not really hold a vacuum. Once your machine starts sealing the bag, the pressure inside the bag is the same as the outside of the bag, one bar (1 atmosphere). Even partial vacuum can only exist in rigid objects from which air can be pumped out without them collapsing, like strong glass jars.

To understand how liquid can be displaced from the fish into the vacuum-packed bag, imagine this:

Fill a small ziplock bag half way with marbles and fill to top with water. Carefully close the bag making sure you squeeze all the air out as you zip it closed. Now place that bag in a bigger vacuum bag and vacuum seal it using your machine.

Now you have a bagful of marbles and water (the fish) inside a vacuum sealed bag. (I'm blowing my own mind here;).

Now imagine remotely introducing holes to (or simply remotely unzipping) the ziplock bag within the vac-sealed bag. What's to keep liquid from leaking from the ziplock bag into the other?

Unfortunately, for this method to work, the resulting brine must stay in contact with the fish to achieve equilibrium.

I hope this helps.

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Hi ChefCrash,

The penny 'dropped' with your sentence "As far as the amount of liquid leaching from the fish, I think that's proportional to the amount of salt used."

Seeing it in black and white, it makes sense.

As for the marbles and water in a bag (aka the 'fish' with holes, leaking, like any once living organism) within the vac pack - this was a 'let there be light' moment and indeed, the light penetrated. Thank you - I understand and I appreciate you're taking the time to explain.

For me, the texture is as important as the taste and I'll stick to the more traditional method from now on though I shall experiment to see how far I can reduce the amount of salt/sugar in the cure and still obtain a good result.

Thanks again

BB

BB


Edited by Belgian Blue (log)

Belgian Blue

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The 2012 Copper River Salmon is open! The season got underway yesterday, May 17, (a bit later than in past years). I'm headed down to the fish market this morning to see when it will land in Spokane. I'm hoping either today or tommorrow. I'm planning on doing a traditional Gravlax-style cure and a very light cold-smoke on the salmon. Maybe something unique for curing or smoking the belly of the Copper River salmon since it has so much rich oil. Then again, maybe some Copper River "Indian Candy."

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Details and photos later, but this morning, Saturday, May 19, I got the second Copper River Salmon of 2012 sold by my fishmonger. He had just gotten back from personally picking-up the salmon at the airport and I was second in line. After a traditional cure of salt and sugar, then a rest in the cold air of the refrigerator, it's in the smoker right now getting a short cold-smoke. I'm hoping for a hint of cure in the gravlax-style and just a whisper of smoke so I don't destroy the natural oils of this beautiful salmon. Let's cross our fingers that it will turn out delicious.

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My first dish using 2012 Copper River Salmon was a cured and cold-smoked filet of Sockeye. At the time I bought the salmon, the season had just opened on May 17, and the prodigious 2012 season continues today, June 1, two weeks later. We are still getting daily shipments of fresh Copper River Sockeye and Chinook in Eastern, Washington, so I today I bought more salmon for my next dish. For those of you who live further East, I’m hoping you’ve seen some of these beautiful fish in your markets this Spring.

As you can see, rare, wild salmon that has a limited harvest season each year doesn’t come cheap. Personally, I prefer the Sockeye over the Chinook, (King), because it has a higher oil content than its larger cousin. Part of the expensive per pound price of this salmon is attributed to the public relations efforts of the Copper River fishery. Yet with salmon so oily, rich and with a taste so pure, one doesn’t shy away from the cost of this once-a-year delicacy.

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The recipe I found suggested a cure ratio of 16oz of salt to 4 oz of sugar. Wow I thought, that’s going to taste like one of those salt licks you put out in the cow pasture—and that much salt will kill Copper River Salmon. I tempered the ratio down to 1/3 cup of Kosher salt to ¼ cup of sugar. I also added a couple of tablespoons of Salish Smoked Alder Salt that comes from a company in Seattle. (Sea salt smoked over alder wood—the traditional wood used by Native Americans to roast salmon).

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I purchased a whole side of salmon and cut it in half. Each salmon filet was liberally dusted with the salt/sugar mix then allowed to cure, covered, in the refrigerator for 7 hours.

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After curing for 7 hours, I rinsed off the salmon and then put it back in the refrigerator for another two hours, uncovered, to dry out the flesh. Then I cold-smoked the salmon, (smoke only, no heat), using alder wood chips. Next up, thinly sliced and eaten with no garnishment.

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And the sliced Cured, Cold-Smoked, Copper River Sockeye-

017.JPG

In all honesty, I wondered if I had even needed to go through all the effort to cure and cold-smoke this salmon. If they graded salmon like they do Kobe Beef, this was A-10 level. One could savor Copper River Salmon as sashimi and not be disappointed. Yet the cure added a hint of the salty sea and the driftwood scent of a Northwest campfire. And I can tell you no one else at the office had a bagel with Copper River Salmon for breakfast.

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Sure no one was eating better than you David. Looks fantastic and sure it tasted as good as it looks

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Sure no one was eating better than you David. Looks fantastic and sure it tasted as good as it looks

Thanks. Yesterday I started curing another Copper River Sockeye--this time a traditional Scandanavian-style gravlax with spices and Aquavit that I'll let cure for three days but I won't be adding any smoke.

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For the second dish using Copper River Sockeye I used a Scandanavian recipe for gravlax-style cured and brined salmon. I have an employee whose family lives in Norway and twice a year she travels home, bringing back my requested gift of a bottle of Aquavit. The region where her family lives favors Aquavit with a heavy caraway influence and so that's the style that she brings back to America. Adding Aquavit to the cure/brine for gravlax isn't a taste that everyone would like--it's heady and the caraway gives it a pronounced licorice flavor and aroma. But not to worry, since Copper River Salmon is a bold fish with lots of oil it can stand-up to the intensity of the alcohol.

I started with the spice mixture, a combination of 1 tbsp. caraway seeds, 2 tsp. fennel seeds, dash red pepper flakes, 1 tbsp. black peppercorns and 1 tbsp. juniper berries-

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I used a 50-50 ratio of 1/4 cup of Kosher salt to 1/4 cup sugar. Most recipes call for a greater ratio of salt to sugar, but I've always tempered the ratio down to 50-50 to cut down on the salt flavor in the finished product. A 1/2 cup of total salt and sugar doesn't seem much for a 6 pound fish, but with Copper River Salmon I just wanted to move the fish from raw to lightly cured and spiced gravlax-

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A 6 pound filet, boned, skin on, then cut in half-

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The filets rubbed with the spice and salt/sugar cure-

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Then a layer of fresh baby dill-

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And then the other half of the filet layed on top-

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I poured about 1/3 cup of Aquavit over the top salmon filet, then covered and refrigerated the salmon. I let the salmon cure 3 1/2 days, turning it over daily and basting with the juices from the cure/brine.

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Please PM me your address, I'll be right over :biggrin: That looks fantastic David

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Please PM me your address, I'll be right over :biggrin: That looks fantastic David

One of my best dishes ever. I've been eating more Copper River Salmon this year than ever. I imagine an appetizer like the one I did above would cost a pretty penny in a restaurant.

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This has been one of the best Copper River Salmon runs in recent years--and I just can't help myself from using it in dishes that use "cured" fish. In this dish, I used a ceviche-style, "quick-cure" with citrus juice and Asian flavors for a Copper River Salmon "Poke." As you know, Poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish using fresh seafood dressed with lime or lemon juice and accented with other Asian-inspired flavors. Sometimes Poke includes diced tomato, cucumber or sweet peppers, but this time I left it nude with just the Salmon dressed with a simple vinaigrette.

Once again I used the Copper River Sockeye for it's fresh, clean, deep salmon flavor and its high oil content. I cut the salmon into small dice and tossed it with some Chinese peppercorn chili oil, chives, toasted sesame seeds and a soy-ginger-garlic vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was composed of fresh ginger, fresh garlic, lime juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, fresh shallots and grapeseed oil.

I used some dried seaweed sheets to create layers of the "Napolean," then the Salmon Poke, Seaweed, more Salmon Poke and a garnish of fresh chives and dried fried red onion. The only thing missing was a glass of crisp, chilled Riesling.

Copper River Salmon "Poke-

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I found these wonderful wild-caught Smelt in the market. Frozen and harvested in Peru of all places. I've always used Smelt caught out of dip-nets off the Columbia River in Oregon, so I wasn't sure how the Peruvian Smelt would taste. The advantage of these Smelt over what we used to get in Oregon is that they were pre-cleaned--heads off and some industrial strength gutter had removed all the nasty innards.

I brined them in a mixture of water, salt, apple cider vinegar, garlic, peppercorns, clove, thyme and brown sugar. The recipes I found called for only brining the Smelt for 1 hour and up to 4 hours. I brined them overnight and they were just fine, absorbing all the brine flavors yet not overpowered with salt. Then dried, uncovered, in the fridge for 4 hours and smoked at 180 for 3 hours. I let them sit in Greek olive oil overnight, then served with some minced lemon zest and capers.

IMG_0153.JPG

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Prawn how much is Eel a KG, what's the yield and er what's the procedure?

I've only ever seen one recipe for it, somewhere.

Last one I bought around the new year was £22 per kg, and it was dead on about kilo too. I didn't weigh the smoked fillets, but if I had to guess then I got about 200g from it. So not cheap at all, but so worth it. I'll give you a procedure in this very thread if I can get my hands on one or two soon. Watch this space!

Right at the start of this thread I promised a step by step guide to smoking eels. Here it is finally! Eels haven't been available this summer, it's taken this long to get hold of them. The price has climbed to £30 per kg since, so there may not be many opportunities to smoke them in future.

Step 1 - Buy and kill

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Get your fishmonger to choose the most lively eels, 1 kilo in size is just right. Any smaller and the yield is poor, much bigger and they're difficult to handle in a normal kitchen. I get mine from the Indoor Fish Market here but they won't kill them for you but if your fishmonger does then get them to do it and clean them too, making sure they leave the head on. Some people just go for it, whack them over the head and gut them whilst they're still thrashing but I like to handle them as little as possible. So in a suitably sized pot with a lid scatter three or four big handfuls of coarse salt all over the bottom and pour in a little water to make a grainy slush. Tip the eels into the pot and clamp the lid down tight. Leave for an hour, the eels will thrash around for a while but the salt will eventually kill them and help to deslime. You can tell they're dead when the eyes go blank, they usually go belly up too.

Step 2 - Clean and Gut

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Remove the eels and rinse them under plenty of cold running water. A lot of the slime will be left in the pot but there will still be some on the eel. You have a choice here, you can rub this off with some more coarse salt or scrape it off with a sharp sturdy knife. It's a messy job either way. When the eel has been fully deslimed, gut it from it's anal vent to it's jaw and remove all it's innards making sure to clean the bloodline. Most other fish are quite easy to gut but eel guts are particularly tenacious, you may need sturdy fish tweezers or pliers to make a really clean job of it. Most importantly when gutting eels you need slice a couple of inches towards the tail to get the kidney out. The tip of my knife in the photo is where the anal vent was located, you can see how far to cut in that direction.

Step 3 - Salt and Dry

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For every kilo of eel rub 70g of salt into the cavity and all over the outside. Place covered in the fridge overnight, preferably 24 hours, redistributing the salty brine at least once in that time. The next day rinse the eels off and dry them quickly with a clean cloth inside and out. Place the eels on a rack uncovered in the fridge overnight for a sticky pellicle to form on the skin and in the cavity. A pellicle allows smoke to adhere better to food so make sure that the eel is as exposed as possible while it's in the fridge, that's why a rack is useful. The resting in the fridge also helps to redistribute the saltiness throughout the eel.

Step 4 - Smoke

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You're ready to smoke your eel. Prepare your hot smoker for a 80-90C burn for up to 90 minutes. It's very important that you don't smoke them too hot or they will split and all the oil will burst out. If you're using a horizontal smoker, lay the eels carefully belly up, you may need a small skewer to stop the eels from turning over. More commonly eels are smoked vertically, tie some string or twine around the throat just below the side fins and use this to hang them head up. If you don't do this and simply insert a hook straight into the jaw then as the eel cooks it softens and will fall off the hook - a complete disaster! I like to use oak chips, it's a classic flavour with fish, robust and sweet but really you can use any smoking wood. Check your eels after an hour, they should be nicely smoked, leave for up to half an hour longer if you've got particularly fat ones.

For posterity, a 987g eel at the market weighed 751g after smoking and produced 482g of pure meat. Enjoy, it's worth it.

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Jeez Prawn death by salt, you really are one alpha-Panda!


“Do you not find that bacon, sausage, egg, chips, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread and a cup of tea; is a meal in itself really?” Hovis Presley.

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Bit late to the party for this cook-off but here is my first effort at smoked salmon.

Dry Salt packed around fish overnight. Rinsed and patted dry. Dried in fridge uncovered on rack for a day. Cold smoked in my Masterbuilt electric smoker using A-Maze-N smoker with oak chips and apple wood sawdust for an hour and a half only. I also used my chamber sealer to seal ice in bags and put one bag on each of the spare racks. It was cool in there.

Came out perfectly. Here it is on toasted ciabatta with cream cheese, onions, and capers.

smoked salmon.jpg


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four.
Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
My eG Foodblog

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Bit late to the party for this cook-off but here is my first effort at smoked salmon.

Dry Salt packed around fish overnight. Rinsed and patted dry. Dried in fridge uncovered on rack for a day. Cold smoked in my Masterbuilt electric smoker using A-Maze-N smoker with oak chips and apple wood sawdust for an hour and a half only. I also used my chamber sealer to seal ice in bags and put one bag on each of the spare racks. It was cool in there.

Came out perfectly. Here it is on toasted ciabatta with cream cheese, onions, and capers.

smoked salmon.jpg

Thanks. It's never too late to post in a Cook-Off. I like the idea of the ice bags to keep the smoking chamber cool. I've never thought of that. I think I'll try it once we get some fresh Spring salmon up here.

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