Skinning salmon for cold smoking...and other questions

Skinning salmon for cold smoking...and other questions

Postby kevster » Wed Aug 25, 2010 12:25 pm

Hi all
Morrisons have whole salmon fillets on offer at the moment...an invitation to experimentation if ever there was one.

In the past I've made gravlax with it, but thought this time I'd cold-smoke it. There appears to be lots of variations of how to cure the salmon prior to smoking. I was going to try starting with a cure of about 40g sea salt and 20g demerara sugar per kg for 16 hours, air-dry for 8 hours, brush with a whiskey syrup glaze and smoke for 8 hours (or is this too long)?

I was also wondering why the salmon isn't skinned before hand? From a common sense point of view (and I'm no expert in that department :wink: ) it would seem that both cure and smoke should penetrate easier if it were skinless. Or is there a reason that I've missed?
Cheers
Kev
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Postby wheels » Wed Aug 25, 2010 1:17 pm

Hi Kev

What price is the salmon?

I don't measure the cure but put a good sprinkling on to cover the fish. I only cure for about 8 hours. I smoke using the ProQ CSG for about 30 hours - but I have a fast throughput on my smoking chamber. Others, I know find 12 hours plenty.

The skin keeps it all intact. I imagine it would be difficult to finely slice it if it was skinless.

Phil
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Postby kevster » Wed Aug 25, 2010 2:05 pm

wheels wrote:Hi Kev

What price is the salmon?

I don't measure the cure but put a good sprinkling on to cover the fish. I only cure for about 8 hours. I smoke using the ProQ CSG for about 30 hours - but I have a fast throughput on my smoking chamber. Others, I know find 12 hours plenty.

The skin keeps it all intact. I imagine it would be difficult to finely slice it if it was skinless.

Phil

Hi Phil
The salmon is £6.66 per kilo...which is as cheap as I can find it around here (although I've seen it cheaper just before christmas).

My smoke output is probably about the same as your ProQ CSG (mine is home made though...I've posted the disign in the smoking and barbequing forum)....but the smoke seems to accumulate pretty densely in the bbq I use to smoke in (for example, cheese was about right in an hour).

I've tried to go with weights for the salt and sugar cure as, not having done this before, it is not so easy to judge by eye...I'm sure this will come after a few goes though.

Re: skin on or off. Do you think it might be because many people hang the salmon in the smoke, whereas I will be putting it onto a grid? Although you may have a point with the slicing....
Cheers
Kev
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Postby grisell » Wed Aug 25, 2010 2:22 pm

Don't skin and don't hang it. There's a great risk it will fall apart (own experience).
André

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Postby Ryan C » Wed Aug 25, 2010 3:13 pm

Hi Kev,

Thanks for the heads up on the salmon offer!

I presume you are using some kind of kettle BBQ and that cool wire mesh thingy I looked at yesterday?
I agree with Phil, 16 hours seems a long time to cure unless you have a particularly large side of salmon. I prefer a mild cure, three parts salt, one part molasses, one part demerara. Cured for five or six hours until it becomes firm, then just rinsed under the tap before being placed in the fridge for usually a whole day to dry and equalise ( I do my smoking overnight when the temperature is cooler - in winter too!)
- I fear you may find it tough to keep your temperature low in your BBQ.

Most professional smokehouses smoke for 2-3 days!! :shock: they use a very light amount of fruitwood smoke so that the smoke has time to penetrate to the centre of the fish. If your smoke is too dense you will get a bitter coating of phenols on the outside while the inside is still smokeless.
You can offset a dense amount of smoke by wrapping in clingfilm for a couple of days to allow the smoke flavour to distribute evenly.
There is no magic formula for the right amount of smoke and you will just have to experiment with your smoker (although I would say the lighter the smoke, the better)

Whisky syrup! - sounds bloody magic! Be careful though as a thickish coating on the fish will not only make it more difficult for the smoke to penetrate, but will also absorb a lot of smoke making it quite bitter. I've used a similar technique but by giving the fish a half an hour bath in some whisky, water and sugar before putting in the fridge to dry.

As for the fish skin, I'm not sure why this is done but, like you I use a mesh to rest my fish on instead of hanging it and I have found that by placing the fish skin side up, it is slightly more moist at the end of the process. My best guess is that the oils that are just under the skin distribute themselves through gravity, while the skin acts as a barrier to slow down evaporation. This is just a guess though, and the results are not hugely noticable.

Hope this is of some help

Smoke on!

Ryan
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Postby kevster » Wed Aug 25, 2010 3:58 pm

Ryan C wrote:Hi Kev,

Thanks for the heads up on the salmon offer!

I presume you are using some kind of kettle BBQ and that cool wire mesh thingy I looked at yesterday?
I agree with Phil, 16 hours seems a long time to cure unless you have a particularly large side of salmon. I prefer a mild cure, three parts salt, one part molasses, one part demerara. Cured for five or six hours until it becomes firm, then just rinsed under the tap before being placed in the fridge for usually a whole day to dry and equalise ( I do my smoking overnight when the temperature is cooler - in winter too!)
- I fear you may find it tough to keep your temperature low in your BBQ.

Most professional smokehouses smoke for 2-3 days!! :shock: they use a very light amount of fruitwood smoke so that the smoke has time to penetrate to the centre of the fish. If your smoke is too dense you will get a bitter coating of phenols on the outside while the inside is still smokeless.
You can offset a dense amount of smoke by wrapping in clingfilm for a couple of days to allow the smoke flavour to distribute evenly.
There is no magic formula for the right amount of smoke and you will just have to experiment with your smoker (although I would say the lighter the smoke, the better)

Whisky syrup! - sounds bloody magic! Be careful though as a thickish coating on the fish will not only make it more difficult for the smoke to penetrate, but will also absorb a lot of smoke making it quite bitter. I've used a similar technique but by giving the fish a half an hour bath in some whisky, water and sugar before putting in the fridge to dry.

As for the fish skin, I'm not sure why this is done but, like you I use a mesh to rest my fish on instead of hanging it and I have found that by placing the fish skin side up, it is slightly more moist at the end of the process. My best guess is that the oils that are just under the skin distribute themselves through gravity, while the skin acts as a barrier to slow down evaporation. This is just a guess though, and the results are not hugely noticable.

Hope this is of some help

Smoke on!

Ryan


Hi Ryan
Many thanks for the advice. I'll shorten the curing time to 5 or 6 hours as you suggest. I am using a kettle bbq and can adjust the ventilation if I need a slower smoking with a more dilute smoke. It will just need to wait for cooler weather though if I'm going to smoke for that long. For now I may need to do a more intense short smoke and then do as you suggest by wrapping in clingfilm and equalising in the fridge....although the outside temperature is forecast as 8oC on Friday night. At that temperature could I smoke for 8 hours, put it in the fridge during the day and then smoke again the following night?

Your suggestion of the bath in whiskey, water and sugar sounds like a better way to go (in fact, what a way to go...wouldn't mind trying it myself :D )

Kev
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Postby saucisson » Wed Aug 25, 2010 4:20 pm

My only comment is that 40g of salt seems a bit high if you are wrapping the salmon up in a bag with it, if your putting it on a rack so any liquid drains away that will probably be fine :)
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Postby Ryan C » Wed Aug 25, 2010 5:43 pm

Kev,

I think your plan to smoke overnight then into the fridge during the day and back into the smoker overnight the next night is a good way to go. This way you will be able to taste the fish before you return it to the smoker each time and decide if it needs more smoke or not. This is how it was done traditionally, a half-drunk Scotsman (like me!:wink:) would light the fire then bugger off to the pub for the night. If it stayed lit, it stayed lit. If it went out, it went out.... no biggie. then repeat the process until it was sufficiently smoked. Just keep an eye on your temperatures.

BTW, I've found the best way to taste is to take a small sliver from the middle of the fish as the end pieces which are thinner, are far smokier and can trick you into thinking it is sufficiently smoked. As long as you're resting your fish on mesh this shouldn't cause any falling apart issues like it would if you were hanging it.

Good luck :D

Ryan
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Postby kevster » Wed Aug 25, 2010 5:51 pm

saucisson wrote:My only comment is that 40g of salt seems a bit high if you are wrapping the salmon up in a bag with it, if your putting it on a rack so any liquid drains away that will probably be fine :)


Hi saucisson
My estiamtes are completely random and pieced together from posts without knowing quite how people were doing it. I went with 40g per kg as this would be 4% (same as sea water) if all of it went into the salmon (which presumably it won't)...but I really hadn't thought about how I would store it while curing. Now you mention it though, I probably would have put in a bag. If I did it this way, how much salt would you use for an 8 hour cure?
thanks
Kev
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Postby Ryan C » Wed Aug 25, 2010 5:55 pm

Meant to say,

It is difficult to keep the smoke light in a kettle bbq so I would think your fish will probably be ready after one night or two at the most.

All the best
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Postby kevster » Wed Aug 25, 2010 6:15 pm

Ryan C wrote:Kev,

I think your plan to smoke overnight then into the fridge during the day and back into the smoker overnight the next night is a good way to go. This way you will be able to taste the fish before you return it to the smoker each time and decide if it needs more smoke or not. This is how it was done traditionally, a half-drunk Scotsman (like me!:wink:) would light the fire then bugger off to the pub for the night. If it stayed lit, it stayed lit. If it went out, it went out.... no biggie. then repeat the process until it was sufficiently smoked. Just keep an eye on your temperatures.

BTW, I've found the best way to taste is to take a small sliver from the middle of the fish as the end pieces which are thinner, are far smokier and can trick you into thinking it is sufficiently smoked. As long as you're resting your fish on mesh this shouldn't cause any falling apart issues like it would if you were hanging it.

Good luck :D

Ryan


My homemade smoke generator doesn't seem to generate enough heat to warm anything at all....and I'm hoping that the salt in the cure will preserve the meat sufficently for an overnight smoking provided it isn't a warm night.

I'll make a note in my recipe that after lighting the smoker the next step is 'head for the pub' :lol:

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Postby wheels » Wed Aug 25, 2010 6:24 pm

With the weather we're having, it's more chance of freezing than being too hot!
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Postby kevster » Wed Aug 25, 2010 8:05 pm

wheels wrote:With the weather we're having, it's more chance of freezing than being too hot!

Tell me about it....my daughter is off camping with her boyfriend during the UK's 'summer' holiday season and she has found a pub with a roaring log fire...in August :shock:
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Postby kevster » Wed Aug 25, 2010 8:22 pm

OK...went with 25g sea salt and 15g sugar per kg of salmon as I'm curing it in bags (had to split side into three to get into bags). After 8 hours in the cure I will take it out and give it a whiskey bath before drying for 36 hours (going this long as it gets me through to Friday night) when I will smoke it overnight. This should line up perfectly with a saturday brunch to tests the smokiness of the salmon...howz that for a plan 8)
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Postby wheels » Wed Aug 25, 2010 8:53 pm

Yes, but just a taste on Saturday as the flavour will develop over a couple of days post-smoking. You could cut the 36 hours drying down - I do about 12.

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