I LOVE smoked salmon. Even people I know that don’t usually like fish like smoked salmon. A few years back I got a few smoked salmon recipes from people I know and I started making my own. Smoking salmon takes a while to do, but it is so worth the time and effort and, while time consuming, it is fairly easy to do! The essentials are: brine, season & dry, smoke over low heat.
Take your salmon fillets and slice them into strips; I tend to do my strips 1.5″ wide, and I leave some of the thinner fillet pieces whole. Then fill a large, food grade plastic bucket or stainless steel pot 1/4 full with warm water. To the warm water, add 3/4 bag of golden brown sugar and 1/2 -3/4 box of non-iodized salt. Stir to dissolve. Once the salt & sugar is dissolved, fill the remainder of the bucket with cold water and add the fish. Let brine for about 2 hours.
Once fish has been brined, lay salmon on butcher paper and blot to dry. At this time you can season your fish with your favorite seasoning or leave it as-is. I like to brush some Brer Rabbit molasses (NOT blackstrap) on the fish at this point. Let fish dry overnight; the fish will develop a matte finish or “crust” for lack of a better term. (I usually do this in my garage–if it is too warm, set up fans to keep the air flowing).
Place salmon, skin-side down, on greased racks. Smoke the fish with alder chips on low heat, or about 150 degrees, until fish reads about 140 degrees at the thickest part; this takes about 4-5 hours. Remove fish from the smoker and tent with foil for about 20 minutes, which allows juices & oils to redistribute. Eat or vacuum seal and put in the freezer for future use!