After the hustle and bustle of the hunting seasons has come to a halt, there is still adventure to be had. I always remember my father putting early spring fishing for trout on a pedestal. Searching for trout that have been eating nothing other than tiny midges and crustaceans under the ice, or in the cold running water of a stream. The prospect of clean pink flesh has always been a highlight of early spring.
It seems that a lot of the finer foods we enjoy in life have origins in preservation, especially when it comes to meat. Origins whos needs were to preserve the days harvest, for days or months to come. The fish that would have surely spoiled by the end of the day, soon got a lease on shelf-life when a coat of salt cured it. Though the necessity of meat curing has passed with the advent of modern refrigeration, we still seem to enjoy those salty cured treats. Sausage, pepperoni, salami, capicola, bresaola, and gravlax all being some of the finest meats to grace a dinner party.
Curing meat is a venture that can be as involved as you please. Though if you are going to try your hand at a simple cured protein, this is a fine starting point, granted you have some trout or salmon on hand. This should be done with the freshest fish you can get, making sure to keep it cold. The salt used in the cure is kosher salt, which will only slightly lengthen its life in the refrigerator, by perhaps a week or so. Any portions not planned on being eaten in the week should be vac-sealed and frozen. The cook temp on the smoker is only set at 100*F so it is only slightly smoked. Remember, raw/undercooked meats should be eaten with caution and always carry a risk however minuscule. That being said, this is the way I make it, and it is damn good.
This recipe will work for any type of trout or salmon, though curing/smoking times may vary for fish larger than the average trout. I used the fillets of some beautiful cutbows around 16″. Cure amounts may be doubled or more so to cure more fish.
- 1/2 C of Kosher Salt
- 1/2 C of Granulated Sugar
- 1 t Coriander
- 2-3 Sprigs of finely minced fresh dill
- Fresh Ground Black Pepper
- About 4 lbs of trout filets
Add salt, sugar and coriander in a small bowl to mix.
Add finely minced dill to the bowl, and mix the cure together. Being sure to mix well so the ingredients are evenly distributed.
Pat dry the fillets of fish with a paper towel. Then generously coat both sides of fish, being sure that the cure coats the full surface of the fillets.
Place coated fillets into a large plastic container with a lid, or perhaps plastic wrap. If a large container is not available, a heavy duty zip-type bag may be used. Place the filets in the fridge and let cure for 8 hours. If using smaller fillets, 3 to 4 hours may be plenty. If larger fillets are used, up to 10 hours may be necessary.
After the fillets have cured in the fridge, there will be evidence of all the moisture the cure has drawn out of the filets. The fillets would be super salty now, so fully rinse each fillet in cold water and pat dry to rid of any extra cure that is in the surrounding liquid. Place fillets in separate clean/dry container without stacking them on top of one another. It is best to let this container sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours or possible up to a day to firm up a bit.
Get the smoker cranked up to a whopping 100*F and get your preferred soaked wood chips ready. I used plum, but any mild fruitwood is fine.
Now add some fresh black pepper on top, and smoke the trout with a good amount of smoke for about 2 hours. Smaller trout fillets may be done around the 1-1.5 hour mark, and larger ones may take up to 3. The fillets should be smooth and glossy and not have any albumin coming up through the meat. Albumin is that odd looking whitish-grey stuff that comes out, and is a sign of too high a heat for this recipe. It will still be fine to eat, but overcooking will result in a more flaky texture.
When the fillets are finished smoking, place on a cooling rack to for about an hour to prevent sweating. Then place in a container, and in the fridge for at least 6 hours to firm up.
From here you can take a razor sharp knife and slice the fillets thinly across the grain at an angle. Any fish not planned to be eaten in a week or so should be vac-sealed and frozen. This fish would be dynamite on a cheese platter or for brunch. Perhaps use it to add a smoky/salty addition to a salad, or put on a good bagel with heaps of dill. It is dang good!