This is a legendary family recipe and process for smoking salmon.  I grew up on the Puget Sound in Washington state, home to a diverse variety of saltwater table fare.  For nearly four decades my father perfected the art of smoking salmon, using fresh Red Alder chips that we made ourselves.  The old weathered cedar outhouse-style smoker nestled back in the woods was later replaced with a modern electric unit, but the results remain consistent.

A single recipe is enough for about 25# of  fish (live weight).

  • 2 ½ Quart water
  • ½ Cup brown sugar
  • ½ Cup white sugar
  • 1 Cup pickling salt (non-iodized)
  • ¼ Cup regular Johnny’s seasoning salt
  • 3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper

Soak 8 to 24 hours in a large glass bowl or ceramic brining pot.  Rule of thumb: 8 hours for a 3# or 24 hours for a 25# salmon, depending on the thickness of the pieces.  Thinner fillets require less brine time that thick steaks.

Rinse and place pieces on paper towels, pat dry and allow to air dry until slightly glazed.  A fan can speed this up but is not necessary.  Brushing with Rum or Brandy will really improve the appearance, but is not necessary. It also has no effect on the flavor.

The salmon soaking

Spray your smoker racks with Pam or olive oil to prevent sticking.  Place skin side down and put the larger pieces closer to the heat.  Smoke 12 to 30 hours, depending on the thickness of the fish, the dryness desired, and type of smoker used.  I suggest keeping a notebook of smoking times for different sized batches for future reference.  Sample occasionally after the first 12 hours until they are done to your liking.  Some people like it dry while others like it moist.  I like drying the tail fillets to a jerky-like state while the steaks I prefer more moist.

Remove skin before storing or freezing

Serving suggestion: mix with mayonnaise or cream cheese to make a spread for crackers.  Adding diced chives or fresh dill is a nice touch.


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