Christmas fast approaching and smoked salmon is always high on our list of ‘must haves’ for the festive table. Whether it be on blinis with drinks, or with scramble for breakfast, it is as quintessential to Christmas and New Year as turkey writes Sandra Tate …
I confess that I avoided making my own smoked salmon for a good while, daunted by the possibility of making an expensive mistake. I should not have been concerned, it is a simple and very rewarding process. As always, the results surpass anything you can find on the supermarket shelves, and there is room for experimentation to make your very own, unique product.
Being very fond also of gravad lax I have chosen to include dill in my recipe, but feel free to exclude it if you prefer. This month I have not included a recipe, (though off-cuts will make a great paté, and it is lovely in pasta dishes and quiche) because there is little more stunning than a plate of wafer thin folds of smoked salmon partnered with a wedge of lemon and granary bread.
Smoked Salmon with Dill
Buy your salmon fresh from a good fishmonger and bear in mind that your finished product will be thinly sliced. That said I personally would always prefer to opt for a thick piece of fish and not the tail end. The scales will have been removed but you will have to pin bone the piece yourself – stroke the bone line backwards and the bones will be easily felt and located then it is a simple task to use tweezers or small pliers to remove them.
1kg of thick salmon fillet, bones removed
for the cure:
500g sea salt
250g soft brown sugar
1tbsp dried dill
1 Place the sugar, salt and dill in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Scatter a good handful, about a quarter, of the mix evenly across a snug fitting container (a plastic cake box or deep baking dish will do) and press the salmon skin side down over the cure. Rub more of the mix into the flesh side of the salmon and then pack the remainder over the top to form a thick crust of cure – it is important that the majority of the cure ends up on the flesh side. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours, or overnight.
2 By now the fish will have lost some moisture and you ill find some sludgy cure around the fillet. Gently scrape away as much of the cure as you can with your fingers (it will have to to be discarded) and rinse under a cold tap to remove the remainder. You will find that there has been a significant weight loss (about 15%) and the fish will be rather stiff (especially the skin) whilst the flesh is now decidedly deeper in colour. Pat dry and lay the fillet on a clean kitchen towel then leave for 3 hours in the fridge or a cold, airy place, by which time the surface will be slightly tacky to the touch. Rub the surface with more dill (or not, if you prefer) and place skin side down on a Bradley Smoker wire shelf.
3 Fill the stack of the Bradley Smoker with bisquette of your choice, (for me it’s classic oak smoke but apple would work well), and set up with the cold smoker adapter. The adaptor is very important for lengthy cold smoking, but these chilly, clear days are a bonus too. Leave the top vent completely open to allow good circulation of smoke. Smoke for 6 hours (or longer if you enjoy a stronger flavour). Remove and wrap before refrigerating for a couple of days to mellow before slicing – and use the thinnest blade you have for best results. HAPPY CHRISTMAS!