Post by TasunkaWitko on May 24, 2015 17:56:16 GMT -5
I'm smoking a bakers dozen of trout today; many of them were caught yesterday, but most were caught over the course of a couple of ice fishing trips last winter, then carefully frozen in blocks of ice after cleaning. All are rainbow trout except for one nice, hard-fighting brook trout that my beautiful bride caught creek fishing yesterday in a great show of drift-fishing skill.
I used a variation of this brine:
1 cup non-iodized salt* 1 cup brown sugar 1 cup soy sauce** 1/2 cup cider vinegar 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce 1 Tbsp. paprika 1 Tbsp. chili powder*** 1 Tbsp. garlic salt (optional)**** 1 Tbsp. onion powder 3 cups warm water
Mix all ingredients in warm water. Let the brine cool and add the fish. Brine for 4 or more hours. Rinse and air dry. Use 2 or 3 pan-fuls of Apple, Alder or Hickory flavor chips. Keep in the smoker until done. (5 to 7 hours.)
Here were my variations:
*For some reason, I had no kosher salt, so I used 1/2 cup of coarse Mediterranean sea salt instead.
**I substituted teriyaki sauce in place of soy sauce.
***I substituted Old Bay seasoning, just beacuse.
****I tried a substitute of "Adobo Seasoning" from Goya, which is mostly garlic with added black pepper and oregano.
I brined the trout for about 4.5 hours, and they are currently sitting on racks developing their pellicles before smoking. I'll be using my front-loading Big Chief smokehouse for the actual smoking, and most likely a cherry/alder blend for the smoke itself.
I'm not going to make any judgments or endorsements on the method I used from a "food safety" standpoint; I have no idea if it is "approved" or not in the current wisdom, but it was perfectly acceptable a generation ago, and many before that. The fellow who shared it with me (and thousands of other folks, presumably) have had no problems with it; also, it works just fine for me, but it goes without saying that a pressure canner would be the preferred way to go.
There is quite a bit of discussion on this issue after the first post, and as a novice, I bow to the wisdom of those with more experience than I have.
Post by TasunkaWitko on May 24, 2015 20:04:58 GMT -5
Here they are, going into the Big Chief:
It turns out, I have 12 instead of 13 (one too many beers when counting?), but it's all the same. I generally place the trout on the highest racks possible for the amount of fish I have, with the bigger ones on the lower rack(s) and the smaller ones placed as I go up. I also alternate their alignment and leave plenty of room between each fish/fillet/chunk for even smoke distribution.
The Big Chief should be "up to heat" by now - time to put the wood on to smoke. For this smoke I am using a blend of alder, apple and cherry, all of which I have found to be outstanding for trout.
Post by TasunkaWitko on Jun 4, 2015 14:45:45 GMT -5
This was definitely some good stuff - they all went pretty fast!
A few notes:
Temperature - If someone had a gun to my head, I would guess that the Big Chief seems to run in the 140 to 160 range, but I cannot confirm that. I'm not sure of the exact temperature, as the "Big Chief Smokehouse" does not have any temperature indicator, and I've never taken the time to measure it. Also, ambient temperatures, wind, humidity and other factors come into play, making it impossible to do anything consistent - so it's just something I never worried too much about. What I can say for sure is that it is NOT meant for things like barbecuing meat such as pulled pork brisket etc. IT can definitely add a smoked flavour to those and other meats, but it's not intended to give you a product such as what you would see from a barbecue pit. Having said that, it is the bee's knees for smoking fish, jerky, nuts and so forth, and I enjoy it very much for those "warm smoking" applications that are neither hot nor cold.
Note on salt - The original recipe seemed like a hellish amount of salt, even for me. Since I was using coarse sea salt, rather than flaked kosher salt, I cut the amount in half, and this seemed about right - no one in the family found it too salty, and everything seemed to come out good. This amount could probably be adjusted slightly downward, but please do keep in mind that it is only in the brine for 4 hours or so, so you do want enough salt to adequately do its osmosis and other brining-related voodoo.
Smoke - the smoke blend that I used was great, but any mild smoke will do the trick. I had about 3 hours of smoke on the fish, and could probably have gone with one more, to make it perfect.
Heads/Tails - I'm not too concerned either way in this regard - when preparing the fish for the brine, I generally cut the heads and tails off when smoking them whole, so as to fit in the bag/jar/whatever better, but just as often, I will leave them on. When smoking fillets rather than whole fish, I leave the skin on so that there is no sticking to the grate, and the smoked fish peels right off.
The Process - This is very much a subjective thing, depending on so many factors that it is difficult to quantify. What I aim to do is smoke for a desired length of time, then leave the fish in the unit, allowing the heat and the air-flow to continue to dry the fish a bit while it pushes the internal temperature of the fish up to 140, where the danger of any potential parasites is removed. Whedre "finished temperature" is concerned, I would be reluctant to take the fish beyond that point, as that would negatively impact the final product, in my opinion. Where "dryness" is concerned, I just go until the fish "feels" right, which is dryer than the 4 hours of smoke that it gets, but not really "dehydrated" or jerky-like - the aim, in my opinion, should be somewhere in-between, keeping an eye on finished temperature goals, as well. This is what has worked for me, but your mileage may vary, and I am open to discussion and suggestions where these factors are concerned.
Results - Delicious! As I said above, a little more smoke would have been great, but it certainly wasn't necessary in any burning way. Salt content seemed fine, and the flavours of the brine came through nicely. I fell asleep and let the Big Chief run quite a bit longer than I had intended to, so the "bellies" of the trout were pretty dry, but still perfectly edible. The "loins" along the back came out just about right.
What would I do different? Not much. A little more smoke, a little less time drying after smoking - that's about it.
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