Relx Pods: First and most import are quality and cleanliness. Use only fresh or fresh frozen salmon that is of a high quality. Don’t use that 20 lb water marked gator salmon that was just about ready to spawn-out and die before you caught it up the river. Smoking does not “cover” or “hide” poor quality fish. In fact it will call attention to problem areas, think tight hip hugger jeans. A good rule of thumb is to only smoke fish you would eat fresh.
Make sure your preparation area is clean and sanitary, beg/bribe your mother to come over if need be. Carefully clean and remove all the slime and blood from your fish. Fillet or “split” the fish leaving the skin on. Remove the pin bones down the middle of each fillet with small pair of pliers. Next cut the fillets into equally sized strips, this insures they all finish smoking at the same time. Try to keep both the fish and your preparation room as cool and clean as possible during this time to keep bacteria growth to a minimum.
The second step is salting the fish known as brine or brining. Most people prefer to start with a simple brine consisting of salt and water. Start with a basic mixture of 2 ½ cups of salt to each gallon of water. This allows the flavor of the smoke to shine through on your finished strips. Feel free to experiment adding flavors to the brine at this time. For example add a cup of brown sugar or a ¼ cup of soy sauce to your salt water mixture.
It is important that you use only pickling and canning salt, dairy salt, or kosher salt in your brine. Using iodized salt will add impurities and additives that will cause unpleasant flavors in your smoked fish. It is also best to used distilled or bottled water without large amounts of chlorine. You don’t want your salmon tasting like the community pool, or maybe you do, I won’t judge.
Make enough brine to completely cover all of your fish. A three to one ratio is recommended. For example use 30lbs of brine for 10lbs of fish. A gallon of brine will weigh approximately 8lbs so you would need 4 gallons to adequately soak 10lbs of salmon.
If you cut your strips 1 inch thick then the brine time should be right around 2 hours. Here is another step you can alter to personal taste but we have found 2 hours to work best. Make sure your mixture is refrigerated the whole time you are brining. Rinse afterwards to remove excess salt before drying.