Cold-Smoked Silvers

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As I may have mentioned in the previous post, our one-day Grays Harbor marathon was motivated by food. Smarty’s amazing cold-smoked salmon, to be exact. The batch we tasted (and loved) last week was his first shot at a 100-year-old family recipe from the East Coast. But there were still some tweaks to be made and experimental ideas to check out in a quest to make something awesome even better. Only time will tell if we were successful.

The shot above shows the fillets laid out on rock salt after a quick treatment with brandy, of all things. Not sure what the brandy’s function is, but my guess is that alcohol does something to the texture or perhaps it’s purely to kill bacteria. In any event, we stuck to that part of the recipe. Later, we covered the fillets in a mix of salt and brown sugar, and left them to dry for several days.

Cold-smoked salmon, or lox, is tough to do well. Since the fish isn’t cooked, you’re relying on salt, sugar, air drying and cool smoke to cure the meat and create that silky texture and rich flavor. Timing for each step is everything. And since I haven’t ever done it before, this is a full-on learning experience. Smarty has the smoke going now in a new wood box he built just for this process, and I’m stoked to check in on it. Patience is key; we started the process on Sunday and I think it’s going to be done Saturday. I can hardly wait.

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Grays Harbor Day

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It started like it always seems to, with dinner at Smarty’s. There we were, innocently chomping away at his recent batch of cold-smoked salmon, when Smarty says, “Heard it’s been pretty good down in the Harbor…three fish limit. We should go.” And I immediately think, Man, long way to go for one day, and, I don’t think the tide’s right, and, the weather looks lousy…

A few more bites of the savory, silky, cold-smoked salmon and a lightbulb goes off in my head. “Can we make another batch of this stuff if we go?”

Next thing I know, we’re two-and-a-half hours from home, launching the boat at a sketchy ramp on a low tide, in weather like you see above…and I’m stoked.

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Got to spend the day with a couple of good buddies and the best dog in the world, Honey, pictured here. Yes, it was a long way to go for one day. Yes, the tide wasn’t quite right. And yes, the weather sucked. But we found fish, had a ton of fun, and late in the day, the sun even came out. Better yet, that batch of delicious cold-smoked is already in progress. Thanks, Smarty.

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