Here at the 24/7 Fish Smoking Factory, we’ve been kicking it into high gear. Good fishing means lots of work, but thoughts of mouth-watering, hot-smoked king salmon keep us toiling. And my one, treasured souvenir from Japan, a 10-inch, hand-forged blade crafted from 64 layers of razor-sharp stainless steel and purchased from Masahisa in Tokyo, made quick work of the butchering. Love Japanese steel.
First, a quick round of filleting, followed by cutting into strips and chunks for brining. That’s the better part of five kings, waiting to hit the salt and brown sugar.
After an overnight brine, the chunks dry on smoker racks with a box fan blowing on high for about five hours.
Then into the smoker over a mix of alder and apple chips and it’s time to eat. And start the cycle all over again for the next batch. Oh, those salty, sweet, smoky, oily belly strips! Love this time of year.
The big box of fish I brought home from Willapa Bay resulted in a flurry of salmon processing. Pictured above is the second smoker load of the week, just out of the brine and air drying before going into the smoker. Collars and belly strips on the left, fillet chunks on the right, and an extremely interested party in back.
The day after returning home, I filleted all the fish and cooked some prime center-cut chunks for dinner. Then Skyla and I made our smoking brine, cut the fish into serving sizes and started the first batch soaking. When that one was in the smoker, another round went into fresh brine. We also separated eggs from membrane to make ikura (salmon caviar) and started that curing in the fridge. The vac-sealer came out for more center-cut fillets going into the freezer. Meanwhile, we were already deep into salmon salad sandwiches, and when it was ready, eating smoked salmon and ikura two or three times a day. Happily, that pace has yet to let up.
Finally, I started vac-sealing and freezing smoked salmon…mostly to keep us from eating it all on the spot. Half the ikura went into jars for freezing as well. For the same reason. Whew! In all, it was about seven days of processing from two days of fishing. But all the good eating along the way–and in the future–made it more than worthwhile.