Sweet, salty, chewy and slightly peppery, you’ve probably never tasted smoked salmon like this before. I first discovered salmon candy on a visit to the iconic Granville Island Market in Vancouver, BC years ago and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it ever since. Canadian salmon – whether Atlantic or Pacific – is recognized globally as being abundant and delicious. What makes this preparation different from traditional smoked salmon is the curing process prior to the smoking time. This step extracts much of the moisture from the fish, giving it a unique and appealing texture. I like to eat is ‘as is’ but you could also crumble it over a salad, serve it on chèvre-topped crackers or cucumber rounds, or even use it as a garnish for eggs Benedict. This same technique can also be used to prepare smoked candied trout, if that’s your fish of choice.
- 2 pounds (900 g) boneless, skinless salmon fillets, cut in 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) strips
- 2 cups (500 mL) kosher salt
- 2 cups (500 mL) white sugar
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup (90 to 125 mL) maple syrup
- freshly ground black pepper
- Mix the salt and sugar together in a bowl.
- In a broad storage container (with a tight lid) that is more than large enough to hold the salmon, pour a layer of the salt/sugar mixture about 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) deep.
- Put a layer of salmon pieces on top of the salt/sugar, making sure there is a little space between each piece of salmon.
- Cover the salmon with more of the salt mixture, making sure it’s covering the salmon by at least 1/4 inch (.6 cm).
- Place another layer of the salmon pieces on top, and cover it with more salt mixture.
- Repeat until all the salmon pieces are nestled in the salt mixture. Mix up additional salt and sugar in equal proportions if you need more.
- Cover the container and let the salmon cure in the fridge for 2 – 3 hours. I don’t recommend leaving it longer than 3 hours unless you like your fish really salty.
- The salt mixture will draw moisture out of the salmon so you’ll note that the salt will be quite wet at the end of the curing time – this is a good thing!
- Remove the salmon from the salt cure and very quickly rinse each piece under cold running water.
- Pat the fish dry with a paper towel and lay the pieces out on a rack to dry. Put the rack of fish, uncovered, in the fridge for at least 2 or up to 3 hours. This step is important because it helps the salmon’s surface absorb more flavour during the smoking process.
- After the fish has air-dried in the fridge, you need to smoke it at a low temperature for two to four hours. I like to use a small pellet smoking device with my gas barbeque for this step and I try to maintain a temperature in the range of 200 – 225F throughout the smoking time.
- Put the salmon on a grilling rack (anything to keep the slices from falling through the barbeque grates) and place the rack on the grill, without heat on underneath it.
- Every 20 minutes, paint the salmon with the maple syrup. This will add some sweetness and a nice lacquered finish; it also helps to remove the albumen (white residue) that can form during the smoking process.
- After 90 minutes, flip the salmon pieces over and begin applying maple syrup to the other side.
- When the salmon looks nicely lacquered, typically after at least 2 hours, remove it to a clean drying rack, brush very lightly with maple syrup one more time and sprinkle lightly with freshly ground pepper.
- Cool to room temperature then pack into a clean container with a tight lid and refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for longer storage.
Makes about 1.75 pounds (800 g) candy.