Cold Smoked Salmon

Traditional Scottish Recipe


Hey cold smoked salmon lovers making cold smoked salmon,  Lox or Gravloxx is easy and fool proof to turn out a Four Star product good enough to serve to the Queen of England. I was in the smoked salmon business for 16 years up in  Maine until our smoke house blew up from a gas leak. No one was hurt, thank goodness. The 150 year old wood building was empty and burned down in 15 minutes. It was used as a navy bean warehouse during the civil war.  The summer heat in Maine dried that old building to tinder wood. Funny that many times we were smoking salmon the fire department would show up sirens blaring. When smoking the smoker vents all of it's smoke every twenty minutes through a side flu to the outside. Anyone near by that was not aware of our business would call 911.

We produced the very,  best,  cold, smoked salmon and sold it directly to a great number of hotels and restaurants through out the country.

All it takes is timing and here is how you do it. Take a 2-3 Lb Atlantic Salmon fillet (no smaller), and rinse with very cold water carefully and pat dry with a paper towel. Use a pan long enough to hold the fillet without doubling over the tail. You can cut the fillet in half if you don't have a large enough pan. Now comes the easy part to believe. Smoothly cover the bottom of the pan with a 1/4 inch of kosher sea salt. Place the fillet skin side down on top of the salt. Next pour enough salt over the fillet to completely cover it with a 1/4 of salt. Trust me. The entire process and density of the salmon automatically adjusts the salinity of the fillet perfectly. It's time in salt with the proper quantity of salt.  Too little salt and your salmon will not have the right texture or flavor. Cover the pan with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for 13 hours. So do this on Friday night at 6 PM and your salmon will be ready at 7 AM the next morning. Don't worry so much about perfect timing, it is not rocket science. Remove the fillet from the pan and wash the salt off the fillet with cold running water. Washout the pan of salt and fill the pan 3/4 of the way with fresh, cold water. Place the fillet in the water and place back in the refrigerator for one hour. This time period can be lengthened or shorten for saltiness of the finished fillet, it controls the salinity of the product and it also desalts the outer surface while driving the salt through the fish to the center. This is a variable for your particular taste. Mine is one hour; start with that. Remove the fillet and dry out the pan. Do not pat dry our wipe the salmon leave wet. Your fillet should be some what stiff. Put a cake rack in the pan and place the fillet skin side down. Do not cover. Put the pan back into the refrigerator overnight. The fridge will dry the salmon perfectly The next day you should have a dry and shiny fillet. At this point if you don't have a smoker; you can slice the fillet and use as lox.

To smoke the fillet, you need a grill with a cover and a small iron box that the hardware stores sell to use a smoke box. Use (hard woods) maple, hickory, apple just don't use pine, fir or cedar (soft woods). You can find a bag at the hardware store but you can usually find maple in your yard (sticks, bark, saw dust). Wet the wood for an hour and light one charcoal briquette with a propane torch until it glows. This is probably the hardest part of the whole recipe is getting one charcoal lit. I use a small can with a can opener hole in the side. I fill it with the wood (as broken up in little pieces as possible) and place the burning charcoal on top. I actually get sawdust from a wood working shop and fluff it with water. Put the can in the grill as far away from the fillet as possible and put the fillet on the grill close the cover. If you have a cheap, clean soldring iron preferably brand new; you could easily us it. If you have one of those nifty electric thermometers don't let the salmon get over 70 degrees. Put a oven thermometer inside the grill. The salmon must not ever get over 80 degrees or it will partially cook, turn color and fall apart; you should not eat it if it looks like it is partially cooked. If it is turn up the heat in the oven to 275 degrees and turn it in to hot smoked salmon. If the day is cold and it should be, you should not have trouble. The wood has to smoke not burn and you have to use only one briquette.

Do not try this in the summer, you need a 55 degree day high and not in the sun. Keep an eye on the smoke so it does not go out, hit it with the torch if it does. One to two hours is enough. wrap in plastic tightly and place in the fridge over night to mellow out the smoke. Slice at an angle as thin as possible starting at the head end at about 45 degrees. There you have it. Just like in Scotland. I once sold a couple dozen fillets to a club for a party for the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles.

    If you ever read a recipe or article that fish is smoked for days; the writer is wrong and maybe is smoking something else. The salmon should be tasty, slightly salty with a rich salmon flavor backed with a nice smokey finish. Salmon first, than smoke and slight saltiness.

    If you want to dress up your side; wipe a little olive oil with your palm on the fillet and than sprinkle with either a little black pepper or minced fresh dill and put back in the fridge uncovered for an hour or so to make it stick. You can also lightly sprinkle a very, small amount of good Scotch whisky on the fillet before you wrap it in plastic wrap or before you wipe with olive oil.

ATTENTION: It is a common belief that the salt & smoke prevents bacterial growth. WRONG. Do not let the finished fillet with the skin intact sit out for a long time in a warm room. It would also be wise to skin the salmon after smoking to prevent bacteria. Remember it is COLD smoked salmon, so keep it cold.

New England Provisions