A handsome heritage strain brook trout from Horn Lake is readied for release back to the water, in order to fight another day. Note the usual white outline on all of the fins, including the dorsal.
Although a proper brine is very important, the process is never complete without an adequate supply of fresh cut tag alders. I soak the alder pieces overnight and place the small chunks directly on top of hardwood, charcoal briquettes. Do not let the alder pieces catch flame.
This recipe calls for brook trout, however it works quite well with perch or any fish fillet, as well as turkey, venison, or other game. It’s an old favorite for making “trout candy.”
Keys to a good product are in the brine and in the choice of smoking wood. I prefer to use green, tag alder or apple, both species of which are readily available in the spring. One along the streams, the other when pruned in the local orchards.
Soak the cut wood overnight to prevent it from catching fire in the smoker. Promptly remove any pieces that begin to flame
For the brine mix: Based on 4-6 pounds of fish -adjust accordingly.
• 2-4 gallons of water with 1-3 pounds of Kosher salt
• Add 1 quart of pure maple syrup, or 1 cup brown sugar.
• 1 1/2 cups of fresh squeezed lemon juice
• 2 tablespoons of liquid/squeezed garlic; powder doesn’t dissolve well
• 2 tablespoons of liquid/squeezed onion; powder doesn’t dissolve well
• 1 tablespoon crushed black pepper
• 4-6 large Bay leaves(whole)
Bring the whole mix to a roaring boil and let it cool “completely” before adding fish fillets.
Prepare fillets with skin intact, the thinner the fillets, the dryer the meat. Do not place fillets into brine mix until after it has cooled completely. Put the fillets in the mix and store in a refrigerator for 24 hours, covered.
Remove fillets, and place on racks to let them air dry completely before smoking, usually 2-3 hours. Drying properly will allow the formation of a glaze that will serve to seal in moisture so the smoked fish will not be too dry.
Smoke the fillets over a low heat, with no flames, according to weight.
1-1 1/2 lb = 30 minutes
1 1/2-3 lb = 1-1/2 hr.
3-5 lb = 2 1/2- 3 hr.
Fillets will develop a nice bronze color and will be firm to the touch, but not dry. Do not overcook. Remove from heat and let cool on racks in open air. And try not to eat the entire batch at one sitting.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.