I love smoked salmon, but my personal taste preference and dietary choices make it hard to find any that works for me. I like it sweet, but I avoid sugar as much as possible.
So this past week at the Costa Mesa Farmer's Market when I saw all the fresh cherries, I thought - why not do a cherry-cured smoked salmon? Fresh organic cherries, wild Bristol Bay Sockeye, sea salt and a little cracked pepper, add some smoke, why not?
It turned out great, you guys! Even my husband, who is not a big salmon lover, LOVED it! In fact, here's a picture of his salad: He did this himself. For a guy who only eats halibut, and pretty much only if it's perfectly roasted with mayo on top, this was pretty impressive. Am I right? It was definitely a cool moment for me. I'll convert him to a salmon-lover yet. 💚🐟💚
This is a hot smoked salmon, when it's done it is cooked. Want to know how I did it? Here ya go:
One flash frozen fillet wild Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon, thawed
1 Cup fresh organic farmer's market cherries - whatever's in season, pitted and mashed
Sea Salt - 1 to 2 teaspoons, to taste
Fresh Cracked Pepper - to taste
4 Cups wood chips - I used Hickory, because that's what I had on hand.
Pat Sockeye Salmon fillet dry with paper towels.
Sprinkle with Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper. This step is different from most smoked salmon recipes. Since my primary goal was just to season, not preserve, I did not brine the salmon in a heavy salt brine. I seasoned it to my own personal taste so it is not as salty as what you might find at the grocery store. Spread mashed cherries and their juice over the entire fillet.
Cure in refrigerator for 24 hours.
Soak wood chips for at least 30 minutes. I used Hickory chips, but you can use what you love. Salmon does love an Alder smoke...
While wood chips are soaking, take cured salmon out of fridge. It should have a matte texture - not wet, not quite dry. Mildly sticky. Many traditional cures require you to rinse the curing agent off. Not this one - leave the cherries on top for the best result and a beautiful presentation!
Prepare BBQ Grill. I do not have a smoker, so I hacked my grill. It was pretty easy - I took the grill surface out, removed the heat plate at the far right end of the grill, turned it upside down and voila! The v-shape of the heat plate was the perfect spot for my wood chips.
Fill the inverted heat plate with soaked wood chips and fire up the grill. Let it get going so the air is warm and smoky before placing salmon on the grill. Note - I wanted a slow cook with plenty of smoke, so I used only the one burner that the wood chip filled heat plate was covering.
After 10 minutes or so, when the wood is smoking and the grill is warm, turn the burner down low and place your salmon fillet on the top rack in your grill, on the opposite end of your heat source.
I kept the burner on its lowest setting for around 2 hours. I refilled my wood chips once or twice. At the end of 2 hours I shut the grill off entirely, and let the smoke continue to work on the salmon for another 1/2 hour to 45 minutes.
And at the end, this is what I had:
Beautiful, isn't it? I am SUPER pleased with the result! I'll be eating plenty of smoked salmon salad this week and loving every second of it.
How do you smoke your salmon? I'd love to hear your tips and tricks!
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