It’s that time of year again. Time to assess and figure out what to do with all the salmon left in your freezer in preparation of this year’s catch. And, to plan how much fish you need this year, and what to do with it.
Every year I put away fish in the freezer, I smoke a bunch of fish, and I also now make salmon bacon and salmon sausage. The smoking, bacon, and sausage make great “alternatives” to eating salmon fillets through the winter. I know how excellent these recipes are with fresh fish, but this year I wanted to see if fish that’s been in the freezer for a year could turn out these treats since we have been out of them for a while. And, although not as good as fresh, they turned out awesome.
The book I use as a start to any of my salmon recipes in Smoking Salmon & Trout by Jack Whelan. You should not miss this book. Besides the great velour top he sports on the cover, Mr. Whelan is a master at curing methods for salmon and trout.
Salmon sausage is not very well known, but so delicious. A protein in salmon, myosin, when reacted with salt jells, creating a great binder, and giving the sausage texture like meat sausages. I vary my recipe depending on how fatty the fish are, how fresh they are, and with what I have on hand at the time. Below is a recipe I used for frozen fish. You would reduce the starch for fresh fish, you could add pork fat for lean fish, you could add extenders like bread or grains, etc. I would not vary the amount of salt or spice too much.
Good Spices – ginger, pepper, Italian herbs, sugar, garlic, coriander, fennel, white pepper, nutmeg, sage, paprika, red pepper
Fish 82.5 parts
Salt 2 parts
Fat or oil 1 part
Starch 6 parts
Spice mix 1-1.5 parts
Water 7 parts
- Bone and skin fillets
- Grind the fish with a fine plate in your hand or electric grinder. You might use some ice cubes as part of your water at this stage to keep the fish cold against the heat of the grinder.
- Mix dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls, then combine and mix thoroughly.
- Either stuff mixture into casings or bag for use as loose sausage. The sausage will hold in the refrigerator for five days or so. You can also freeze it for later use.
- You can also smoke the sausages for additional flavor before freezing, but beware seasonings will intensify if you do!
Although I eat more salmon sausage, the bacon is my favorite cured salmon product. When I first started making this, we did not eat pork bacon and I swore it tasted just like real pork bacon. Now that I cure my own pork bacon, it’s not really the same, but cured in a very similar method with amazing flavor. The basic method is to first pickle brine the fish and then to cold smoke it to a firm texture. Fresh fish is definitely the way to go here, as frozen fish tends not to slice well after smoking. The frozen will make more like bacon chunks, which still taste great.
Make a brine of:
Water ¾ gal
Sugar 5oz or less (Brown or White, honey, agave, etc)
Once sugar and salt are dissolved, take a cup or two of the brine and simmer 1-2Tbs of pickling spices for about 15 minutes. Return to the rest of the brine and let cool.
Add the fillets of salmon to the brine (about 2-3reds), and let cure for 6-10 hours depending on the thickness of the fillet. When done the fish will feel slightly firm to touch.
Once cured, rinse the fillets in cold water and pat dry.
Cold smoking the fish is preferred, but I have also had success hot smoking as well. You are going for a mostly dry/firm texture that is sliceable. 8 to 14 hours cold smoking or 4-6 hours hot smoking. Once done, let cool in the refrigerator.
My favorite way to eat this bacon is to slice ¼” thick pieces and fry them in a pan with a little butter until lightly browned. Delish!