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Old 11-02-2009, 05:54 PM   #1
Neil
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Default How do you brine for fish?

Noticed a couple of brine threads today but they both had to do with meat. A couple of weeks ago I was Up North (as we say down here in the LP (lower penninsula)) on the banks of Lake Superior where smoked white fish and smoked salmon are king (no pun intended). What is your favorite brine recipie for smoking fish? Come on TK, I know you got one, or two, or three.
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Old 11-02-2009, 07:10 PM   #2
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I use just water and lemon juice
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Old 11-02-2009, 07:41 PM   #3
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This is great for salmon...

2 lbs salmon
2 Cups water
2 Cups pale ale
1/2 Cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1/2 Cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed pepper
1/2 teaspoon whole alspice
1 small bay leaf
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Old 11-02-2009, 08:45 PM   #4
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Here's the one I use for salmon...

1 quart hot water...
1 quart cold water...
1/2 cup kosher salt...
1/2 cup granulated sugar...

Dissolve the sugar and salt in the hot water...then add the cold...then add the salmon. Easy peasy...
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Old 11-02-2009, 10:14 PM   #5
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For smoked salmon my recipe and method is

4 cups dark brown sugar (or a whole bag of C&H)
1 cup kosher salt
1/4 - 1/2 cup granulated garlic(fresh is better)


Fillet the fish and leave the skin on. If the fish is large, #30+ or more than about 1 1/2" thick, cut the fillet lenthwise at the thickest point. Cut the fish into 1 1/2" wide strips.

Dredge the strips in the dry drine so the entire surface is completly covered then put it into a container, I use plastic meat lugs made by cambro.

Let the fish cure in the fridge for 24 - 72 hours depending on how much fat the fish has. If its really fatty 72 hours is ok. I overhaul the fish twice a day and use a turkey baster to circulate the brine (juice) around 2-4 times a day. All that does is help the fish brine evenly so you dont have any unbrined or overbrined spots on the fish.

When the fish is done brining I fill the lug with water, gently so you dont blast the meat with water. Swish the meat around in the tub for a minute or so then pour the water off. Do it twice if you want to just be gental with it, you dont need to rinse all the brine off because it will act like a glaze and help develope the pelic when you dry it.

Pat, dont wipe, the fish virtualy dry with cloth or paper towels and place onto a drying rack. You can use a fan if you want, to speed things up a bit. Let the fish dry, room temp is fine your fish is cured by now, untill the pelic is sticky or tacky. The time it takes to dry will vary depending in the wether and stuff, dont get worryed if it takes 6 hours or so it will be fine. With a fan it usually drys in a couple of hours or so.

Smoke the fish at about 100 - 125* untill its about the way you like it as far as smoke flavor and dryness. Fish high in fat can smoke longer than lean fish wihout drying out. I usually smoke it for 10 - 12 hours at 125*. The last 20 - 30 minutes I fire up the smoker to about 200* so the fish reaches 130 - 140* internal. Sample the fish as offen as you want so you know how dry its getting and how smokey the flavor is.

Salmon should be firm and slightly flakey and moist when its done, if its mushy it needs to smoke longer in my opinion.

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Old 11-03-2009, 01:40 AM   #6
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Fore salmon I use a half potato. A bucket of water and salt. Put the half potato in the water and add salt. If the potato is floating your brine is good! the salmon can swim for 20 minutes and you have perfect brined salmon.
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Old 11-03-2009, 06:39 AM   #7
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Hell Fire Grill is right on the money with his technique, great advice for a dry brine. Only thing I'd add is to add fennel seed, (whole toasted then crushed), and lemon zest, or, if you can find it, lemon grass. I have some in the fridge right now for my Dads 80TH b-day party this weekend..
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Old 11-03-2009, 08:19 AM   #8
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Thanks for the feedback brothers.
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Old 11-03-2009, 08:24 AM   #9
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It's been a long time since I smoked fish, but I used to use a dry brine like Hell Fire described, or I would use a traditional brine but would use 50% water and 50% pineapple juice for the liquid.
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Old 11-03-2009, 08:40 AM   #10
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Like Hell Fire Grill, I favor a dry cure too, and like HFG mentioned it does turn into a syrup-like brine during the process. Basically you are just skipping the use of water as a delivery agent for your seasonings.

I think I have more control on the process. I do mine in individual pouches, which eliminates overhauling for skin-on fillets, (skinless ones can be turned once). And I don't get in a hurry during the drying or equalizing steps. I seem to get better texture and color from dry cured fish. And what I really like, is having my cure pre mixed and in the freezer. I can buy a fillet one day and be smoking it the next.
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