Summer is in full swing, and the fireweed is nearing its top.
With a great run of reds and the silvers charging at top speed, you should have plenty of fish to put away for the winter.
Whether you were dipping on the Kenai or picking the nets in Bristol Bay, catching the fish is only the beginning of the effort to fill the freezer with high-quality protein for the winter. It goes with out saying that you handled your fish carefully to keep it from bruising. Tripping over your prized catch in the bottom of the boat is not a good way to start things out. Make sure to trim all the bruised and nasty bits before you pack that fillet for the winter. It just makes life that much easier when it comes time to prepare it. You will save yourself from those knowing glances in the kitchen this winter as your now half-thawed piece of fish slides across the cutting board and your once perfectly edge trimmed filet now begins to resemble something used in a game of tug o’ war between two neighborhood dogs.
Or maybe you cut your big reds into steaks, which can be a great way to prepare them as well.
Fresh, frozen Alaska salmon is as good as it gets. But in my mind, home-smoked salmon is the best. There are many ways to brine and even more techniques for smoking salmon. How you want to smoke your fish is up to you, but please give this month’s brine recipe a try. Many years of failure, or just mediocre attempts at my handcrafting an Alaskan delicacy, led to not so great results.
Then I stumbled across this formula written in Sharpie on a torn piece of cardboard, and tacked to the inside door of a gear shed in South Naknek. I carefully copied down this now famous Dr. Lepley recipe and smuggled it back home in a rusted-out Foldger’s coffee can under a heap of gunnysacks in the back of a Cessna 206.
Once the return to Anchorage was safely accomplished, I tried the brine. That was 15 years ago, and I have used nothing else since.
Give it a go and I think you will agree it is the best fish brine you have ever used. You will end up with some moist and very flavorful treats.
Were you lucky enough to land some kings this year, then give my miso salmon recipe a try. An Asian twist that does not overpower, yet complements the richness of the fish. I learned that one in Tokyo last year. But that, as they say, is another story.
Keep you hooks sharp and fish on!
The Flying Chef, Mark Bly
Miso and Sake Alaskan King Salmon
1/3 cup White miso (a Japanese fermented bean paste)
1/3 cup Mirin (a Japanese sweet rice wine)
1/3 cup Sake
1/4cup brown sugar, packed
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons chopped green onion
4 chunks of king, about 4-ounces a piece
In a nonreactive (glass or plastic) bowl mix everything but the green onion. The onion will be used for garnish.
Pour mixture in to large Ziploc and add your prized catch.
Knead the bag gently to coat the fish evenly and place in the refrigerator for 3 to 6 hours.
When sufficiently marinated fire your grill to a medium heat. Grill the fish until it flakes easily with a fork. About 3 to 4 minute a side.
Plate and top with chopped green onions.
Secret Alaskan Salmon Brine
Be sure to refrigerate and cook all fish thoroughly before consumption.
Everyone seems to have his or her secret brine for smoking salmon. Here is mine, and it is tried and true. Be sure and keep it a secret.
8 cups soy sauce
4 pounds brown sugar
5 tablespoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons seasoning salt
1-tablespoon cayenne pepper
Mix all ingredients in a large, clean, non-reactive bucket or Rubbermaid tub with lid.
Cut fish according to your desires and specifications.
Place fish in marinade and place in refrigerator.
Brine for minimum period of 4 days.
At the end of the brine, rinse your fish and dry or smoke.
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