Fall is a special time of year here in Oregon. Summer's heat fades as Fall colors begin to decorate the Valley with bright oranges, yellows, and reds. Scatterguns emerge from their cases in preparation for fast-approaching upland and waterfowl seasons. Plans are solidified for elk or deer hunts with good friends. And Fall Chinook make their way back to their natal streams after five year stints wandering the Pacific.
While trolling for these critters isn't the most exciting means of fishing, it is productive, and when putting meat in the freezer is the objective, productivity matters.
Smoked salmon is akin to crack cocaine for most folks in the Pacific Northwest. I'm new to the smoker myself, but have found the practice to be an intriguing one. Something about the process, the unhurried nature of brining, drying, smoking, that piques the anticipation and whets the appetite unlike anything else I've experienced in the kitchen.
It's been enjoyable debunking the mystique that surrounds smoking salmon. Like many things in fishing culture, smoking is surrounded by "secret" recipes guarded in much the same manner that some keep their most productive spots, best tackle, or internet browser history.
Four parts brown sugar to one part salt (err on the side of too much brown sugar). Cover strips of filet with the mixture, cover and put in the fridge overnight for 12-16 hours. Remove from brine (it will have liquefied in the fridge as the salt draws moisture from the fillets) and squeegee off each piece with your hands.
Fan-dry for 3 hours. Smoke for 8 hours, using only two rounds of alder chips (each takes about an hour). Brush with honey and sprinkle with pepper. Return to smoker for 30 minutes to finish. Best enjoyed warm.
This simple process has produced some "Breaking Bad"-level addiction amongst family and friends, so while I'm sure experimentation will only improve on this recipe over time, it works quite well for now.