Ketchikan's Hobby: Smoked Salmon
In America’s south, developing the perfect barbeque – with all of its nuances – is a passion (and maybe even a life’s work). In Alaska’s southeast, we tackle smoked salmon the same way – with both artistry and a scientific rigor that would put most chemists to shame.
These are dozens of variables involved in getting the salmon smoked just right. How long do you brine it? Is it a dry or wet brine? Do you use sugar, brown sugar or maple syrup? Is it smoked with alder or cottonwood? Do you cold smoke it or hot smoke it?
Every community has its acquired taste. In Ketchikan, our method calls for King or sockeye salmon brined for 4-6 hours - normally with brown sugar - and then cold smoked between 120 and 130 degrees. (The King and sockeye are the oiliest of the salmon, and oil equals flavor when it comes to smoked fish. Taking it one step further, you can smoke the belly meats, which contain a larger portion of the salmon’s oil.)
Ketchikan’s home-smoked salmon is a precious commodity shared among friends at the holidays. Visitors try the commercial version of this delicacy at local restaurants menus or in several canned varieties. Order up some smoked salmon fettuccine or buy a case of smoked salmon to send home. If you’ve gone fishing and can send home fillets, try smoking them yourself. Just don’t add barbeque sauce!