Smoking Fish (circa 1934)

Discussion in 'Food Forum' started by Sixgun_Symphony, Feb 27, 2004.

  1. Sixgun_Symphony

    Sixgun_Symphony NRA4EVR

    Likes Received:
    Apr 16, 2002
    Fish smoking is a method which should be used more
    extensively in home food preservation of fishery
    products, says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
    When the curing is properly done, it is inexpensive
    and the product is of high quality, attractive in
    appearance and taste. Although preservation by smoking
    usually lasts for a shorter time than by salting, the
    product is more appetising. If smoked fish spoils
    quickly and is poor in quality, it is as the smoking
    has been done improperly. If proper attention is given
    to materials and methods, little difficulty should be

    The efficiency of smoking depends on the drying
    action; it is only a flavouring and colouring agent.
    According to species, fish may be smoked either in the
    round, gutted, split and beheaded, or cut into pieces
    with or without the skin removed.

    There are two general methods of smoking fish:
    hot-smoking or barbequing - and cold-smoking. In
    hot-smoking, the fish are hung near the fire, usually
    not more than 3 or 4 feet distant - and smoked at
    temperatures from 150 to 200F so that they are
    partially or wholly cooked. Therefore, while
    hot-smoked fish is very appetising and requires no
    preparation, it will keep for only a short time. In
    cold-smoking, the fish are hung at some distance from
    a low smouldering fire and smoked at temperatures
    usually lower than 90F (a temperature of 90F may be
    used occasionally). The degree of preservation depends
    on the length of time the fish are smoked; fish
    cold-smoked a few hours, for example, will keep only a
    short time. If an extended period of preservation is
    desired, fish must be cold-smoked from a few days to a
    week or more. The same general principles governing
    the smoking, handling and storing of cured meats
    should be followed with fish.

    Hot-Smoking. Almost any species may be hot-smoked.
    Mullet, shad, Spanish mackerel, mackerel, alewives or
    river herring, herring, lake herring, whitefish and
    king mackerel. This method is recommended if it is
    desired to prepare a fish that can be used immediately
    without cooking. Fish smoked by this method may be
    kept longer without molding or souring, but even so,
    it will preserve for only a short time.

    Split the fish along the back, just above the backbone
    so that it will be open in one piece, leaving the
    belly solid. Scrape out all viscera, blood and
    membrane. Make an additional cut under the backbone
    for the smaller fish. For the larger fish, cut out the
    forward three-fifths of the backbone. Wash thoroughly
    and soak in a 70 salt brine (1/2 cup salt to 1 quart
    water) for 30 minutes to leach blood out of the flesh.
    Then prepare a brine, using the following ingredients:
    2 pounds salt, 1 ounce saltpetre, 1 ounce crushed
    black peppercorns, 1 ounce crushed bay leaves. This
    makes a 90 per cent brine (saturated salt solution).
    The amounts of ingredients are increased in proportion
    to the amount of brine to be made. The spices used may
    be increased both in variety and quantity.

    The fish are held in this brine for periods varying
    from 2 to 4 hours, depending upon their size and
    thickness, amount of fat and the desire for a light or
    heavily cured fish. Weather conditions also make a
    difference; the exact length of time must be
    determined by experiment. Rinse off the fish in fresh
    water and hang outside in a cool, shady and breezy
    place to dry for about 3 hours before hanging in the
    smokehouse, or until a thin shiny "skin" or pellicle
    has formed on the surface.

    For the first 8 hours that the fish are in the
    smokehouse, the fire is low and smouldering. The
    temperature should not be higher than 90F. A dense
    smoke should then be built up. After 4 hours of heavy
    smoking, the fire is increased until the temperature
    is between 130 and 150F. The fish are cured at this
    temperature for 2 to 3 hours, or until they have a
    glossy, brown surface. This partially cooks, or
    hot-smokes, the fish.

    When smoking is finished, the fish must be cooled for
    2 or 3 hours. They may be brushed over lightly with
    vegetable oil (usually cottonseed) while warm. This is
    sometimes done just after finishing the cold-smoking
    part of the process. The oil forms a light protective
    coating, but the chief value of this treatment is to
    make the appearance more attractive. Another method is
    to dip the fish in melted paraffin; thus, a more
    effective protective coating is formed, but the fish
    must be handled carefully as the coating is brittle.
    The paraffin must be peeled off when preparing the
    fish for the table. Each fish should be wrapped in
    waxed paper and stored in a cool, dry place. Spoilage
    occurs more rapidly if the fish are stored in a warm
    place or under damp and cold conditions.

    Cold-Smoking. Small fish, such as sea herring,
    alewives (river herring), spots, or butter fish may be
    cold-smoked in the round (without cleaning), but they
    should be gibbed. Gibbing consists of making a small
    cut just below the gills and pulling out the gills,
    heart and liver - leaving the belly uncut. Fish larger
    than one pound should be split along the back to lie
    flat in a single piece, leaving the belly portion
    uncut. All traces of blood, black skin, and viscera
    must be removed, paying special attention to the area
    just under the backbone. The head does not need to be
    removed. If the head is cut off, the hard bony plate
    just below the gills is allowed to remain, as it will
    be needed to carry the weight when the fish are in the

    Next wash the fish thoroughly, whether gibbed or split
    - and place them in a brine made in the proportion of
    1 cup of salt to 1 gallon of water. They should be
    left in the brine at least 30 minutes to soak out
    blood diffused through the flesh. At the end of this
    time rinse in fresh water to remove surplus moisture
    and drain for a few minutes.

    Each fish is dropped singley into a shallow box of
    fine salt and dredged thoroughly. The fish is picked
    up with as much salt as will cling to it and packed in
    even layers in a box or tub. A small amount of salt
    may be scattered between each layer. The fish are left
    in salt from 1 to 12 hours, depending upon the
    weather, size of fish, fatness, length of time for
    which preservation is desired and whether the fish are
    round or split.

    When the fish are taken out of the salt, they should
    be rinsed thoroughly. All visible particles of salt or
    other waste should be scrubbed off. They are hung to
    dry in the shade as in dry-salting of fish. An
    electric fan may be used if there is not enough
    breeze. The chicken-wire drying racks used in
    dry-salting may be utilised if they are not exposed to
    direct sunlight. The fish will dry on both sides but
    the impression of the chicken wire detracts from its
    appearance. The fish is dried until a thin skin or
    pellicle, is formed on the surface. This should take
    about 3 hours under average conditions. If smoking is
    begun while the fish are still moist, the time
    required is longer, the colour will not be as
    desirable, the fish will not have as good a surface -
    and will steam and soften in smoking.

    Start a low, smouldering fire an hour or two before
    the fish are hung in the smokehouse. It must not give
    off too much smoke during the first 8 or 12 hours if
    the entire cure is 24 hours, or for the first 24 hours
    if the cure is longer. The temperature in the
    smokehouse should not be higher than 90F in California
    or the southern states, or 70F in the northern states.
    If available, a thermometer should be used in
    controlling smokehouse temperature; if not, a
    rule-of-thumb test is to insert a hand in the
    smokehouse and if the air feels distinctly warm, the
    temperature is too high.

    At the end of the first smoking process, a dense smoke
    may be built up and maintained for the balance of the
    cure. If the fish are to be kept for 2 weeks, they
    should be smoked for 24 hours, or for a longer time.
    Smoking may require 5 days or even more. Hardsmoked or
    red herring may require 3 or 4 weeks.

    Keep the fire low and steady; if hardwood sawdust is
    not available, use chips and bark - they serve almost
    as well. Rice husks and corncobs can be used. The fire
    must not be allowed to die out at night. Do not build
    it up before leaving, as this will create too much
    heat. It must be tended regularly during the night.

    Here is the best way to smoke fillets. Any
    white-fleshed, "lean" fish will produce fillets
    weighing more than 1 pound which are satisfactory for
    smoking. Cut the fish into fillets, removing the
    backbone and skin. Cover with a 90 brine (saturated
    salt solution) and hold for 2 hours. Remove and drain
    for 10 to 15 minutes and air-dry for 2 hours. Hang
    across a threesided smokestick, each side about 3
    inches in width. Smoke over a fire with a fairly light
    smoke for 4 hours at a temperature not higher than
    90F. Turn the fillets so that the side resting on the
    smokestick is uppermost and smoke 4 hours longer.
    Smother the fire so that a dense cloud of smoke is
    produced and smoke until the fillets are a deep straw
    yellow, turning the fillets once or twice so that both
    sides will be evenly coloured.
  2. noway


    Likes Received:
    Dec 14, 2000
    Davie "Cowboy" , FL
    I love smoking salmon or swordfish with maple or cherry woods. Very tasty......

  3. pizzaaguy


    Likes Received:
    May 8, 2002
    Central Florida
    I tried to smoke fish once...
    I had a heck of a time keeping it lit, though! ;P

  4. fnfalman

    fnfalman Chicks Dig It

    Likes Received:
    Oct 23, 2000
    Tejas, US
    I like smoked fish a lot too. They go well with a light brunch for spring and summer time.