|Smoked Trout - First Try!|
One thing that I did not inherit from my father was a sense of moderation. I suppose in that respect, and maybe a couple of others (if you ask my wife), I am a work in progress. I remember raising a few trout in our ponds years ago, and within a couple of years we figured that if a few were good, that 10,000 would be better! It did get to be a wee bit too much, so we are back to just a few to play with and a lesson learned. It was the same way with smoking trout. Someone gave me a taste of smoked trout once and I decided that it would be a good thing to recruit my friends to do (remember I'm a quadriplegic, the power of persuasion is a survival skill). Soon there was more than one of us that thought it was a good idea, and instead of using the small $40 smoker that we already had we decided to employ the old "go big or go home" strategy that seemed prevalent around us. Pretty soon we had a large, stylish (not), old-fashioned-fridge-converted-to-smoker on mom's lawn. Mom being patient, not much was said for the first 10 years or so, then it was suddenly brought to our attention that the curb appeal of our smoker had waned a little.
Back to the smoking. Remember this all started with somebody giving us a taste of smoked fish. Now we figured that our new smoker was large enough to hold 100 fish or so, and there is no use wasting all that extra space by smoking only a few. We proceeded to catch fish, and soon enough we had enough to fill that smoker. We mixed up the brine, left the fish overnight in it and in the morning fired up our lovely new toy. I remember we were up all day, until long after dark, shuffling the racks, moving the fish, and tweaking and adjusting as is necessary when a man is involved in any project. In the end we ended up with 20 fish that could be categorized as "burnt to rat-shit", 15 that were "a little overdone", 30 that looked real good, and 35 that were "a wee bit rare but that's okay".
Now, years later, we live on the farm ourselves. I have tried to employ some of the lessons learned from those early days. We now stock only a few fish and guess what ... it costs a lot less to stock the fish, they grow much faster and do not have to be fed, and if they winter kill… oh well, c'est la vie. See what moderation has done? It has eliminated most of the hassle.
Lately the idea of tasting smoked fish has infiltrated my coconut once again. Our smoker with the curb appeal has long since been given away to someone else who's wife wants to enjoy the ambiance of it sitting as the center-piece of their front yard. I started doing some research online on smokers, and found that Bradley makes some really nice ones. Of course I was dreaming about the largest, most computerized, best unit I could find, thinking that I could fit the most fish in it. I think I almost had my wife convinced that this would be a good idea, or I just presented the idea enough times that it found a crack to enter her brain. About this time I started to remember the time that we smoked a hundred fish at once. I had enjoyed the first fish a lot, the second was pretty good, the third… well I was starting to get tired of fish but couldn't tell anybody. I found that we soon had about 97 fish in the freezer, and it would be about two months before they were freezer burnt.
I started to think about the price of a new-fangled computerized super duper large dual-exhaust turbocharged smoker, and then the idea of moderation crept into my head. I tried to push it away as much as I could, but it was persistent. As I was strolling through Canadian Tire one day (strolling is a figure of speech, I'm in an electric wheelchair), I remembered the "gift card" that I had to fight the manager tooth-and-nail for while returning an item that had a supposed "life-time guarantee" (another story, will be forthcoming if anything like that happens again!), and remembered that the card had an expiration date. I had to do my obligatory cruise through the sporting goods section, and there on a pallet on sale today was a new Bradley two-rack smoker, about the size of a microwave oven. I knew that the hassle of returning it if it did not work out would be insurmountable, so my puzzler weighed this against the gift card burning a hole in my pocket. After several frantic texts to my wife I gave into my impulsive side and picked up the smoker.
Later that evening my daughter and I went out and promptly caught three trout. She cleaned them and butterfly split them, and sprinkled them with salt, brown sugar, and garlic powder. We let them sit overnight.
The next morning we rinsed them off, towel dried them and let them sit for about an hour to get a skin on them. Then we put them in the smoker and programmed it for four hours of smoke and six hours at low heat.
At the end of the cycle, we opened the door and were we ever surprised. All three were done very consistent, nothing was cooked to rat-shit or raw, they all turned out great! I think this little smoker will be perfect as it forces moderation on me, and it does just enough food for our family to enjoy fresh stuff, and not have to freeze it!
Let me know of your favorite trout recipes!