As many of you saw in my fish sausage entry (and by many, I mean more than one) I've made some fantastic smoked Spanish mackerel, and we got another pound (or so) of mackerel in this week's share from the Core Sound Seafood.
So I thought I'd show you how I smoke it.
First, the fish needs to be brined. The brine I made had mustard seeds, brown sugar, salt, and this excellent Spanish pimenton- a sweet paprika. You take your spices, add them to boiling water until the salt and sugar dissolve, then cool the whole mixture down to room temperature.
Then you put the fish into the brine to soak it in for as little as a few hours, as long as a few days. Here, I've put the brine and mackerel in a ziploc bag, and set the bag in a bowl to keep the fridge free of spills.
The next day, I take the fish out of the brine, and I set it over a rack, like this,
to dry out. This helps the fish develop what's called a pellicle, the iridescent, golden-hued, sheen that is actually a tacky, protective skin that keeps fats from coming to the surface of the fish. The fats are highly perishable, so the pellicle aids preservation.
Just to refresh your memory, heres the smoking rig - a crappy old Weber kettle, retrofitted with an electric hot plate.
Put a pie pan full of wood chips - these are apple wood - on the hot plate, and crank it up to high.
Here's the fish, along with some drumsticks that I had started about an hour prior to the mackerel.
Here's how the drumsticks turned out. Unfortunately, they look fantastic, but they could have used another half hour in the smoker to cook through. No matter, I finished them in a hot oven, just to cook them through, and they tasted smoky and juicy. Hacked 'em up, and ate them as tacos.
As the mackerel finished smoking, I threw on some potatoes to smoke- they'll be good in a salad with the fish and some onions and a creamy dressing.
And here's the finished product. A nice sheen, fully cooked through, and smoky as a chimney sweep. They smoked for about two hours at 230º.
I still need to figure out how often to refill the pie plate with wood chips, and whether large wood chunks can work as well as chips. The secret I think is to check on the wood every hour or so, replenish fairly frequently (every hour should do it), and to be prepared to let it go longer than you think it needs to. At least two hours per pound of meat, I'd say, and more if the meat has substantial bone in it (the two racks of ribs took three hours last week, I think). When you think it's done, check on it again in half an hour. Low cooking, under 250º, won't dry out the meat, but even a well smoked dish can be less than completely cooked - and you don't want that.
Ok, next week, I think I'll give brisket a try. Or perhaps a pork shoulder. Or possibly I'll grind up some pork and make what they call hot links in Chicago. Anybody got any preferences??