Presented from Issue 109, April 2014
It is that time of the year when there is a freezer full of trout. For some that is true, others not. Arthurs anglers have caught plenty, but often they are small, however the condition has been great and the colour of the flesh is extraordinary.
Many other lakes have seen the fish in excellent condition. Woods, Tooms, Leake and any lake with good shrimp populations have these lovely coloured fish.
So you might like to eat them slowly - or perhaps you can smoke a few. Everyone seems to know about hot smoking and you can do that in a number of ways. BBQs, Webers, portable smokers are everwhere these days and if it isn’t a dedicated smoker it will have an accessory that will. Then there are the specialist smokers such as Bradleys etc. and these do a fantastic job - often of both hot and cold smoking.
A few anglers in the Central Highlands have taken cold smoking to a new level with underground piping, remote cabinets, electric fans and secret recipes for brining. The results are fantastic and I have tried a few different versions and this includes variations in both brining and smoking time.
Cold smoked trout looks like cold smoked salmon and, to me, taste just as good as the commercially available Atlantic salmon.
Cold and hot smoking are completely different as the name implies. Hot smoking cooks the food and brine does not need to be used - although some do brine or marinade as well. Cold smoking does not cook or preserve. All cold smoked fish should be brined (salted) first and this kills bacteria, reduces the moisture content and adds flavour.
Three people recently shared their methods; John Fox, Ross Pullin and Jim Allen.
So let’s have a look at the three different recipes.
A retired trout guide - mostly at Arthurs and still fishes there quite a lot. ‘I vacuum seal and freeze all my fish if I don’t intend to eat it straight away. That applies to sea fish as well as trout.
‘From my experience the freezing of trout prior to smoking probably improves them. I use equal parts of sugar and salt to brine the trout and I don’t use any water. I cover the fish then stack another layer on top and make sure I keep the sugar and salt covering everything.
‘After 6 hours I wash the fish down in fresh water and air dry. The fish get a nice glaze on them and this is what seems to accept the smoke. My smoking arrangement is a unit from NZ connected to a wooden box I had in my workshop. I paid $190 for mine and built the box myself.
‘I am amazed at how well my little unit works. I simply fill it up with chips, turn the little air pump on and light the chips with a BBQ lighter. The unit works on a venturi effect and the smoke comes out cold.
‘That’s about it and after 4 hours or so the job is done. You can then vacuum pack your fish as separate portions and it will keep well. If you are like me though it goes pretty quickly.’
Ross has a shack at Great Lake. Most weekends has Ross on the water and having a mechanical background has seen Ross develop his own system. We will only give the basics here and if you want to know more from Ross call in and see him at the shop.
‘I only use salt with no sugar or liquid. Cover fillet with flesh side up for one hour then wash off and hang to dry and glaze. The fatter the fish the better and the more orange fish flesh is the better I like them. Freezing beforehand does not affect the fish. I never smoke pale fish.
‘If I can my choice is a cold dry night. I don’t smoke if it’s raining and I keep the temperature in the smoke box under 30 degrees.
Another one who has taken to cold smoking with a vengeance. Some say Jim is going to take Tassal on with the amount he smokes. A visit to Jim’s almost certainly comes with an offer of a fillet or two of his finest.
‘I brine in a wet mix and this consists of 2 cups of brown sugar (cooking) and 1 1/4 cups of salt combined with one litre of water. This does about 25 fillets of medium size. I make this mix up with hot water to dissolve the sugar and salt and put in the fridge to cool.
‘I put the fillets in for up to ten hours and give them a good turn and massage to allow the mix to penetrate. I don’t worry too much about the time frame though as it has to suit my day.
‘After a reasonable time I remove the fillets onto a towel, skin side down, pat dry and leave for an hour or so to air dry on a rack. I like to do this later in the day when the blowflies have gone to bed.
‘Then it is in to the cold smoker for 10-12 hours and they are ready to be taken out in the morning. I don’t smoke fish on damp or rainy nights and use eucalypt or red gum chips. Although I don’t think the variety of wood makes much difference.
‘Some think my fish is more intensely smoke flavoured than others if you don’t like it this way cut back the time. However if you are using the fish in pasta etc it is fabulous.
‘Most of my smoked fish ends up as a treat on a biscuit with philadelphia cream cheese and a caper or two.’
UFO cold smokers
These are a similar design to what John Fox uses from New Zealand. The Kiwis love cooking fish and game and the UFO group have developed a range of smokers and cookers.
How the UFO cold smoker works.
Simply put this smoker produces cold smoke using a venturi effect and it is attached to any container that will hold smoke.
That can be a wooden box, cardboard box, hooded BBQ, old fridge or even your hot smoker box etc. The container doesn’t matter. In fact you can combine the cold smoker with heat and have a hot smoker as well.
A vertical stainless tube holds the chips. A 6mm tube passes through the chips and a small air pump is used to blow air through this 6mm pipe and this drags air through the chips and into a larger outlet pipe which goes directly to the smoke box. The wood chips are ignited with a BBQ lighter and the venturi effect sucks air through the chips and keeps them smouldering or several hours.
It sounds too simple, and it is. Because the chips only smoulder there is very little heat.
Check it out here: http://bit.ly/1dGedw9