Kippered Fish

  1. Mix 3 parts sugar (I prefer brown) to 2 parts kosher salt.
    Add any spices if desired. I usually use some red chili and garlic. Not only for flavor, but because they both have preservative qualities. For extra flavor (and preservation) I will also add some pepper, allspice, and bay leaves.
  2. Prepare filets so that no flesh is more than about 1cm from an outer surface. This means, score thick part of flesh at about 2cm spacing down to within 1cm of the skin.
  3. Cover all surfaces of fish with brine mix, including inside scores and on edges.
  4. Stack fish in non-reactive container (glass, plastic, stainless...).
    If fish has skin, stack skin-to-skin, and flesh-to-flesh.
    We want to minimize skin-to-flesh contact.
  5. Allow to brine in a cool place for 4-10 hours (overnight?).
    Refrigerator is a bit cool, but OK. I would guess that brining time should increase as temperature decreases. (overnight to 12 hours if in fridge?)
  6. Rinse fish, then place on smoking/drying racks in a cool place, with room for air to circulate around each piece of fish.
    Refrigerator is OK
    Can be cold, but above about 30F so they don't freeze.
  7. Allow the fish to dry/cure for about 12-16 hours.
    A hard skin should form (a pellicle).
    You may choose to brush the fish with sugar syrup as it cures, Alaskan style.
    (Extremely dense, like simple syrup. Rum and brown sugar is traditional. Heat to desolve, but cool to below about 85F before applying. I would think that honey, maple, or agave syrup would work also )
  8. Warm smoke at about 140F (130-150F is OK) for about 6 hours.
    Many people call for 180F, but I think anything over 160F is a bit too warm.
    The fish should reach an internal temperature of about 132-138F, and become a bit dry.
    It should be more dried then cooked, and firm, not flakey. If white fat/protein deposits develop on top, or the fish gets flakey, it got a bit too hot and cooked. This is OK, but it will not have as good a texture as if the smoke had been cooler.
Package as sanitarily as is reasonable.
Can last weeks in fridge, months or years frozen.
Did another run, tried to be quick. Came out a bit under brined, undersalted. Dry Brined for 3 hours, rinsed, cure for 12 hours. Smoked 6 hours at 140F, then raised to 150F until fish hit about 134F. Above represents revised instructions, based on these results.
I was not as happy with the results from a wet brine:

Mix 3 parts sugar (I prefer brown) to 2 parts kosher salt in simmering water.
Add water until salt barely dissolves. (We want a nearly saturated solution).

Add any desired spices. I usually use some red chili and garlic. Not only for flavor, but because they both have preservative qualities. For extra flavor (and preservation) I will also add some pepper, allspice, and bay leaves.

Allow brine solution to cool.
Preferably to a temperature below 38F.

Prepare fish in hunks/strips and wash.

Put a layer of fish in a non-reactive container, skin side up.
Glass, food-grade plastic, and stainless steel are often considered to be non-reactive. If you do use plastic, note that this plastic will only be useful for fish preparation in the future. It will take on some odor.

Pour some brine solution over the first layer of fish.

Continue adding layers of fish and brine solution alternating direction.
Try to stack flesh-to-flesh sides, then skin-to-skin sides.

Allow fish to brine in a cool place for 2-3 hours.
(I was brining for 2 hours with a dry brine, but my results were a little inconsistent. Now that I am trying wet brine, I may need to increase my brining time.)

Remove fish from brine, rinse, and place in a bath of cold water to allow fish to "freshen" for about 30 minutes to an hour.
This should help make the salt distribution through the flesh more even.

Place fish on smoking/drying racks in a cool place, with room for air to circulate around each piece of fish.
A refrigerator is OK, but they can be a bit warm. You want something between about 30 and 38 degrees F. Cold, but not cold enough to freeze a brined fish.

Allow the fish to dry/cure for about 12-16 hours.
A hard skin should form (called a pellicle).

Warm smoke at about 140F (130-150F is OK) for about 6 hours.
The fish should reach an internal temperature of about 138F, and become a bit dry.
It should be more dried then cooked, and firm, not flakey. If white fat/protein deposits develop on top, or the fish gets flakey, it got a bit too hot and cooked. This is OK, but it will not have as good a texture as if the smoke had been cooler.