Since being little I have had a love of smoked fish, mainly Haddock and Cod. Mam used to poach it in milk, and we would have it with loads of bread to dip in the juice. So since we have a regular supply of prime North Sea Cod, I still found myself having to buy my smoked Cod from the super market.
After researching smoking my own fish it all seemed a bit over my head and technical, till a good friend mentioned he’d cold smoked some fish at home, so strait on-line I went and 2 days later I received my Pro Q Cold Smoke Generator from Hot Smoked.
I have kept the whole process as simple as possible for my own benefit and by no means am I stating that this is the correct way, and with the help of photos I am sharing my journey of fishing line to plate, it was a journey with all the family having a part in and I hope you enjoy it.
Tuesday night seen the winds drop off allowing Peter, Becky, a couple of friends and myself launch off Blyth heading for the rough ground behind Blyth Pier, the intention was finding some fish for the smoker and a few Mackerel I need for bait. Pretty much strait away I was into fish seeing firstly a 2 Lb Codling the a much larger 4 Lb followed, Becky was picking up good numbers of fish but sadly all a bit to small so they went back for another time. Moving onto the ledge of a large reef that runs the full length of the back of the pier which is thick kelp on rough ground I found 2 Kelpies, 1 a good size and the other I sent back home to its mammy, there was numerous fish here, you could feel them nibbling at your gear but just not taking almost teasing, but once we seen the black clouds we called it a night, tally for me was 5 cod, 3 for the smoker and 2 traded for some Mackerel off Mark.
Once home the fish were filleted and placed in the fridge to firm up a bit leaving the skin on. Next morning I relised that I hadn’t anything to use as a smoker, looking on-line all you really need is a large box, this could be a tall wooden cabinet affair down to a cardboard box as long as the fish was allowed to hang or had a mesh shelf to lie on above the burner..so a quick phone call to Peter and he located a disused electric/fuse cabinet so always one to recycle it came home to be used as my home smoker. I used a length of broom shank screwed in to place with small screws along it to enable me to hang the fish, it already had 2 small holes to allow air to feed the burner.
Back to the fish, next step is to salt the fish, this pulls excess water out and also firms the flesh, so it was placed on a large tray and using normal table salt I covered each fillet with a good layer of salt covered and left it for about an hour, smaller fillets wont take as long. After the hour was up as you can see the amount of water that comes out it resemble cheap bacon in the frying pan…all water. Once I rinsed the salt off I dried each fillet with kitchen roll as much as possible, I left them face side down for a bit on the roll, looking at the fish It’s gone slightly opaque in colour and very firm.
So now the fish were ready for the smoker, just needed to find something to hang them with, then remembering I had some little clips i had bought from IKEA years ago to hang curtains in Becky’s room and after pulling the house to bits I found them,, absolutely spot on, just the job, Once the burner was lit and the fish were hung time to wait …and wait….and yes more waiting…well an hour then I couldn’t help myself I had to have a peek.
I used maple wood dust, but with the burner I also got beech and oak, and I was advised to leave for 10 hours,which we did, then I took a small fish tail bit popped it in pan added milk, butter and pepper, once it came to the simmer off the heat and we tried it….whoop….lovely, keep your shop bought stuff now No looking back, home smoked all the way from now on. at this point I skinned and boned the fillets and back into the fridge for tea tomorrow.
The way I cook my fish pie, potatoes cooked and mashed, boil eggs 1 each, fish place in pan cover with milk, knob of butter, pepper, and a bay leaf, on the heat till it just starts to come to the simmer then off the heat, don’t worry its getting hot sauce on to finish its cooking. Lift fish into warm dish, strain milk to make the bechamel sauce which gets poured over the fish after you’ve halved the eggs and placed on top of the fish, then mash spooned on and topped with some cheese then 20 minutes in the oven we always have it with garden greens so that was broccoli and pak choi, all that was ready from allotment. Not Rick Stein but we love it.
So there you have it, not as I have always thought it to be ‘rocket science’, it can be simple and you can still get fantastic results, the sense of achievement of catching your fish, bringing them home to smoke rather than buying from the shop and not really knowing how old it is and what process its gone through. My other thought is yes it was a bit of a faff to start with but now the smoker is up and working, its been cleaned out and tidied up my next lot of fish will be so much faster and easier, my intention is to smoke and freeze a good amount ready for winter meals of Cullen Skink and Kedgeree.
Thanks for reading.