l gallon water
1 c kosher salt
l c white sugar
l c brown sugar
lemon pepper to taste
1 3 oz. package dry crab and shrimp seasoning mix
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cloves garlic, crushed or to taste
1 dash hot pepper sauce
2 oranges, sliced and crushed
1 lime, sliced and crushed
l large yellow onion, sliced
Pour the water into a large bowl or small bucket. If you must use a pot, use one that does not contain aluminum. Stir in the kosher salt, white sugar, brown sugar, lemon pepper, parsley and seasoning mix. Add the garlic, hot pepper sauce, lemons, oranges, lime and onion.
Soak your salmon in this brine in the refrigerator for 12 to 36 hours. This curing process eliminates some of the moisture from the inside of the fish while at the same time infusing it with salt, which will help preserve the salmon.
DRY THE FISH:
Take your fish out of the brine and pat it dry. Set the fillets on your cooling rack, skin side down. Ideally you would do this right under a ceiling fan set on high, or outside in a cool, breezy place. By (cool) it means 60F or cooler. Let the fish dry for 2 to 4 hours (or up to overnight in the fridge.) You want the surface of the fish to develop a shiny skin called a pellicle. This seals the fish and offers a sticky surface for the smoke to adhere to.
SMOKE YOUR FISH:
Even though this is hot smoking, you still do not want high temperatures. Start with a small fire and work your way up as you go. It is important to bring the temperature up gradually or you will get that white albumin "bleed" on the meat. Control the heat with the smoker, so you can start the process between 120ºF and 150ºF for up to an hour, then finish at 175º for a final hour or two.
BASTE THE FISH:
After an hour in the smoker, baste the fish with the birch or maple syrup; do this every hour. This is a good way to brush away any albumin that might form. In most cases you will get a little. Smoke till an internal temperature of about 130º to 140º. If you want, you can finish the baking in a 200º oven but it will not be as smokey.
COOL AND STORE FISH:
Once your fish is smoked, let it rest on the cooling rack for an hour before you put it in the fridge. Once refrigerated and wrapped in plastic, smoked fish will keep for 10 days. If you vacuum seal it, the fish will keep for up to 3 weeks. Or freeze your fish for up to a year.