This smoked salmon candy also called “indian candy” was, at one time, a staple food while traveling away from home where cooking was difficult or near impossible.
The texture ranges from moist and tender to slightly dry and chewy depending on how long you cook it and you will just have to decide exactly how you like it best.
Update: When I first produced this recipe a few years ago, I had reports that it was too salty for some. I have completely reworked this recipe to ensure that the process is straight forward, much easier to follow. I have also modified the recipe to NOT use extra salt. It uses only my original rub (which is low in salt) for the dry brining/marinating process.
If you find that it needs more salt for your taste, feel free to amend the ingredients to include kosher salt but I urge you to be careful as it can get overly salty really fast. Also keep good notes on how much you add so you can adjust as necessary.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Brine Time: 12 hours or overnight
- Cook Time: 6 hours
- Smoker Temp: 120/160°F
- Meat Finish Temp: 145°F
- Recommended Wood: Apple or Alder
- 2-3 lb filet of salmon
- Jeff's Original rub (purchase recipe here)
- Real Maple syrup (grade A dark amber and grade B is what I use)
If you have access to fresh, wild salmon then I highly recommend that you use that. You can also use store-bought but you can't expect the same quality and flavor as fresh, wild-caught salmon. I've had both and you can definitely tell the difference. My point is to use the best thing you can get your hands on within your budget and means.
The first thing I do with salmon is to give it a good rinse with cold water and then pat it dry with a paper towel.
Lay it on the cutting board skin side down.
You can cut this as wide as you want and to any size that you want. I chose to go with about 1 inch slices right down the fish.
Some folks skin the fish before they slice it but I have found that it is easier to remove the skin from smaller pieces.
Use a sharp knife and just glide the blade between the meat and the skin to separate the two.
My method is to get it started on the thick end then when I have enough to get ahold of, I hold it with the thumb of my left hand (I am right handed) while I glide the blade, angled slightly downward, away from me.
Removing the skin will cause stray scales to end up on the meat of the fish and I like to give it another rinse under cold water to remove anything unwanted.
As you rinse them, pile them on a paper towel to drain.
What is dry brining?
In it's most basic terms, dry brining is the act of sprinkling salt (kosher salt is best) on meat. Water from the meat is attracted to the salt and is brought to the surface to meet the salt. The water mixes with the salt and is then reabsorbed back into the meat.
Even though my rub is very low in salt, it is enough to do the job. The salt in the rub pulls the moisture to the surface where it mixes with the rub and then that flavorful slurry is reabsorbed back into the meat. It's like injecting flavor into the meat except a whole lot better!
To start, I pour enough rub to create a layer on the bottom of the brining bowl. For this 3 pound salmon, I used a bowl that was about 5″ x 8″ and about 5″ deep with a lid.
Add the salmon pieces by laying them gently on top of the layer of rub.
Add another layer of rub.
With every layer, add more rub.
Place a lid on the container and place the fish in the fridge overnight or for 8-12 hours while it brines.
After about 4 hours, you will notice that liquid slurry in the bottom of the bowl, and you may want to stir the fish around a little to make sure it is well coated.
Here is the fish after 12 hours in the fridge..
The fish is very firm and smells wonderful.
Rinse the fish under cold water and try to get off as much of the rub as possible. The flavors have already done their job and what is left is not needed. Besides, it's important that the fish is very dry when the smoking begins and we'll add more rub and some maple syrup to the fish toward the end of the process.
Just a tip: Use wire bread ties to connect the two Bradley racks together.
Some folks dry the fish on the counter but I am a safety nut and I prefer to dry it in the fridge.
Why dry the fish?
Salmon have a white protein called albumin and this stuff will ooze out of the fish as it cooks. The albumin also serves to keep the fish more moist while it cooks.
By allowing the fish to dry, it forms a sort of skin called a pellicle which helps to prevent the white albumin from cooking out.
I recommend drying for 2-4 hours if possible. The fish will become sticky and get a sort of translucent look as it dries.
After drying the fish and allowing the pellicle to form they are ready to smoke.
This is a great task to get done while the fish are in the last hour or so of drying.
Winter is a great time to smoke fish since it is normally smoked at lower temperatures anyway and if your smoker has a hard time maintaining normal smoking temperatures of 225°F, well then, you are in luck because you only need about 120-160°F to get the job done on this smoked salmon candy.
Start the smoker out at about 120°F and once it is holding steady, the fish are ready to smoke.
Here's Some Information on a Few Popular Smokers
Here's some information that I have written on various smokers.
- Bradley 4-Rack Digital Smoker – An electric smoker that is fully automated and keeps the temperature where you set it. It also keeps the smoke flowing via an automated mechanism that moves a new wood puck into the smoker every 20 minutes. See this smoker and read reviews on Amazon.com
- Weber Smokey Mountain 22.5 Smoker – the king of charcoal water smokers. Add charcoal, water and wood and you're good to go for several hours. 3 dampers on the fire bowl allow you to dial in the air perfectly for maintaining perfect smoking temperatures. See this smoker and read reviews on Amazon.com
- Big Green Egg – Ceramic cooker that uses charcoal. Add lump charcoal, light it and add some wood.. set the top and bottom vent and you're good to go for hours on end due to the thick walls that hold heat incredibly well.
- Great Outdoors Smoky Mountain Propane Smoker – A propane smoker that works exceptionally well. I have had mine for more than 8 years and it still works great. See this smoker and read reviews on Amazon.com
- Traeger Smoker (coming soon)
Note: In colder weather, it is advisable to preheat the smoker at least an hour or more before you are wanting to use it. Keep the door closed as much as possible and even skip basting if necessary to maintain proper smoking temperatures.
Place the salmon candy into the smoker. If you are using the Bradley racks then just lay it on the grate or you can lay the fish directly on the smoker grate. You might consider brushing a little olive oil onto the bottom of the fish pieces just before placing them on the grate to prevent any sticking.
I recommend using apple or alder wood and keep the smoke going the entire time.
Depending on how thick your pieces are cut and how dry you want the smoked salmon candy to be will determine the length of time that it spends in the smoker so you will have to do a little bit of testing after 3-4 hours of time. I always tell folks to make extra and to test a piece every 30 minutes until it gets to where you like it.
Write down how long it took and you'll know next time what to expect.
My fish was about 1 inch thick and I like it pretty dry but not so dry that it becomes chewy. I maintained the temperatures above almost to a tee in my smoker and it took 6 hours to become smoked salmon candy perfection.
2 hours at 120°F
2 hours at 140°F
2 hours at 160°F
This important step is what helps to make the smoked salmon candy sweet and gives it that nice sweet and spicy layer on the outside.
Mix the 2 ingredients together well and brush onto the salmon every hour starting at the 1 hour mark. Depending on how much salmon you make and how generous you are with it, you may need to make another batch.
What a great snack this is!
***Note: you get the Texas style rub recipe free with your order!
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Rinse salmon with cold water
On a cutting board, slice across the fish into 1 inch wide pieces
Remove skin using a sharp knife
Rinse fish under cold water to remove scales
Place a layer of rub into a plastic or glass bowl.
Place the fish onto the rub.
Sprinkle a layer of rub onto the top of the fish pieces.
If you need to double-stack the fish, place another layer of rub then more fish.
Finish this layer with a layer of rub on top.
Place a lid on the container and place in the fridge for 8-12 hours or overnight.
Rinse the rub from the fish using cold water and lay on paper towel to drain.
Place the salmon on a Bradley rack or similar with at least ½ inch between pieces.
Place rack in fridge for 3-4 hours to allow the fish to dry and form a pellicle.
Setup smoker for cooking at about 120°F
Place salmon pieces directly on smoker grate for 2 hours.
Increase heat to 140°F
Continue to cook salmon for 2 hours
Increase heat to 160°F
Continue to cook salmon until it has reached the desired dryness/texture
Mix together ¾ cup of maple syrup with 2 TBS of Jeff's rub to create a glaze.
Brush the glaze on the salmon pieces every hour while they are in the smoker