Albert Kirby SalmonWhat great news–the sockeye salmon are back big time! Not only are they in abundance, the price has also dropped a few bucks  per lb from last year. Here’s a delish (and easy) salmon appetizer recipe from the Ocean Wise cookbook, contributed by the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre. And more to follow…

Blueberry-Candied Wild Salmon

Candied salmon is a product of curing and smoking fresh salmon to preserve it for months after the fishing season has ended. This recipe uses only natural products, and is a healthy alternative to store-bought “salmon nuggets,” which can contain nitrates, MSG, liquid smoke and preservatives. The blueberry glaze simply adds a sweet flavour to the salmon after it’s cooked. Without the glaze, the candy’s appearance is less inviting and the salt from the brine tends to create a white dust on the salmon once it’s dried.

Candies 2 fillets

2 ½ lb (1 kg)    fresh wild salmon fillets, skin on, pin bones removed

1 ½ cups (375 mL) brown sugar

1 cup (250 mL) kosher salt

2 Tbsp (30 mL) ground black pepper

2 Tbsp (30 mL) unpasteurized honey

½ cup (125 mL) fresh blueberries (or frozen)

3 Tbsp (45 mL) boiling water

Being careful not to cut through the skin, cut several 1-inch (2.5 cm) vertical slits into each salmon fillet, then grasp each end of the fillet and stretch the skin so that all of the slit opens up.

Place the salmon fillets on a large cookie sheet that will fit in your refrigerator. Stir 1¼ cups (310 mL) of the brown sugar, the kosher salt, and 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of the ground pepper together in a medium mixing bowl until they are well mixed. Evenly pack the mixture onto each fillet by hand, making sure to get between the open slits.

Place the fillets in the refrigerator overnight to cure. The dry cure will begin turning to liquid as the salt draws moisture from the fish. Once the salmon is cured, rinse all the remaining curing mixture off the fillets and allow them to air-dry for an hour.

Turn one burner of the gas barbecue on to low heat, about 100° F (38°C). Place an aluminum pan of alder, hickory, or cedar woodchips on the lit burner to create smoke. Place the fillets up high on a second level rack if available, on the other side of the barbecue, above the unlit burner, and prop the barbecue lid open a little to allow air flow. Smoke the fillets for 1 hour. The objective is to smoke the fillets and not cook them. Try to keep the temperature under 120° F (50° C) for the entire hour.

To make the finishing glaze, combine the remaining 2 Tbsp (30 mL) of brown sugar, the blueberries, and the remaining 1 tsp (5 mL) of pepper in a small bowl. Mash the blueberries with a potato masher and add the boiling water to help melt the sugar. Stir the glaze to form a sticky sauce and brush it over the fillets once they are smoked. Leave the fish in the barbecue for two more hours with the burner off to allow the glaze to dry.