Michigan State University Extension
Preserving Food Safely - 01600579


     Wood  smoke has little,  if any,  preservative  action.
Smoking merely adds flavor and color and removes some water.
Smoked  fish are almost as perishable as fresh  fish.   Home
processors would do well to heed the Michigan state law that
applies to commercial smokers.   Smoked fish should be  kept
at temperatures under 36 degrees Fahrenheit and  used within
14  days.  If smoked fish is to be kept longer than 14 days,
it should be  frozen immediately  after smoking.  Freezing  
old  fish  only  further  reduces the quality of an already 
deteriorating product.                                      


     The  four  basic  steps in smoking fish  are  cleaning,
curing, drying and smoking.                                 


     Clean  fish as soon as possible after taking them  from
the  water.   Scale fish and remove viscera,  including  the
kidney,  which is the dark streak along the  backbone.   The
head  may  also  be  removed  from  larger  fish,   but  the
collarbone should remain to provide shape.   Fillet or steak
large fish.                                                 


     Cure  the fish in salt,  either dry or in a brine.   If
dry  curing fish,  follow the procedure  for  salting.   Dry
salted  fish  will have a high salt concentration  and  will
need to be freshened before smoking.                        

     The  goal  of  brining is to produce a  thoroughly  and
uniformly salted product.   A basic brine consists of 1  cup
salt  to each gallon of cold water (30  salimeter).   Sugar,
spices, and saltpeter are often added to the brine.         
     Here is one recommended sugar spice brine:             

     1 gallon cold water                                    
     1 cup salt                                             
     1/2 cup sugar                                          
     1 teaspoon saltpeter (optional)                        
    *Bay Leaves                                             
    *Pickling spices                                        


     Use a mixture of spices at the rate of 1 tablespoon per
gallon of water.                                            

     Another  spice formula is 1 tablespoon whole cloves and
1 teaspoon bay leaves per gallon of water.     Saltpeter may
or  may  not  be  added,  according  to personal preference,
but it does provide a margin of safety against botulism.    

     Place  fish in a large nonmetal container so  they  lie
flat.   Cover  with brine.   use one gallon for each 4 to  5
pound  of  fish.   Use a plate or cover to weight down  fish
enough  to  submerge  them without  packing  them  together.
Allow  fish  to cure in the coldest part of the refrigerator
(34 to 38  Fahrenheit) for the appropriate time.            

     There  is no one time which is right for all fish under
all   conditions.    Brining   times  vary   because   brine
concentration and amount, and fish condition and size affect
how quickly and how much salt will be absorbed.             

               TABLE OF BRINING TIMES                       

  (for  a  brine of 30 salimeter,  2 parts brine to  1  part

  Size                           Condition                  

                         Fresh       Refrig.       Thawed   

1/2 to 1 inch thick,     18 to 24       16         12 to 14 
fillets or split         hours        hours        hours    

Large whole fish         48 to 72     36 to 60     24 to 48 
10 lb. or larger         hours        hours        hours    

     Salt Concentration- The  stronger or  more concentrated
the brine, the shorter the brining time required.   However,
short (more concentrated brine)  brining times will not salt
fish  as uniformly as slow (less  concentrated brine) times.
A  brine concentration of 30 to 40 salimeter is recommended.
This  is  about  1 or  1 1/4 cups salt for  each gallon cold

     Amount  of Brine to Fish                               
     The amount of brine to the  amount of fish affects  how
uniformly  and thoroughly the fish  will be salted.   A good
ratio is  2 parts  brine to  1  part fish.   One  gallon  of
brine weighs about 9  pounds.   This means you would need 20
pounds (about 2 gallons brine) for each 10 pounds of fish.  

    Rate of Brining                                         
    Muscle fibers of freshly caught fish  are  still intact.
Intact muscle  fibers  absorb  salt  slowly.  Freshly caught
fish will require  about 18  to  24 hours  of brining.  Fish
held  in  the  refrigerator for  24 hours  will  absorb salt
faster (about 16  hours).  Thawed  fish  absorb  salt  still
faster and will be thoroughly brined in 12 to 14 hours.     
Usethese times with brine concentrations of 30 to 40        

     Brining times are affected by the thickness of the fish
pieces.   Fresh pieces 1/2 to 1 inch thick  require 14 to 16
hours of brining.   A large,  whole  fish  such  as  salmon,
requires  48 to 72 hours of  brining.  For such  large fish,
the  concentration  of  the  brine  should  not  exceed   30


     When  fish  are  cured,  remove from  brine  and  rinse
thoroughly.   Fish  may be dried in the smokehouse or  in  a
protected area  with heat and air  circulation.   Place fish
on smokehouse hangers or racks wiped with vegetable oil, and
allow surface to dry.   A shiny skin-like pellicle will form
on  the  fish surface.   The pellicle seals the surface  and
prevents loss of natural juices during smoking.             

     Fish require approximately 1/2 hour of drying at 70  to
80 degrees  Fahrenheit  before smoking.  Air circulation and
humidity will affect the time.  A fan will speed the drying 

STORAGE OF SMOKED FISH                                      

     Smoked fish should be kept in the refrigerator below 36
degrees Fahrenheit and consumed within 14 days after smoking
For longer storage, the fish may be frozen immediately after
smoking. Store smoked fish in the freezer for no longer than
2 to 3 months.                                              
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