In this post I want to take a look at one of my favorite dishes, smoked Nova Salmon. But first:
What is nova salmon?
Traditionally, nova is the origin where this salmon comes from, as well as the style of smoking. This fish comes from nova scotia, Canada, where the salmon is cured, and cold smoked.
The salmon has a much deeper pink color, almost burnt orange, which makes it a bit different compared to other cured salmon. In addition, this fish has a more intense flavor compared to gravlax or lox.
The following are the nutritional facts of smoked salmon and are based per 100g.
- Calories – 122.8
- Calories from fat – 39.5 (32.1)
- Total fat – 4.4 g
- Saturated fat – 0.9 g
- Cholesterol – 52.6 mg
- Sodium – 1386 mg (58%)
- Carbohydrates – 0 g
- Net carbs – 0 g
- Fiber – 0 g
- Protein – 22.8 g
- Calcium – 35.1 mg (4%)
- Iron – 0.3 mg (4%)
How to make smoked nova salmon
In case you are filleting a whole salmon, remove the pin bones and leave the skin on. You can use a small pair of needle-nose pliers to remove the bones that might be on the flesh. If you want to buy filleted salmon, buy whole salmons with the skin on, and remove the remaining bones—if there are any. Rinse the fillet and then pat-dry—but not completely dry. At this point, leave the fillets whole, with their skin on.
Brining—this is a two-step process
Here, you will need to use dry brine ingredients, which are:
- Canning or kosher salt – 5 lbs.
- Dark brown sugar- 6 lbs.
- Mix the sugar and salt thoroughly with your hands so that you can break up any chunks in the brown sugar. You will use to dry-brine the fish. Make sure that you use koher or coarse (non-iodized) salt. In case you have any leftover dry mix, place it in a ziplock bag or sealed container. This will preserve the mixture for future use.
- Next, take a small container, long enough and with enough width that will allow you to lay your fillets flat, and spread an even ½” layer of the dry brine mixture on the container’s bottom. After spreading the dry brine mix, place your first fillet layer on top of the dry mix, when the skin side is facing down. Now, you can cover the fillets with extra dry mix ½” layer and then place the next layer of fillets on top, now with the skin side facing up. Cover the fillet with ½” layer of the dry mix, and make sure that the dry mix covers the fish completely. You should understand that the size of your container matters as it prevents you from wasting the dry brine mix.
- Continue layering the fish fillet, and you can place them in the manner that you like, so long as they are somehow flat and straight. This process is essential as it removes any excess moisture in the fish, and makes it firmer.
- When you are done with the layering, place the fish your refrigerator for around 7 to 8 hours. Please note that: in case you forget this step and you dry brine the fillets for too long, you will end up ruining them. Make sure that you set a timer so that you don’t forget.
- After the 7 to 8 hours, you will start seeing a considerable amount of thick liquid at the bottom of the container—this is the moisture from the fillets. You can now take the container out of the fridge, and remove the fillets one at a time. When done, cut the fillets into half, so that they can fit in a smoker, and then rinse them under running water to remove the mixture.
- At this stage, the fillets should feel firm and hard, and somehow smaller than when you bought them. Discard the thick liquid at the bottom of the container, and don’t use it.
This step will also change the texture of the fillet
Ingredients (wet brine)
- Water – 3.5 gal.
- Coarse (non-iodine) or kosher salt – 6 cups
- Brown sugar – 6 cups
- Real maple syrup – 1-2 cups
- Black peppercorns (whole) – ¼ cup
- Garlic – 2 cloves
- Fresh dill (chopped) – to taste
- Use a large food bucket to mix together all the ingredients, and make sure that the sugar and salt are completely dissolved. The container should be large enough to hold the brine and fillets. Please note: you need to check the salt concentration (salinity) of the mixture. A fresh raw egg should float on the mixture. If the egg doesn’t add an extra ½ cup salt and then mix well. Recheck to see if the egg will float again. If the egg doesn’t float, repeat the process until it floats. Allow the brine to set for around 5 hours before you use it.
- Place your dry brined fillets into the bucket with the wet brine. Make sure that all the fillets are completely submerged, and then use a plate to cover the bucket. Allow the fillets to brine for around 7 to 9 hours.
It’s optional at this point since the dry brine has “cooked the fillets” already. You can also move around the fillets at some point of the wet brine process—just in case some are too close. When the process is over, you will need to freshen the fillets so that you can remove the excess salt.
How to freshen your fillet
- Start by removing your fillets from the wet brine, and then rinse them using freshwater. Dispose of the briner, rinse your bucket or the container you used to wet brine your fish and make sure that all the spices and peppercorns are removed.
- Put back the fillets in the bucket/container and then fill it with clear water. Allow the water to run into the container (never use a lot of pressure as this can damage the fillet) for around 30 minutes. Make sure that you stir gently with your hands after every 10 minutes.
- You can taste a small portion of the fillet to check the salt levels. If it’s too salty, rinse for an additional 10 minutes, but don’t exceed that as this will make the fillet waterlogged.
Drying the fillet before smoking
- Remove your fillet from the wet brine, and pat dry using a paper towel.
- If using bradley racks, turn them upside down, and then lay your fillets on the racks, with the skin side facing down. (you can use Teflon coated racks since they will give you excellent results)
You should note that placing the racks in an upside-down position will keep the fillets in a suspended position, which will allow the fillets to air-dry bottom and top.
- Let the fish dry for around one hour. When the fillets become somehow sticky—on the meat side, they are ready for smoking.
- Cold smoke your fillets only! You can smoke for around 1 – 3 hours, but this depends on your preferences and tastes.
- Always make sure that you don’t turn on the heating element—it can be better if the smoking unit is not connected to the smoke generator. Carefully monitor the temperature, and make sure that it doesn’t go beyond 80 degrees f, as this will ruin your fillets.
- Fill the drip bowl with ice, and don’t forget to add a big block of ice between the lower shelf and the bottom shelf. When the ice melts, it drips into the bowl, not the burner—and thanks to the good design of bradley smoker. Now, make sure that you place a large piece of the aluminum pan under the drip bowl, as this catches any water that overflows from the water bowl.
- This is an important step that maintains 60 – 70 degrees when the outside temperature is – 10. In case you notice that the temperature on the smoker is rising, then all the ice has melted and you need to add more ice until the smoking is complete. Therefore, it is important to make sure that you monitor the temperature as you smoke the fish as this will have a big impact on your outcome.
2 smoked nova salmon recipes
Smoked salmon frittata
Try this tasty spanish-inspired frittata dish
These are the ingredients
- New potatoes – 150 g (roughly chopped)
- Medium eggs – 8
- Smoked nova salmon trimming – 170 g pack
- Chives – 20 g pack (chopped)
- Cream cheese – 100 g
- Put your potatoes into a pan with boiling water, and allow them to boil for around 10 – 12 minutes, or until they are tender. Drain the water completely.
- Next, pre-heat your oven to around 200 degrees c. Take a 23cm (9”) square baking tin and line it with nonstick baking parchment.
- In a large bowl, beat your eggs—lightly. Next, add the cooked new potatoes, smoked nova salmon, and chives. Season with freshly ground black pepper and salt, and then stir them together. Now, pour this egg mixture into the baking tin, and top it with the cream cheese.
- Cook for around 18 to 20 minutes, or until cooked through and well risen. When done, remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool for a moment before removing your frittata from the baking tin. Peel off the parchment paper, and cut it into 4 quarters and then serve.
- You can serve alongside a large mixed salad.
Smoked salmon swirls
These canapés are simple but look impressive. Serve with chilled fizz.
- Plain flour for dusting
- Puff pastry – 500g (not all-butter)
- Garlic and herb boursin. You can also use full-fat cream cheese with herbs (softened at room temperature).
- Smoked nova salmon slices – 140 g
- Poppy seeds – 1 tsp.
- Use a baking parchment paper to line two large baking sheets.
- Use the plain flour to dust your working surface. Roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle shape—about 30.5 cm x 18 cm or 12” x 7”. If possible, roll out the pastry in one direction, without turning it—this will assist you in achieving an even rise. When done, trim the edges.
- Spread your cream cheese/boursin evenly over the pastry. Lay the smoked nova salmon evenly over the cheese. Now, cutting down into the pastry—but not straight through, slice a line of ½” or 1 com in from the edges of the two short sides. This will assist you in rolling.
- Next, roll the pastry inwards (tightly) from one short side—until you reach the center. Repeat this step on the other short side until it meets the first roll. Press them together to join them, and try to maintain the shape. Now, move the pastry, with the seam side facing down onto a board, and allow it to chill for around 30 minutes.
- As the pastry chills, preheat your oven to 220 degrees c.
- Use a serrated knife to cut ½” or 1 cm thick slices, from the roll—be careful not to squash the slices.
- Lay these slices on the baking sheets, and leave a space of 1 ¼” or around 3 cm in between the rolls. Cover the pastries with another sheet of baking parchments. Now, roll the pastries gently using a rolling pin so that you can slightly flatten them. When done, remove the top sheet of the parchment paper.
- Sprinkle the poppy seeds over the pastries, and bake for around 20 – 25 minutes, until they turn golden brown.
- When done, move your smoked salmon swirls to a wire rack to cool. Serve.
There you go! This is a simple recipe that you should try out at home, and you will not be disappointed.