Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Burns Night part 2:curing my own salmon


The cure

After 12 hours...

Drying and hooking...

The smoking shed

On the rack...

Cured in Kilburn, smoked in Camden...

Canapes for Burns night...

The food writer Tim Hayward messaged me on Twitter to offer me the facility of his smoking shed in his Camden back garden. I love smoked salmon, in fact most smoked foods, but didn't know what it entailed.
"What do I do?" I asked Tim.
"Cure it, then bring it over for smoking overnight. I'll vacuum pack it in the morning. Leave it for a week to fully absorb the flavours before serving" said Tim.
  • I ordered a whole salmon, split into two filets.
  • Mix up 3 cups of sel grise and 3 cups of sugar (which I had previously used to candy orange, lemon and lime peel, which still retained some citrus fruit flavours).
  • Cover the bottom of a dish long enough to lay out the salmon, with half the sugar/salt mixture.
  • Chop all the fresh herbs I had in the food processor (mostly tarragon, some basil, dill, thyme, and parsley).
  • Spread half the herb mix on the salt/sugar mix in the dish.
  • Lay the filets, skin side down on the salt/sugar mix.
  • Cover the top of the filets with the herb mix and salt/sugar mix.
  • Place another dish on top, weighing it down with cans.
  • Leave in the fridge for 12 hours,
  • After 12 hours, take off the weighted dish,
  • Scrape away the salt/sugar/herb mix to one side and drain off some off the liquid
  • Turn over the filets (you will notice they are stiff now) and cover the exposed side with the reserved herb/sugar/salt mix.
  • Replace the weighted dish and leave for another 12 hours.
  • After a 24 hour cure (although I left mine for 48 hours so I guess it doesn't matter if you do it a bit longer), remove the filets and wash off the mixture.
  • Pat dry with a non fluffy tea towel.
  • Drive to Tim Hayward's house
Tim has a little shed in his back garden with a little smoking machine attached. You put 'tablets' of compressed oak chippings in the machine which are heated up, the smoked from which is pumped into the shed.
The salmon filets were hung up on hooks but as soon as we had shut the door, there was a thud.
The filets had fallen off the hooks.
"Did you scale it?" asked Tim, perplexed.
I shouldn't have done that. For smoking you leave the filets unscaled. Tim then niftily constructed a Heath Robinson device from a rack and some lengths of wire upon which we could lay the filets.
A week later Tim dropped off the smoked salmon labelled 'MsMarmitelover's Home Cure'.
For Burns night, I served it in little slices upon whisky infused cream cheese and tatty scones.
Normally potato scones are larger and cut in four. I made mini ones with oak smoked flour which served to highlight the oaky aroma.
I must say, and many people agreed, it was the best smoked salmon I have ever eaten.

'Tatty' scones

Boil a kilo of floury (Maris Piper) potatoes
When cooked, pass through a ricer
Mix in 250g of salted butter
2 teaspoons of Maldon salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
250g of oaked smoked flour (or ordinary)

  • Knead the mixture together then
  • Roll out onto a floured board about a centimeter thick
  • Cut out little rounds with an egg cup
  • Cook on a cast iron or thick bottomed frying pan on the simmering plate of the Aga or a low heat
  • Rub a little butter on the warm pan
  • Cook the scones until the texture stiffens, puffs a little and it colours each side to a light golden brown.
If serving later, lay them out on tin foil making an envelope and keep them in a low oven.
Serve with the whisky cream cheese, smoked salmon, a sprig of dill, a little lemon and black pepper.


  1. 1000 leagues from supermarket stuff. Like smoked gravadlax. Was thinking whisky might be good in the cure too. Maybe you could serve it with whisky cream cheese.... icecream? Our local trout farm will take anything you give them & put it in their smoke house - may give it a go now! Tater scones look nice. Good with sweet potato too - maybe a thanksgiving one that. How was the haggis?

  2. Wow what a mammoth effort! I have a great picture in my head of you and Tim standing outside the smoker and hearing the thud of the fillets dropping!

  3. They look delicious. I like the branding 'msmarmitelover Home Cure'

  4. i'm rather jealous now...pretty cool making your own smoked salmon!! xxx

  5. Very good idea to smoke the gravadlax! Is it difficult to do at home? What are haggis? Im from argentina, and look the nice pictures, but don't understand what the haggis are made of. greetings, Dolores

  6. Dolores...normally haggis is a traditional Scottish dish http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haggis
    made of sheeps organs and oatmeal and stuffed into a sheeps stomach.
    I made a vegetarian one. Well actually I bought a vegetarian one with oatmeal and vegetables ...to be honest I didn't taste it!


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