Hot Smoked Mackerel

Hot Smoked Mackerel

Smoking fish is a great introduction to this hobby. It doesn't necessarily need expensive equipment, and unlike curing meat, good results can be had in hours rather than days. Many people will make their own versions of this 'table-top' smoker using roasting tins, bread bins, cake tins, woks etc. A quick 5 minute brine of fish fillets (and even that's optional), a quick drying out of the fillets, pop them in the smoker and Bob's your uncle, 15 - 20 minutes later: smoked fish.

Others will choose to use a more elaborate method that heats the fish more gradually to a temperature where it is fully cooked. It may take a couple of hours, or more.

Whilst there are a wide variety of options available to do this in the US, in the UK people will probably use something like these, or use a barbecue, something like this.

As commercial smokers like this one aren't available in the UK, the only other option is to make your own:

My smoker

Anyway, enough of that, back to the mackerel. This is how I did mine; it's a compromise between the two methods above:

Firstly make up a brine using 1.2kg of salt to 1 gallon (4.546 litres) of water, or pro-rata - boil the water, dissolve the salt in it and then cool it.

When cold immerse the mackerel fillets in it for 5 minutes, then dry them off and leave them until the surface is dry. I left mine on a rack in the fridge.

Pre-heat the smoker to 45-50°C and smoke the fish over your chosen wood (I used oak) for 30 minutes. Then, over the next 45 minutes to an hour, increase the heat gradually to 130°C - but keep it below 100°C for the majority of this period. Check the temperature of the fillets at their thickest part - the internal temperature needs to be at 72°C throughout to be safe: higher if you like it that way. I took mine to 80°C.

Hot Smoked Mackerel Fillets

Blimey, it's harder to describe than do!

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Smoked Cod's Roe Taramasalata


Smoked Cod's Roe Taramasalata

Just a reminder to all you smoker enthusiasts that the Cod's Roe season has started - get it quick 'cos it don't last long!

Some you win!

You know how it is, you see a bargain and can't resist. Well that's how I ended up with a 6lb frozen Pacific Salmon for £1.71 a pound. Now that, in itself, is nothing special you might say. You're probably thinking, "Well just stuff it in the freezer and use it later, don't tell us about it". Well, that's OK if you've not swapped your chest freezer for an upright one that the fish is too big to fit in to!

Pacific Salmon

Never mind, revert to plan B - defrost the salmon, fillet it and smoke it. Mmm... smoked salmon.

I have to admit that it's the first time I've handled a Pacific salmon. I made a lousy job of filleting it, noticing that the flesh isn't as firm as the Atlantic ones (although this may be partially due to it being frozen?). I salted it for a bit longer than normal to firm it up more... my second mistake.

Smoking it wasn't without it's problems either, the smoke generator kept going out - a good clean, and drying the dust in the oven, eventually sorted it out, but not until after much cursing!

It eventually got done by smoking during the daytime and bringing it in at night so that it didn't freeze.

Smoked Pacific Salmon

And the end result? Well it looks as if we'l be eating a lot of salmon páté, quiches and the like. The flesh seems to have far less oils than it's Atlantic cousin which means that it's a lot drier and doesn't slice anywhere near as well. It's also too damned salty.

...some you lose!

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ProQ™ Eco-smoker Review - Part II

Trout smoked by Maurice

Having reviewed the ProQ™ Eco-smoker I realised that I'm probably not the best person to ask to review it. You see, I've been using the smoke generator for a while now so am quite used to it. Far better to get someone who's never used either the Eco-smoker or the generator to give their opinion.

Now it wasn't rocket science thinking of a candidate because , my long suffering foodie friend, received a smoke generator from his kids last Christmas but hasn't got around to using it. He's a busy man you see; a hard working man between the 5 or 6 meals he eats a day (given the opportunity). He can smell a darts supper at the pub from his house ¼ mile away! I jest, but no doubt I won't be laughing when he and Mrs Maurice catch up with me!

Tee-hee, with friends like me, 'e don't need many enemies do 'e!

Anyway, enough of all that, I passed the Eco-smoker over and left him to get on with it. I think that the resulting trout, pictured above, speaks for itself - it's a brilliant job. Maurice was sceptical about the construction at first - well, after all, designing things is what he does for a living - but he was soon converted. Basically, he said he had absolutely no problems with it and that, "It does what it says on the box!".

You can't say fairer than that!

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ProQ Eco-smoker Review

Well the weather finally performed as forecast and I got to test the ProQ™ Eco-smoker sent to me by Ian at Mac's BBQ.

The smoker arrived promptly and safely packaged.

Eco Smoker package

It comprises a cardboard box with a further cardboard liner that strengthens it and forms the shelf supports, 3 metal wire shelves and two metal drip trays - one with handles.

Eco Smoker parts

Assembly is self-explanatory with instructions on the box and a video tutorial online.

ProQ Smoker part assembled

The drip tray prevents nasty surprises!

ProQ Smoker part interior

A test batch of cheese and garlic is put into the box.

Load the cardboard smoker

Fill the smoker with dust ensuring that the dust is not above the internal divides.

Fill the smoker

Light the smoker using a night-light.

light the Eco smoker

After a couple of minutes it will start smoking, remove the night-light and place the smoke generator on the metal tray in the bottom of the box.

Place in in the box

The box has a vent in the top to ensure a steady throughput of smoke.

The vent the box

After 8 hours.

After 8 hours

This type of smoking uses only a trickle of smoke, this ensures that your food isn't bitter. You can just see the smoke in this photo, there's so little your neighbours won't even know you smoking food.

The smoke

After 8 hours the food is taking on some colour.

8 hours in

After 11 hours the smoke generator was still going strong...

After 11 hours

...but it's 2am and time for bed for me! The smoked food was wrapped well and put into the fridge overnight.

The finished product

The next day the colour has darkened slightly. I like to leave cold smoked food a couple of days for the flavours to permeate the food.

After a night in the fridge

So how's it turned out? Well, it's all as I expected really. The cheese is fine, just the right amount of smokiness and a great way to 'add value' to cheap cheese. It's unbelievable, the difference between a rubbery Edam - only fit for erasing spelling mistakes, and it's smoked counterpart. None of this really comes as a surprise as I have been using the generator in my larger smoker for quite a time.

At £30 the generator may look expensive, but considering it's ease of use and the length of time it burns - plus it's economical use of dust - it pays for itself in no time at all. A couple of sides of smoked salmon will not only recoup your outlay but make you a lot of friends in the process! I guess that it's only us guys who've spent hours in the cold and rain tending other methods of producing cold smoke that really appreciate how brilliant this little gizmo is; take it from me it's superb; you don't even want to consider an alternative.

As to the Eco-smoker, well the obvious comment would be: "That's a lot of money for a cardboard box!". However, I know from experience that finding something suitable for use isn't as easy as it seems at face value. There's no doubt that given a suitable undercover space for storage and use, it will last for ages. Yes, undoubtedly you will want something more permanent in the longer term, but this well thought out turnkey solution makes a great alternative in the short to medium term.

It will also be great for the hunting/shooting/fishing fraternity who may wish to have a portable smoking solution or anyone with too little space for a more permanent smoker. In my case, it will allow me to cold smoke food at the same time as I am using my purpose built smoker for hot smoking - an advantage as I make batches of different types of products at once - some for hot smoking and some for cold.

All in all, what a great Christmas present for the foodie in your life.

The Eco-smoker and Cold Smoke Generator are available at various prices from MacsBBQ and their dealer network.

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