I Don’t Always Smoke Fish, But When I Do…

I put it on a step ladder.

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This is what I did yesterday. How did I get there? Well it goes something like this:

I have a great liking for making fires (more on that some other time). For a year or so I was making them in a large galvanized washtub on my patio, or even more improvisational arrangements. When my tub rusted through on the bottom, I conceived of the notion of moving the wood stove in our living room out to the patio. When we moved into the house there was a large cast iron wood stove in our living room on a brick pad. My theory is it was installed in the 60s or something, after a catastrophic fire in the house required some renovation (there were also some charred beams in the basement).

My husband and I moved the wood stove out to the patio, with no injuries to either of us and surprisingly little swearing. Between that and taking down the baby gate around the fire place, it freed up at least twenty square feet in our living room – a solution Full of Win.

The stove in our living room. Christmas 2010. The curly willow was our tree that year. Because we also had a one month old.

The stove in our living room. Christmas 2010. The curly willow was our tree that year. Because we also had a one month old.

Once the stove was out in the yard I gleefully built a fire in it as often as I could (a habit helped by my spouse’s habit of cutting down trees). And I roasted various things in or on it (squash, fish, tomatoes, etc).

My husband and I both have a tendency to non-standard cooking arrangements. He once thoroughly scandalized some friends of ours by bringing some home-smoked salmon in a tupperware with him to the bar. It had been smoked in a shed that he built in our driveway. The shed looked like an outhouse and was furnished with racks scavenged from our oven. The salmon looked a lot like disembodied fingers, he offered it to our friends under the table. They declined but the incident was permanently seared in their minds, judging by a conversation I had with one of them ten years later.

So when my husband found a good price on some previously frozen salmon (probably raised industrial conditions in Alaska), I decided to smoke it. I’d found that putting something directly in the stove pipe worked okay (which is what I did with a small trout our son caught at a stocked pond a few weeks back), but this fish was a bit too hefty for that.

the trout, in a colander, in the stove pipe

the trout, in a colander, in the stove pipe

I used the ladder once before to smoke fish, setting it over my washtub and creating an elaborate tent composed of old curtains to keep the smoke in, but this time I figured the stove would make things easier, which it did. I set the ladder by the stove pipe outlet, put the brined fish on a broiler tray and put a bit of tin foil around the pipe to direct the smoke on the fish. Then added another piece of old curtain, soaked in water to avoid it catching fire.

The fish turned out quite well. The ladder has greasy soot on it, unfortunately. I also could have done the tin foil shroud with a bit more precision. But just as a cooking mechanism, I liked it well enough to try smoking some pork the same way. The fish cooked all the way through. The pork needed to be finished in the oven.

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The skin was crisped and browned to perfection (although I didn’t eat it, it looked very fancy and traditional) and the kids actually ate the fish. I didn’t have any dill, but a little greek yogurt, mayo and horse radish and it goes great on toast, cold, the next day.

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