Curing salmon was traditionally done to preserve the fish (inhibit bacteria growth) and increase its shelf life. This can be done in a number of ways but the traditional cure uses a combination of 3 microbiological inhibitors
- Removing available free water
- Increasing salinity within the fish
- Using smoke as a mild antiseptic
Some also add Nitrite as a bacterial spore inhibitor.
Traditional cold smoked salmon uses a combination of the above however with hot smoked salmon an additional preservation step is used - the heat used to cook it.
With traditional cold smoked salmon the free water is reduced to a level where bacterial growth is severely inhibited. This extends the shelf life considerably however it still needs to be kept chilled and eaten within two to three weeks if it has not been frozen. The texture of traditional smoked salmon is firm and very oily
"lightly" smoked salmon fillets have more free water and so there is less of a preservative effect. These have a longer shelf life than fresh salmon though should also be kept chilled but eaten within one to two weeks, unless frozen. The texture is much firmer than fresh salmon and has a firm texture similar to a tuna steak.
These days though the main preservative effect in the cured salmon is through the removal of water and the increase in salinity. The smoke is more a flavouring, although it does have antibacterial properties.
The main differences in the types of salmon is in the length of the cure and the amount of water that has been removed. To get traditional smoked salmon (the sliced stuff) the cure and smoke need to reduce the weight of the fresh salmon by ~18%.
The way I prefer to cure the fillets result in a ~10%-12% moisture loss. The closest (but inferior) commercial product would probably be the "lightly smoked salmon fillets" that you can get on the fresh fish counter at Tesco and Waitrose. Once cured and smoked these can be chilled or frozen and are then cooked at 180 C for 12 minutes in the oven or BBQ.
Below are a couple of links that you may find helpful.
- Hot smoked salmon you can eat straight from the smoker (cooked)
- Traditional cold smoked salmon you eat raw (~18% weight of water removed)
- "Lightly" smoked salmon fillets you eat cooked (~12% weight of water removed)
I do hot smoke some salmon and I do produce quite a bit of traditional smoked salmon. The majority of salmon I produce though are the "lightly" smoked salmon fillets as this is what people seem to prefer.
Originally Posted by BigD 2129
Obviously I'm not expecting results like the commercially smoked stuff but that's kind of the product I'd be trying for. Can I ask how your cold smoked salmon differs from the stuff I have bought and why you cook it before eating?
Don't talk rubbish Dave. After a couple of goes you will be producing traditional smoked salmon that rivals anything that you can buy in the supermarket.
I hope this helps