- 1 2- to 3-pound salmon fillet, skinless, preferably center-cut and wild-caught
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup, preferably Grade B, plus more for glazing the fish
- 1 quart spring water
Step 1: Run your hand over the fillet to check for pin bones. Remove any you find with a kitchen tweezers or needle-nose pliers.
Step 2: Using a sharp knife, slice the salmon against the grain into strips about 1/2 inch wide and 4 to 5 inches long. (For chewier salmon candy, slice the fish lengthwise with the grain.) Transfer to a sturdy resealable plastic bag and place the bag in a bowl or baking pan.
Step 3: In a mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, salt, and 1/2 cup maple syrup. Add the water and stir until the sugar and salt crystals dissolve. Pour this mixture over the salmon and seal the bag. Refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.
Step 4: Drain the salmon and rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Drain well in a colander and blot dry. Discard the brine.
Step 5: Set up the grill for indirect grilling: If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in the center, preheat the grill to low, then toss 1 cup of the wood chips or chunks on the coals. If using a smoker, fire it up according to the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat to low.
Step 6: When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. (Salmon has a tendency to stick, so do not skip this step.) Smoke the salmon over low heat (180 to 200 degrees), replenishing the wood chips or chunks as needed, for 3 hours. Brush the salmon pieces with maple syrup, turning as needed. Continue to smoke for 1 to 2 hours more, or until the salmon is dried to your satisfaction, glazing once or twice more with the maple syrup.
Step 7: Allow the salmon to cool completely, then transfer to a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate. The “candy” will keep for at least 5 days, and likely a good deal longer.
To do it all the way from scratch there are several time consuming steps:
1. Cure the beef.
2. Soak the corned beef.
3. Rub and let is sit.
4. Smoke the corned beef.
5. Let it sit.
6. Steam it and serve.
To make the corned beef from scratch:
2 quarts water
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons saltpeter
1 cinnamon stick, broken into several pieces
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
8 whole cloves
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Place the water into a large 6 to 8 quart stockpot along with salt, sugar, saltpeter, cinnamon stick, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves and ginger. Cook over high heat until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from the heat and add some ice to cool it quicker. Stir until the ice has melted. If necessary, place the brine into the refrigerator until it reaches a temperature of 45 degrees F. Once it has cooled, place the brisket in a 2-gallon zip top bag and add the brine. Seal and lay flat inside a container, cover and place in the refrigerator for 10 days. Check daily to make sure the beef is completely submerged and stir the brine.
After 10 days, remove from the brine and rinse well under cool water.
Now, to make the corned beef into pastrami:
4 pounds of good corned beef, preferably home made (click for recipe)
4 tablespoons fresh coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1) Make your own corned beef. It is just plain better than storebought. For pastrami, the flat section of the brisket is favored by many because it makes nice even slices for sandwiches, but I prefer the point section of the brisket because it is fattier, richer, and more tender. Yes, it sometimes breaks apart, but who notices on a sammy? If you can get it, go for navel (a.k.a. plate). But it can also be made from flank steak, or leaner cuts. If you are using brisket, one side of the meat will probably have a thick layer of fat on it called the cap. Remove all of the fat cap except about 1/8″ and if there is any filmy membrane on the other side, remove it all. That thin layer of fat is important. The process takes about a week.
2) Desalinate. Put the corned beef in a pot slightly larger than the meat and cover it with cold water in the fridge for at least 8 hours. This removes excess salt. Trust me, you need to do this or you will be gulping water all night after your meal.
3) Rub. Make the rub by blending together all the spices. Rinse the meat, pat it dry with paper towels, coat it with a thin layer of cooking oil, apply the rub liberally, about 4 tablespoons per squre foot of surface, and press it into the surface to help it adhere. If there is a thin part of meat, use less rub. Put in the fridge for a minimum of 2 days. Don’t wrap it. The rub just sticks to the plastic wrap. Normally I say you do not need to let meats marinate in a rub, but the wait seems to help this particular rub adhere.
4) Smoke. Set up your smoker or your grill for smoking. You will find instructions for this in my Tips & Techniques section. If you can, use a charcoal smoker. It produces a deeper darker crust than gas, electric, or even pellets, but it still comes out fabulous on a pellet burner or gasser. Preheat to 225°F. Pick your wood. I don’t think it makes a huge difference with all the other flavors banging around in there. My best batch was with cherry wood. Smoke it fat-side up over indirect heat at 225°F until it reaches 190°F to 200°F. Add wood when the smoke dwindles. If you wish you can smoke it for 3 to 4 hours and finish it indoors, but this stuff can take all the smoke you throw at it, so outdoors is better. It could take 12 hours or more depending on the thickness.
6) Steam. When it is time to serve it is time to steam heat and tenderize. If you have a bamboo or metal steamer in which the meat will fit, you can use that. If not, you can make a steamer by putting a wire rack in a baking pan. If necessary you can sit the rack on wads of foil to keep it out of the water. Unwrap the meat and put it on the foil in which it was wrapped or the steam will wash off much of the rub. Do not slice the meat first.