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Salmon Candy Reinvented: A Twist on a Classic Recipe

Salmon Candy

If you are a fan of salmon, you will love my twists on salmon candy, one of the most oft-viewed recipes on our website. If you’re not fan, you might change your mind after tasting these salmon candy bites. I followed Steven Raichlen’s Salmon Candy recipe from his book Project Smoke as my guide, but made a few modifications.

Salmon Candy

Salmon candy is made by curing the salmon with a brine, then rinsing the brine off the salmon, drying the salmon, smoking the salmon, and finishing the salmon with a glaze. Today, I made salmon candy two ways. One was close to Steven’s original recipe and the second version was suggested by my friend and Steven’s assistant, Nancy Loseke.

The first change I made to both flavor profiles was cutting the salmon into bite-size pieces instead of strips. The brine from the original recipe calls for brown or maple sugar, kosher salt, and maple syrup to be dissolved in water. Prior to putting the salmon bites in the brine, I soaked them in a smoked maple bourbon mixture for 20 minutes. Then I added the remaining maple bourbon to the brine. I also selected maple sugar instead of brown sugar.

Salmon Candy Bites

I reduced the volume of ingredients from Steven’s original recipe. Depending on how much salmon you are cooking, reduce the amounts listed in the recipe accordingly. For example, I only used a third of each ingredient due to the weight of the salmon I was cooking.

The brine for the second batch of salmon bites was inspired by the Lemon Drop Martini. I combined the zest of a lemon and the juice of a half of lemon, kosher salt, honey, and a splash of lemon vodka in water to make the brine. I also threw in the rind of the squeezed lemon.

The salmon bites were placed in resealable plastic bags and brined for eight hours. I then rinsed the salmon bites, blotted them dry with a paper towel, and then placed them on a wire rack over a sheet pan to dry in the refrigerator for another two hours. The bites should get tacky while in the refrigerator. (This tackiness is referred to as a pellicle.) The sticky texture helps the wood smoke adhere to the salmon.

Smoking the Salmon

Next, I set-up my pellet smoker and heated it to 250 degrees. I felt the pellet smoker would give me consistent smoke at a low temperature. I left the salmon bites on the wire rack to make it easier to move them in and out of the smoker.

Salmon in the Smoker

When I removed the salmon from the lemon and honey brine, the edges of the salmon bites started to look “cooked” (like ceviche) due to the lemon juice. I was worried the lemon drop salmon bites would be tough after the smoking process.

I created two glazes for the salmon bites. In a saucepan over low heat, I combined maple sugar, maple syrup and bourbon. The glaze for the lemon drop candied salmon consisted of lemon zest, the juice of a half of lemon, and honey. Heating the glazes makes it easier to mix all the ingredients and spread it on the salmon bites.

Salmon Candy

The salmon bites cooked for about an hour. I started applying the glazes after fifteen minutes and continued to baste every fifteen minutes.

The Results

The salmon bites had bronzed color due to the glaze. I enjoyed the contrast of textures between the sticky and sweet outside of the salmon candy and the succulent inside. The brine kept the salmon candy from drying out while smoking. Even the lemon drop salmon candy bites remained tender and juicy despite their appearance when they came out of the brine. The wood smoke paired well with the maple flavor from the syrup, sugar, and the maple-smoked bourbon. The salmon bites even had a hint of smoke before smoking due to the bourbon. The lemon and honey salmon candy bites were less sweet than the maple bites due to the freshness of the lemon. The lemon flavor was subtle but balanced the sweetness of the honey. I actually wanted more lemon flavor. Next time, I would add more lemon zest and/or a little lemonade to the glaze to boost the lemon flavor. The candied salmon bites will make an easy and delicious appetizer for your next party.

I hope my experiments with salmon candy bites motivate you to create your own flavor profile for your next batch of salmon candy. Here are a few suggestions; create a brine with hot honey and chiles, and then glaze with a combination of hot honey and your favorite hot sauce. Or for an Asian-themed salmon candy, add soy sauce, star anise, smashed garlic, ginger, and lemon grass to your brine and glaze with more soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, and lime juice.

Salmon Candy Bites Recipe

Experiment with your own flavor combinations for your unique salmon candy batch, such as hot honey and chile or an Asian-inspired blend with soy sauce and spices.

Salmon Candy Bites Recipe

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What new flavor combinations will season your salmon candy?

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