Step 1: Make the cure: Place the maple sugar, salt, pepper, and lemon zest in a mixing bowl and mix well, breaking up any lumps in the sugar with your fingers.
Step 2: Run your fingers over the salmon and pull out any pin bones that you find with needle-nose pliers or kitchen tweezers. Spread 1/3 of the rub on a rimmed baking sheet or baking dish in the shape of and a little larger than the salmon fillet. Place the fish, skin side down, on top. Distribute the remaining rub on top of the salmon. Drizzle with maple syrup. Cover with plastic wrap. Cure the fish in the refrigerator for 4 to 8 hours.
Step 3: Unwrap the fish and rinse all the cure off under cold running water. Blot the salmon dry with paper towels. Let dry, uncovered, on a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours, or until the surface of the salmon feels slightly tacky.
Step 4: Set up your smoker following the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat to 250 degrees. Brush and oil the cooking grate.
Step 5: Place the fish skin side down in the smoker. Smoke the fish until just cooked through, about 40 minutes. To test for doneness, press it with your finger—the flesh will break into clean flakes. Alternatively, insert the probe of an instant read thermometer through the thick end of the fish into the center. The internal temperature should be 140 degrees.
Step 6: Remove the fish from the smoker and let the fish cool to room temperature, then refrigerate, wrapped in plastic wrap, until serving. Serve with any or all of the suggested accompaniements. The salmon will keep in the refrigerator for at least 5 days or in the freezer for several months.
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Steven Raichlen’s Project Smoke is a production of Maryland Public Television, Barbacoa, Inc., and Resolution Pictures. © 2017 Barbacoa, Inc.