Making Scottish Smoked Salmon for Our Burns Night

A lot of people have asked about my recipe for my Hot Smoked, Whisky Cured Salmon.

So I decided to put the recipe down so that you can try it!  Also this will help me next year to remember what I have done!

We have 58 people coming to our Burns Night.  The internet says that I should make enough for half again the number of guests.  We are doing an appetizer with this Salmon, so I did some simple arithmetic based on 2 oz portions and bought 12 lbs of salmon.

The process for Hot Smoked Salmon is as follows:

  1. Soak the salmon in Whisky.  Recipes vary on times for this.  I usually let mine go for about two hours
  2. Cure the salmon either in a brine or with a dry cure mixture.  I have had good success with a dry brine in the past.  This year I am going to try something that I saw online on Bart’s Fish Tales Youtube Channel.  He makes a dry cure and then adds some type of alcohol to make a paste and coats the fish with that.  I am going to reserve some of the whisky that I soak the fish in and use it for that.  How long you cure the fish determines it’s texture.  If it is a really thick filet, I would leave in the cure overnight.  If you go too long the cure dries the fish out too much.  I intend to go for about 4 hours.
  3. Clean off the cure and run under cold water.  Let the Fish sit out or in a refrigerator till the surface starts to get a little tacky.  This will help make the fish absorb the smoke flavor.  The fish is actually ready to eat at this point is actually a type of Gravlax.  I usually eat some of it at this time, because I am usually hungry by this time.
  4. Start your smoker on really low heat.  I use a weber kettle grill to smoke my salmon.  You want the temperature to be around 180
  5. When your salmon and the smoker is ready place the salmon on the grill or a presoaked cedar plank. ( I use some leftover cedar shakes from a repair on my house. You can also line the cedar plank with sliced orange or lemon slices and lay the salmon.)
  6. This doesn’t take long, so pay attention.  Let the salmon smoke and pulled between 110 and 120 degrees farenheit.
  7. **Bonus points.  You can also make a glaze and apply it when the salmon gets over 100 degrees.  I apply it one time while smoking and then right as I am taking it off and then again once it has had time to cool.

Here is the recipe that I have worked out.  You can find other recipes online.

  • 12 lbs of Salmon
  • 1 Bottle cheap Whisky.  ( There are so many flavor profiles in this recipe that expensive whisky should be saved for drinking with the Salmon)
  • Between 3 and 3 1/2 lbs of sugar of some kind.  I use Succanat, which is a dehydrated sugar cane juice
  • between 2 to 2 1/2 lbs of salt.  I use a raw salt.  It is a fine salt, so I go light.  If you use a coarse salt you will want to use more salt.
  • The zest of 6 lemons and 6 oranges.
  • 1/2 cup Star Anise.
  • 1/4 cup Sage.
  • 1/4 cup of Thyme.
  • 1 cup Pickling Spice.
  • 1/2 cup Peppercorns
  • 1 tsp dill.
  • 1 tsp cayenne.
  • 1 tsp celery seed.
  • 1 tsp coriander.

Glaze recipe (Optional)

  • Whisky
  • Juice of 4 oranges or Lemons.
  • Zest of those lemons or oranges.
  • Honey

I start with Whisky and add Honey and Lemon and the Zest and then keep tasting till it tastes right to me.  I have never measured this.

Layer salmon in a container or place into Ziploc bags with enough Whisky to Cover.  Let stand for between 1 to 2 hours.

Put Sugar, Salt, and Zest into a large non reactive bowl.

Put all spices into a frying pan and heat them to wake up the spices.

Grind spices and add to Sugar, Salt, and zest. ( I like to mix this up and let it stand for a couple of hours so that the flavors can blend.

Remove Salmon from Whisky reserving some Whisky.  Rinse salmon and pat dry.

Take the reserved Whisky and add to the cure to make a paste.

Place about a 1/4 inch of cure in the bottom of a non-reactive container.   Lay Salmon on top of cure and cover with more cure.  Layer the Salmon till the container is full and then cover with plastic film.

Let sit till the Salmon reaches the desired texture.

Remove from cure and rinse and pat dry.  Lay on a rack till tacky layer (pelicule is the technical name for this layer)

Set up smoker for 180 degrees Farenheit. On a grill set up for low indirect heat.

Smoke the meat, glazing at 100 degrees.  Glaze again right before removing from heat and then again as it cools.

There are many recipes for sauces for this online.  I use a simple Sauce made of Sour Cream, Lemon Juice, Lemon Zest, Dill, and salt and pepper.  I Eyeball this and keep tasting till my proportions are right.  I would like to use mustard and horseradish in this, but my wife really doesn’t like those ingredients.

If you try this let me know how you like it.