October 9, 2013 - Kasilof, Alaska
Smoking salmon to jar in small tin cans is a good way to preserve, transport, and share the fish. I use a common "Little Chief" smoker for lack of a more serious smokehouse, and metal cans for the advantage of disposability over glass jars.
First, find salmon. Catch, purchase, or barter. In Alaska, you have a choice between five species. I prefer to smoke silver salmon, the coho, Oncorhynchus kisutch. It is abundant in late summer, the meat is firm and flavorful, and it has a nice color. I have smoked dog salmon, the chum, Oncorhynchus keta, also, and the meat tastes nice but it is softer and a lighter color that I don't like as much.
Gut your fish, clean it, and rinse it in cool water. Next, find someone to filet the fish for you. If you cannot, take a deep breath and prepare to filet your own fish. Have confidence, you can do it, it will be fine. Watch this video by Oles HakaiPass: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmW4x3HlYZ8
1) Make sure your knife is ruthlessly sharp.
2) Try to keep the cutting motion through the fish as smooth as possible to limit hacking the meat. No forward-backward motion, only forward.
3) You can do it. It will be ugly at first, but that is ok because the fish is going to be cut into small pieces anyways and mistakes will not be apparent.
A few changes from the video. Cut off the tail, leave the belly fat, and don't cut out the belly bones (they dissolve in the canning process) Cut off all the fins, they take up space in the smoker.
Next, to brine. I prefer to cut the fish into strips for the brine and smoke, then cut them into can sized pieces later. Cut each filet into strips, about an inch and a half wide. I use a variation of Carey Starzinger's (firstname.lastname@example.org) brine recipe. I have found that adding wine does not do much to enhance the flavor. I also sometimes add one ts of Sriracha sauce. Feel free to experiment. Stir the brine and fish mixture every hour to prevent brine-free spots on the meat.
1/2 ts Garlic powder
2 c Soy sauce
1/2 ts Onion powder
1 c Water
1/2 ts Pepper
1 c Dry white wine
1/4 c Non-iodized salt
1/2 ts Tabasco sauce
Brine salmon chunks 8 or more hours, keeping refrigerated. Rinse thoroughly after brining. Pat dry with a paper towell and allow to air dry for at least one hour prior to smoking.
Once the fish has brined for eight hours, pat it dry and allow it to sun for an hour. I try to do this in the sun and wind. You want the meat to form a sort of dry shell. Place the meat in your smoker. I use hickory wood chips, but cedar works well too. Smoke for four hours, with under constant smoke.
Next, to can. The fish must be fit into cans, heated to 150 degrees, and sealed. Heat an oven to 450 degrees. Cut the salmon into can sized pieces. Don't stack them, place them in the can like pencils. Make sure your can sealer and your meat thermometer are ready. Find someone qualified to preset your can sealer, like a kind uncle. As soon as the salmon hits 150 degrees, take them out one at a time and seal the cans. I use grilling tongs to move the cans. Crank the handle until the can is fully sealed. This removes air from the can and creates a vacuum.
Add one inch of water to the bottom of your pressure cooker and put on a stove on high. Stack the cans inside, offset from each other, like bricks. Place the lid on the cooker and use the knobs to seal it evenly. Wait until steam begins to escape through the cock, then place the 15lb weight. Bring the pressure up to 15lbs for 90 minutes. Monitor the pressure very carefully. The cock should whistle intermittently. After 90 minutes, turn off heat and wait for the pressure gage to drop to zero. Remove the cans, allow them to cool, label them, then share them with people you love.