There’s nothing quite like the delicate, salty-sweet flavor of smoked fish and trout is one of the best. It makes a great addition to your holiday table as an appetizer — eat out of hand or flake it and mix with cream cheese, sour cream, Greek yogurt, or crème fraichefor a delectable dip. Adding smoked trout to eggs, pasta, or salad gives a wow factor that’s sure to garner praise from your guests.
In the Chilcotin region of British Columbia, a high plateau filled with pine trees and hundreds of trout-filled lakes, no one smokes trout like Stewart’s Lodge.
The lodge, managed by second generation owner Duncan Stewart whose father built the lodge decades ago when there were few traveler options in the area, is a magnet for fishing enthusiasts. Stewart’s Lodge overlooks Nimpo Lake, so full of fish you can’t look at the water for more than a few seconds without seeing trout jumping up as if to say, “Come and get me.”
Stewart’s Lodge is also home to Tweedsmuir Air (www.tweedsmuirair.com), a flying service that ferries fishermen to other lakes in the area and also offers spectacular flightsees of Monarch Mountain and its glaciers and ice fields, the Rainbow range, and Hunlen Falls, an impressive torrent of water that tumbles more than 1,300 over a rugged granite precipice that’s the third largest waterfall in Canada.
Because trout fishing is so good in the Chilcotin, often fishermen have more fresh trout than they can manage. Stewart’s Lodge offers to smoke guests’ fresh fish, turning it into delectable smoked trout that keeps quite well. We’ve sampled this smoked trout and it’s incredibly delicious.
Duncan generously shared Stewart Lodge’s famous smoked trout recipe. Keep in mind that the lodge has a real smokehouse that’s fired by an aspen-fueled flame.
Stewart’s Lodge Smoked Trout
Recipe courtesy Duncan Stewart, Stewart’s Lodge, Nimpo Lake, BC www.stewartslodge.com
Remove entrails from fish and hang eight hours in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place. Duncan says this starts the drying process.
After 8 hours, the flesh will be somewhat dry and the skin tacky.
Cut the head and tail off the fish. Filet down the back bone to open the fish up. Lay the fish, skin side down, on racks. Liberally sprinkle the fish with salt (which helps take out more moisture) and brown sugar.
Build a fire in the smokehouse and smoke the fish, 8 feet from the flame, for 8-16 hours. The time needed to smoke depends on the humidity in the air. On hot, sunny days, the fish will be done in about 8 hours; on rainy days, it can take as long as 16 hours.
Test the fish by breaking one apart with your thumbs. The fleshy meat should look fairly dry. Note: Duncan says some people like their fish dry while others like it moister. Adjust the drying time to your taste.
Smoked Trout Recipe Adapted for At-Home Smoker
We so loved Stewart’s smoked fish, we were determined to replicate it in our own Little Chief Smoker at the RFT offices. This recipe was relatively easy and, though the result was a little different from Stewart’s, it was just as sweet-salty tasty.
Salt for brining (we use Kosher salt)
Mix up a brine of 1 cup of salt to 1 gallon of water.
Immerse the fresh, cleaned fish in the saltwater and brine in a glass (not metal) dish in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Remove fish from brine and lightly rinse. Filet down the backbone to open the fish up flat. Let it rest, skin side down, on cookie racks for one hour in front of a fan. This produces a thin glaze, called a pellicle on the fillet that makes the smoked fish tastier, firmer, and more attractive.
Place fish, skin side down, on the racks of your smoker. Add a teaspoon or two of brown sugar to each fish, spreading the sugar all over the flesh. Add wood chips (any type of leafed tree such as apple, aspen, birch, cherry, alder etc. works, but never wood that has needles like pine). We added chips 2-3 times (adding too much can make the fish bitter).
Smoke until the flesh of the fish reaches 140 degrees F. (This can take a couple of hours to several, depending on the weight of your fish and the efficiency of your smoker.)
Check the fish temperature with a probe-style thermometer. When the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees, remove fish from smoker and allow to cool on racks for 30 minutes. You can easily remove the bones at this point.
Wrap the fish in foil and a plastic freezer-style bag or seal in a food sealer. Fish will keep for a month in the refrigerator or 3 months or longer in the freezer.