Hi Again! A hearty thank you to new and old followers alike for all the wonderful comments and questions last week. Please keep ‘em coming. I am especially eager to hear if you try something I suggest.
I have been a fan of juniper since I was about 10 years old and tasted my mom’s gin and tonic. Yum! To this day I am a gin drinker (and occasional gin maker) and I love the taste of juniper berries. We have several juniper trees (see photo above) on our private road and when the berries are ripe, I snack on them and use them in my cooking.
Not long ago, it occurred to me that I might be able to use some of the branches as a smoking medium. I have a 3 burner gas grill and have used it as a smoker on many occasions over the years. I usually use small pieces of wood that I forage around the house.
My first attempt at using juniper branches was a huge success! I smoked a beautiful piece of salmon and it was absolutely wonderful. Since then, I’ve also made juniper smoked pork ribs, shrimp, and duck breast. You can also use cedar in the same way or combine the two. Or use purchased or foraged wood chips or branches.
I’m going to tell you how to do the salmon, and you can use the same method with other proteins, just adjust your cooking times.
Juniper Smoked Salmon
I prefer Atlantic salmon because it’s fattier and milder than wild pacific species. Whichever you use, make sure that your fish is listed as acceptable on the Seafood Watch.
I always smoke twice as much as I need for the two of us because leftovers are so good for snacks, another supper, breakfast, or lunch.
2 lbs center cut salmon filet
1/4 cup sea salt
1/4 cup cane sugar
1 1 /2 lbs juniper branches, about 6 inches in length.
Rub your fish with the salt and sugar and let it cure for at least 2 hours and up to 24.
Wrap the branches in two bundles of aluminum foil and pierce the packets a few times with a knife.
Place the packets directly on the leftmost burners of your gas grill
Preheat the grill by lighting all the burners and turning them to High.
When the grill begins to smoke, clean and oil the grates. Now turn of the middle and right burners and place the salmon over the off burners with the thicker side of the fish closest to the heat.
Adjust your burner so that the temp is around 250°.
Cook the fish for 20 minutes if you want it rare, and 25-30 if you like it cooked more thoroughly.
This smoked salmon is delicious as the centerpiece of a spring meal with asparagus, a beautiful salad, and some skillet cornbread. Or flaked and served over soba noodles with your favorite seasonal veggies. Or at room temp over a green salad. Or chill it and serve on a bagel with cream cheese and pickled onions.
I like a mustard dill sauce: Equal parts mayo and sour cream, dijon mustard and honey to taste, and a big pile of minced fresh dill. If you want to spice it up, add some chili garlic sauce or sriracha.
Yet another amazing culinary creation!! Ohhh, please! ADOPT ME! I want to learn from you!
I have dry brined salmon, smoked in a Bradley smoker ….which is hands down better than anything you can buy.
But you had me at Gin and Tonic….