For centuries, people have smoked salmon as a method of preservation to prevent the fish from spoiling. With modern refrigeration and preservatives, smoking is no longer needed to prolong the salmon's shelf life. The unique flavor and texture of smoked salmon, however, make it a popular choice for appetizers, salads, sandwiches, sushi rolls or other snacks and meals.
People all around the world have been smoking salmon for centuries, each with their own methods and flavor. The ancient Greeks and Romans included smoked salmon in festival celebrations, and smoking salmon is a common practice in Scandinavia and the British Isles. Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest make a dried smoked salmon similar in texture to jerky. Lox, a particular form of smoked salmon, is especially popular in the United States as a bagel topping.
Salmon is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can provide health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, reducing triglyceride levels in the blood and preventing blood clots. Fatty acids also are beneficial for brain and nerve tissue. Studies indicate that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the chance of heart disease, arrhythmia and some forms of cancer, as well as reducing joint inflammation and pain. It might even reduce the chances of depression.
Dieters often turn to smoked salmon as a guilt-free pleasure, enjoying the health benefits without worrying about the cost. Although salmon is high in fat, it is unsaturated fat, which can help lower cholesterol. Salmon also is an excellent source of protein, and experts recommend salmon as part of a healthy diet.
Traditionally, most salmon is cold smoked, meaning that the fish is not cooked. Usually, the fish will be wet cured, meaning that it is salted by being dipped in a brine solution of salt water with sugar, pepper and other spices before it is taken to the smokehouse. The length of time in the smokehouse will depend on the size and variety of fish, the wood being used for smoke and the temperature in the smokehouse. Cold-smoked salmon has a subtle smoky flavor and a delicate, oily texture.
Alternatively, salmon may be hot smoked, a process that gives the salmon a stronger flavor and a drier texture. The fish is wet cured as with the cold smoking, but the temperature of the smokehouse is higher, and the fish is left for a longer time. Hot smoking gives salmon the benefit of a longer shelf life.