Our production methods are really just a large-scale version of an old family recipe. Hookline owner Skip Card grew up in Tacoma, Wash., where his father regularly caught salmon in Puget Sound. Smoking salmon in a simple backyard smoker was just a way to use up the surplus catch, but the delicious results were a smash hit with friends and family. Skip learned from his father and took the recipe with him when he moved to New York. New Yorkers raised on lox and nova raved about Skip’s Northwest-style smoked fish, and a backyard hobby evolved into a business.
We start with the world’s finest Atlantic salmon, raised without antibiotics or added growth hormones. Fresh (never frozen) salmon fillets are packed in ice and flown from the Faroe Islands to New York’s New Fulton Fish Market in The Bronx, then transported to the Hookline smokehouse near West Hurley, NY. We remove all bones, cut the salmon to portion sizes and soak the pieces overnight in a simple brine of cold water, kosher salt and light brown sugar.
In the morning, the salmon pieces are allowed to air-cure for two hours to allow a sticky “pellicle” to form on the salmon’s flesh. When perfectly cured, the fish goes into smokers not much bigger than a standard oven. Northwest alder wood, ground into small chips, is placed in the hottest part of the smokers, where it billows into a thick smoke that flavors and colors the fish. Because the salmon was pre-cut to portion sizes, smoke surrounds the fish on all sides. The pellicle seals in moisture and helps the salmon absorb just the right amount of smoke, color and flavor.
The fish sits in the smokers for five hours, slowly smoking and roasting, until the internal temperature reaches at least 145 degrees. This is the “hot” in hot-smoked salmon. (Apologies if you thought it would be spicy.) Once the salmon is done to Skip’s satisfaction – in other words, when it’s perfect – the pieces are removed from the smokers and quickly cooled to 38 degrees.