Before firing up the BBQ smoker, many chefs will either cure or brine the fish or meat as a way of adding extra flavor.
Curing and brining however have been traditional methods of preserving food for donkeys years and in today's refrigerated society the techniques and skills have been on the wane. That was of course until outdoor cooking became such a popular recreation. So rather than becoming obsolete they have started to make a comeback.
My research into curing started when I started writing for barbecue-smoker-recipes.com and as my research evolved, so did my interest. Even to the point where I started to experiment with curing and brining simply as a way to preserve food and forget about the smoker.
The science behind curing is that the salt slowly sucks the moisture out of the food, effectively acting as a desiccant and drying it out. Bacteria that normally would grow on the food are unable to do so because the substrate doesn't contain the one essential ingredient to help it survive - water.
So in essence the longer something is left to cure, the less susceptible it is to bacteria and therefore the safer it is to eat. This is the principle for cured ham or indeed any dried meat.
The curing process today is essentially about salt for the desiccant and sugar for the flavouring. In the recipe below I've used treacle as a sugar substitute - you can also use molasses. The flavours are slightly different and I would argue that the molasses is slightly more subtle but as ever, it's about what tastes good to you.
This recipe is a great tasty alternative to smoked salmon and it's also really easy to do, certainly no need for a smoker. All that's needed is a polythene bag, some salt, some treacle (or molasses) and a bit of time. It takes about a week to cure and I like to start out one Saturday so that it's ready for the next weekend.
· 1 large salmon filet (skinned)
· 4 tablespoons treacle or molasses
· 1 tablespoon salt
Place the salmon in the polythene bag and tip in the salt and treacle / molasses. Seal the bag and give the ingredients a good "mulch" around to make sure that the salmon is covered in the salt / treacle mix. Place the mix in the refrigerator and leave for a week.
When the week is up, remove the salmon from the bag and give it a rinse under the tap. Slap it on a board and slice really thinly. Please note that in order to slice thinly you need a very sharp knife - remember the sushi chef.
I like to serve it spiralled inside canapé cases with a little crème fraiche blob on top, you can also try it on a small circular cracker. It makes for a really tasty munchie to open up any barbecue cookout. But don't feel you have to wait for a barbecue, if it's raining outside that what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than preparing a treacle cured salmon for next weekend?