Smoked salmon is available cold-smoked or hot-smoked. Smoking gives the fish a pleasant flavour and a beautiful appearance. It also helps to preserve the fish by drying it and slowing the growth of bacteria on its surface. Nevertheless, smoked salmon is highly perishable and should be stored at a temperature lower than 4 °C.
Smoking is carried out in a special smoke chamber, oven or inside a smaller container. The smoke may be generated by burning wood chips or pellets. In Finland, usually alder chips are used for smoking, as well as juniper twigs, apple wood, etc. Soft wood, like pine or spruce, is not suitable to be used because of the resin it contains.
Important note: unlike in many other countries, in Finland good-quality smoked fish is always naturally smoked and never treated or dyed with artificial smoke flavourings or colours.
In hot-smoking, in addition to being flavoured by the smoke, the fish is also thoroughly cooked. The optimal smoking temperature is between 80 and 100 °C.
In picture on right: a piece of Finnish hot-smoked salmon.
Hot-smoked salmon is at its best if served immediately after smoking, but it may also be eaten cold. Commercially smoked salmon is always cooled to 2 to 4 °C immediately after the hot-smoking to prevent bacterial growth.
In picture above: a crosscut piece from a Finnish hot-smoked salmon fillet.
Good-quality Nordic/Scandinavian hot-smoked salmon is succulent, flavourful and not too salty, with a light, soft and moist, yet flaky texture.
It should never be dry, hard or watery.
In cold-smoking, the fish is only flavoured by the smoke and not thermally cooked. The smoking temperature must be lower than 30 °C, with the optimal temperature being between 20 and 27 °C. Depending on the type of oven used, cold-smoking may take anything from a few hours to several days.
In picture on right: slices of Finnish cold-smoked salmon.
Good-quality Nordic/Scandinavian cold-smoked salmon is succulent and moderately salted, with a piquant flavour and a light and soft, non-rubbery texture.
It should never be dry, hard or stretchy.
Hot and cold-moked salmon is seasoned with salt, usually before smoking. The fish is either rubbed with coarse salt or soaked in salt brine, which is a faster method.
Salting may also be done after smoking, by dipping the fish in salt brine.
Although both hot and cold-smoked salmon are commonly available in Finnish stores, many people like to hot-smoke their own fish, especially while residing at their summer cottages and cabins in summertime.
Besides salmon, other domestic fish commonly smoked in Finland are Baltic herring, rainbow trout, powan, ide, vendace, bream, perch, flounder and eel.