Following the report yesterday on TRM selected purely for trout smoking, SWMBO received the usual questions on what is the best way to prepare your trout.
Firstly never ask SWMBO! Smoking trout is strictly a male occupation and traditionally should always be accompanied by several cold ones…
Secondly, TRM’s smoker is free of charge and reserved for TRM inmates only.
TRM room rates are inclusive of many free of charge extras such as free bikes, free laundry, free dog walks, etc.
The most popular method is to split the trout open as indicated in the image above by cutting down one side of the backbone to ‘butterfly them out on their skins. Then apply the ingredients.
Fish & Game’s recipe is: When you are ready to smoke, rinse off most of the salt and sugar, pat dry with a paper towel, sprinkle with a little more fresh salt and sugar, and place the fish skin down on a rack in the smoker. Cook for 20 minutes.
TRM’s smoker takes more like 3 hours so inmates disregard the F&G recipe. We usually leave the salt and sugar on to absorb as much moisture before smoking and then it turns into a marinate of sorts and drips off the trout during the smoking process. For a full load a time of 4 hours is not unusual. Long and slow for flaky flesh is the story at TRM so the trout absorb all the moorish flavours.
Ten anglers will have ten different recipes, from fermented and spirituous liquor i.e. dessert port or aged whiskey with manuka honey to TRM’s more common garden variety standard salt and brown sugar mixture. The amount applied should vary with the size and condition of the trout.
Those prepared by Scott are in excellent condition, were full of small eggs and had not lost any condition since entering the river from the lake.
Then there is the essential sawdust or smoking material. This is very important and affects the final flavour more than most realise.
Some anglers, like Scott, bring their own pre-prepared mix of Manuka shavings or similar native hardwood in chips. Some swear by Apple/Pear/Peach/Nectarine/Plum tree shavings as well as their preferred Golden Syrup or whatever. The problem with the sawdust is that it burns through too quickly so Scott wets the base layer to slow the burning process and increasing the smoke density. Very cunning. We have even had some purists arrive with Manuka honey and 20 year old heavy peated Islay single malt to glaze their trout.
For TRM’s smoker we collect old dried Manuka that has been trimmed for at least a year or so to make sure it is suitably dried and ‘aged’. Green freshly cut wood is not suitable. We found an easily accessible little place where some locals had been (illegally) cutting the tall mature ‘old man’ Manuka for firewood and left all the tops behind obviously destined for our smoker. So a year later they are now just perfectly dry and ‘ripe’ for smoking trout.
In TRM’s smoker there are nails across the rafter where the anglers used to hang them to dry prior to smoking. This process has lapsed after some mysteriously went missing. These days most just lie them in the oven on their skins and turn the heat on the following day.
The pin bones along the flank pull out easily once the trout is smoked. The other side – on the side with the backbone intact – can be lifted out complete with the back bone to leave boneless fillets.
The image shows thirty boneless fillets which is about full capacity for TRM’s electric smoker. If you lean forward and concentrate you should almost smell their tangy fresh taste – so moorish…
You cannot buy smoked trout like these anywhere else.
The trout from Lake Taupo are raised for three years on a diet of whitebait (smelt) and koura (freshwater crayfish).
If they are what they eat, they have to be one of NZ’s best delicacies, right up there with whitebait, Bluff oysters and crayfish – see Murray Cullen below testing the theory.
For a full oven or the three big trout like those featured we would expect them to take about four hours. Smaller skinny trout might be less, more trout might be more. Recently we smoked a nine pound Tongariro brown trout for four hours and it was just perfect. Eight of us shared it and only managed one fillet. Best enjoyed, accompanied by a cold Bannockburn (Felton Road?) Riesling. Just perfect!