Salmon candy has become my new favorite road food. And while it looks like regular smoked salmon, it’s not

Well, I first heard about it years ago, when it was called squaw candy, but it’s no longer called that for obvious reasons. Salmon candy is basically heavily smoked strips of salmon, originally smoked so long they were basically jerky. Nowadays it’s usually lacquered with something sweet, such as brown sugar, maple or birch syrup, or even molasses. The idea is to combine fatty-savory-smoky-sweet in one bite

Strips from the belly of the salmon are best.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my recipe for smoked salmon. I really do. But it’s for large pieces of salmon, meant to be eaten as a meal, or crumbled into salads or whatever. It isn’t something you can wrap in a paper towel, stick in your pocket and carry with you when you are foraging or wandering around, or maybe fishing for more salmon

For that you need to change things up a bit. First is the dry cure. My regular smoked salmon uses a brine cure, which keeps the fish supple and moist. Salmon candy needs to be heavily cured and heavily smoked to keep in less-than-ideal conditions

While it isn’t strictly jerky, although I might make a true salmon jerky one of these days, the heavy cure and smoke has let me carry salmon candy on multi-day road trips and on fishing boats with a minimal amount of refrigeration

How minimal? I’ve eaten it at room temperature after it had been in my pack while fishing all day, or in the late afternoon on a long drive. But I fish in cool places, so the salmon probably never got about 65°F. I wouldn’t let it get hot and eat it

Remember, this is an Alaskan invention and it rarely gets hot in Alaska.

If you want something truly hardy, you will need to cut the strips thinner and smoke them harder to get them jerky-like

What salmon to use? Well, any, really. Belly strips are best, but you can make a good salmon candy from fillets, too. This is a great use of chum or pink salmon, and it is also excellent with large trout or char. If you want to order salmon from Alaska, try Taku River Reds — I have fished commercially with them and can highly recommend their fish

Consider my recipe a hybrid, hardier than regular smoked salmon, and not quite as austere as the traditional salmon candy made by the native Alaskans. Whatever you call it, it’s damn good

Smoked Salmon Candy

This is traditionally done with salmon in Alaska, usually chinook, coho, sockeye or chum salmon. But any salmon will work for this recipe, as will fish like mackinaw (lake trout), Dolly Varden, big rainbows or cutthroats, char or really any large, fatty fish you can cut into strips. I bet tuna belly would be good for this


5 pounds skin-on salmon collars, bellies or fillets cut into 2-inch thick strips

1 pound kosher salt

1 pound brown sugar

1 cup maple syrup or birch syrup

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