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Smoking Is tasty technique

• Oct 19, 2019 at 4:00 PM

The summer and early fall just past was a good one for many local outdoorsmen. Some now have freezers overflowing with venison or filled with fish fillets, and some have a bounty of both. You've eaten a lot, but there's plenty more and what are you going to do with that? I've a few suggestions. Smoked fish is a tasty way to use up excess fish, and it's easy to do. The best fish for smoking are slightly oily: salmon, trout, channel cats, sheepshead, and carp top the list. I do smaller sized channel cats most often, removing head, fins, and intestines, then scoring the sides deeply with a sharp knife.

You'll want to brine them first, and I use a simple brine made of one gallon water, 1 1/3 cups of canning salt, and 2/3 cups brown sugar. It's usual to brine 3 to 5 pounds of fish for about 12 hours, but you'll want to experiment here. Do just 2 to 3 pieces for your first attempt, and if they prove too salty, cut down brining time. Thin fillets will need less brining than thick ones, too, so again, experiment. You'll need a smoker, and I've seen some good home-made ones, including one made of an old refrigerator with the motor removed from below and a hot plate installed.

But it's a lot easier to buy one either online or at your local sporting goods store. They don't cost much and last for many years, at least mine has. My Little Chief smoker has three racks and a skillet below for smoking sawdust, and after you've brined the fish, rinse them well, place on waxed paper until dry, then stack them on the racks side by side. I like hickory sawdust, also available at most sporting goods stores, but you can use apple, alder, or other sawdust excluding evergreens and oak.

For the first batch, do watch your fish carefully. Some smokers are hotter than others, and the fish may be thick or thin, so check it every two hours and when the pieces are golden brown, remove them and make sure they're done by breaking open a piece and trying it. Need more smoking? Give it more.

For deer jerky, you'll want to thaw out some steaks or roasts or even neck meat, and cut it across the grain rather than lengthwise which makes it tough to break off pieces and chew. It's best to cut slices while half frozen at least (easy to cut) or better yet, have your meat processor do it for you. I make my jerky the simple way, by laying the strips on waxed paper, then painting one side and the other with Worcestershire sauce before sprinkling lightly with salt and fresh ground pepper.

Then it goes into the smoker to dry and blacken into jerky. I use one pan of sawdust initially to give the pieces a pleasing smoky taste, then just let it dry. You'll want to check the venison every two hours or so until the pieces are very dry and will break when you snap them. Then make a lot using the same time. Place in bags in your freezer to be taken on hunting trips, camping, long hikes, and just snacks between meals.

Again, do experiment. Instead of Worcestershire sauce you might try soy sauce, or teriyaki sauce, garlic and onion powder, cayenne pepper. chili pepper, or a combination of these. Let your tastebuds be your guide.

Hooks & Bullets:

The Division of Wildlife will be releasing ringneck pheasants this fall at 24 of Ohio's public hunting areas. More than 14,000 pheasants will be released to provide additional hunting opportunities at the various hunting areas. The Division will release birds prior to the small game weekends for youth hunters aged 17 and under who can hunt statewide for rabbit, pheasant, and other legal game during Oct. 19-20 and Oct. 26-27. Birds will be released on Nov. 1, Nov. 9, and Nov. 28 at Killdeer Plains, Wyandot, Resthaven, Tiffin River, Oxbow, and Spencer among others. For a full list of release locations and numbers, visit bit.ly/2019ohiopheasant.

The ODNR is asking deer hunters to help keep Ohio's deer herd free of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), an incurable fatal disease to deer. To do so, hunters should properly dispose of their deer carcasses by double bagging all high risk parts (brain, spinal cord, eyes, etc.) Those hunting outside of Ohio are reminded to follow carcass regulations prior to returning. No hunter is permitted to bring high-risk carcass parts of CWD susceptible species like whitetail, blacktail, mule deer, elk, caribou, and moose into Ohio from any state, Mexico, or Canada. For questions, call 800-WILDLIFE or a wildlife district office.

Looking for an interesting job? The U.S. Forestry Service is hiring entry-level, student, graduate, and professional series positions across the nation. Job are available in a variety of rewarding occupations such as fire, forestry, human resources, recreation, and more. All vacancy announcements are posted at www.usajobs.gov.

Dick Martin, a freelance writer from Shelby, is a retired biology teacher who has been writing outdoor columns for more than 30 years. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.

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