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Smoked salmon is one of life’s many small pleasures.
From thinly sliced, cold smoked salmon nestled between layers of rich cream cheese and tangy capers, to hearty crumbles of hot smoked salmon adding protein and complexity to a rich potato stew — this classic method of fish preparation has a lot to offer.
However, even though the practice of smoking first originated as a means by which to preserve food before the advent of refrigeration, smoked salmon does not last nearly long enough.
Lucky for us, and all of the other smoked salmon lovers out there, modern technologies like vacuum sealers and freezers can work wonders to further preserve the famed pink protein for good eating year round.
In this article, we will discuss vacuum sealing smoked salmon for the purposes of extending the life of this delicate delicacy for as long as lox bagels tickle your fancy.
What is Smoked Salmon?
The modern introduction of smoked salmon into Western Europe occurred by way of Polish and Russian immigrants in the late 19th century, however the practice of smoking salmon has been around for hundreds of years across a variety of different cultures.
Many Native American cultures have traditional means by which to smoke salmon and other types of fish and meat.
Though each culture does things a little bit differently, the common denominator with all smoked salmon is slow heating/”cooking” by way of smoke.
These traditional forays into smoked salmon most often produced the “hot” smoked variety.
After applying a salt brine, salmon that is being “hot” smoked is inundated with smoke at around 120 degrees fahrenheit.
This smoke is often produced by wood chips or wooden logs of a “flavorful” variety such as wood from a cherry tree, apple tree, or even broken up whiskey casks.
Hot smoking salmon results in a drier, flakey textured fish that should have a present and pleasantly smoky flavor.
Though this way of smoking salmon was undoubtedly the first, the version that people most likely think of when imagining smoked salmon is “cold” smoked salmon.
Cold smoked salmon is approached much the same way as hot smoked salmon except the temperature of the smoke is much lower.
After a salt brine is applied, cold smoked salmon is subjected to smoke at around 90 degrees. Generally, cold smoked salmon spends more time being smoked than hot smoked.
Because of the salmon’s extended amount of time at such a relatively low temperature, it is very important that you buy smoked salmon from reliable sources, or (if you are keen on making it at home) take care that you use the proper equipment to prevent bacteria from setting up in the fish.
The resulting product of properly cold smoked salmon is a smooth, silky, cut of fish that emphasizes the natural flavor of the salmon over any flavors produced by way of the smoke.
This type of smoked salmon is the type most commonly associated with the famed lox bagels of New York.
With either type of smoking, the salmon produced will last significantly longer than the not nearly long enough 48 hours or so that fresh salmon lasts.
If you take care to properly vacuum seal and store your smoked salmon, it will maintain quality for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator and 3 plus months in the freezer.
Vacuum Sealing Smoked Salmon: Getting started
Smoking things like fish (and other meats) helps to extend the shelf life of the food by removing moisture from the meat and thereby extending the amount of time it will take for bacteria to flourish.
Vacuum sealing smoked salmon further extends that precious shelf life by eliminating oxygen from the fish’s surroundings.
Just like many other living things, bacteria need oxygen for survival. Without oxygen to proliferate, harmful bacteria like listeria (a common foodborne bacteria that can be found in refrigerated smoked fish) do not get a chance to ruin your perfectly smoked pink fish.
Furthermore, vacuum sealing smoked salmon also helps prevent airborne bacteria from pushing its way into the meat you want to eventually eat.
As far as the process is concerned, when vacuum sealing anything, you want to make sure that the equipment you have is compatible with the items you want to vacuum seal.
With regard to vacuum sealing smoked salmon, especially cold smoked salmon, this means utilizing a vacuum sealer that will be gentle enough to not muddle up the delicate texture of the fish.
The GERYON Vacuum Sealer Machine, Automatic Food Sealer for Food Savers w/Starter Kit|Led Indicator Lights|Easy to Clean|Dry & Moist Food Modes| Compact Design (Silver) (view at Amazon) is a great example of a quality vacuum sealer that will effectively seal moist and dry foods (or other moist and dry items that can fit in a vacuum seal bag).
This machine comes equipped with an air suction hose attachment for the purposes of easily pulling air out of bags or containers containing delicate items.
If your smoked salmon is already a part of another dish (like a stew or a dip) the air suction hose can provide a means of effectively vacuum sealing storage containers with an opening for vacuum sealing incorporated into their design.
5 specially designed heat seal bags, a roll of vacuum seal bags, and a comprehensive user’s manual are also included with the Geryon vacuum sealer.
The upper lids of the Geryon vacuum sealer comes off for easy clean up. This simple to use machine only weighs 2.6 pounds and comes in silver or grey allowing it to effortlessly assimilate into any style of kitchen.
Geryon claims that this vacuum sealing machine will effectively keep your food fresh up to 3 years in a freezer.
A lifetime limited warranty is included with the purchase of this product.
However, the length that your vacuum sealed smoked salmon can last is also highly dependent on the quality of the vacuum sealer bag (or container) that you choose.
These Wevac Vacuum Sealer Bags 100 Quart 8×12 Inch for Food Saver, Seal a Meal, Weston. Commercial Grade, BPA Free, Heavy Duty, Great for vac storage, Meal Prep or Sous Vide (view at Amazon) can be a great compliment to any vacuum sealer.
The Wevac vacuum sealer bags are heavy duty bags outfitted with puncture protection and a set of 5 insertable bone guards to prevent anything from permeating the barrier between your food and the surrounding environment.
These bags are also equipped with patented suction channels which give the bag a textured feel that serves to help with warding off freezer burn (a phenomenon that occurs when frozen food is exposed to air resulting in nasty slabs of gritty, dry, previously edible, frozen materials).
These vacuum sealer bags are formulated without BPA and are dishwasher, microwave, and freezer safe.
You can also safely head these bags up in water up to 212 degrees fahrenheit, making them an effective tool for sous vide purposes (a method of cooking characterized by submerging vacuum sealed foods in temperature controlled water).
The Wevac vacuum sealer bags come in an 8 by 12 inch size or a 6 by 10 inch size – perfect variations for a variety of different smoked salmon cuts.
The Lasting Freshness Vacuum Seal Food Storage Containers – Deep Freezer Food Sealer – Hand Held Vacuum Food System – Quick Seal Marinator – Rectangle – 19Pc – Green Color (view at Amazon) may also be a good choice for your smoked salmon preservation needs.
There are 19 different sizes of vacuum sealable containers included with this set, giving you the option of figuring out 19 different and delicious ways to eat and keep smoked salmon.
After you choose the proper vacuum sealer, and the vacuum sealer safe vessels, that work best for you, your fish, and your machine, vacuum sealing your smoked salmon is as easy as putting the fish in a bag or container and pressing a button.
You can vacuum seal salmon that you smoke yourself, or you can preserve leftover pre-packaged salmon by vacuum sealing it.
Be sure, however, that you do not let pre-packaged salmon hang out in the refrigerator for very long (or, if possible, at all) before you decide to vacuum seal it again.
If you allow the fish to breathe too freely for too long, you will give bacteria a chance to invade your meat, and vacuum sealing the food will not be able to eradicate already present and proliferating bacteria.
With regard to freezing the smoked salmon after you vacuum seal it, always be sure that you do not refreeze any fish that has already been frozen and then thawed.
Fish that has been frozen and then thawed naturally loses some of its moisture content, if you opt to refreeze this fish, the texture of the fish will more than likely be limp and unpleasant the second time you go to thaw it out.
Additionally, repeated freezing and thawing gives bacteria a series of opportunities to squeeze its way into your food, and – again – no amount of vacuum sealing or freezing can get rid of bacteria that has already made its home on your fish.
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