If you have never had smoked Goldeye, then you have really missed out! Commonly found in the larger river systems (and connected lakes) of Western Canada and North Western USA, they have been eaten both as staple food, and as a delicacy for well over a hundred years. These days it normally sells for about $8/lb, with the average fish weighing in at slightly less than a pound. Typically, commercially purchased smoked Goldeye is very red due to a dye that is added into the brine. Home-made smoked Goldeye looks much more natural, and is significantly cheaper.
These smallish fish are fantastic when smoked, and really easy to prepare on your own. They are extremely easy to catch, but not so easy to buy fresh. Goldeye are typically not sold fresh as they are a very oily fish, and less tasty than after smoking, so you will probably be left to catching your own, or getting them from a friend who has.
How to prepare Goldeye for smoking
- Clean and gut the fish
- Remove the scales. This is very easily done with the dull side of a knife.
Brine for Goldeye
My basic recipe (DRY) is as follows:
- 1/2 cup coarse, un-iodized salt per pound of Goldeye
- 1/8 cup brown sugar per pound of Goldeye
- 1/2 Tsp fresh black pepper per 5 pounds of Goldeye
- Rub this mixture all over the fish (inside and out)
- refrigerate in a covered plastic or glass container for 24-48 hours
- Lots of liquid will be pulled from the fish, so move the fish around 2 or 3 times to ensure it is always covered in the salt/brine mixture.
If you prefer a liquid brine: using a glass or plastic container, simply use enough PURE water to cover the fish and dissolve enough salt in it to float an unboiled egg. Then add the other ingredients and immerse the fish in this brine for 24-48 hours.
After salting, you must rinse off the Goldeye. You can also soak the fish for an hour or so in cold water to help reduce the salt content. After rinsing, allow the fish to air-dry (inside and out) for roughly an hour. If the fish is wet when you smoke it, the smoke won’t penetrate as well.
How to smoke Goldeye
You can either hang the Goldeye in your smoker, or lay them on a rack, both work fine. Keep in mind however that they will drip a lot of oil, so a catch-pan of some kind will be helpful for clean-up and reduced flare-ups if you use a fire based smoker.
- heat your smoker to between 180-200 f.
- add wood chips of your choice. In my experience, Apple, Maple and Hickory work really well. You can soak them if you want.
- keep the fish in heavy smoke at this heat for at least 1 hour. Depending on the size of your Goldeye, you may need more or less time, but 1 hour is a safe time to start checking. You will be looking for an internal temperature of 140-150f.
- Take it out of your smoker, and cool it on a rack until you can handle it.
Smoked Goldeye stores well in your fridge, and can be frozen (with some quality loss).
Once done, you can use this amazing treat in the same way you would any other smoked fish. It is deadly with Brie, and equally good in a white-sauce with pasta.