It's a good thing I had this smoked sturgeon recipe back in the Spring of 2003. That's when a bunch of us went sturgeon fishing on a charter boat out in the mouth of the Columbia.
There's nothing much more fun than fishing for sturgeon on a charter
boat. All of the fishing equipment and bait is provided, and the crew
does all the work. They even bait the hooks and cast your line in the
water if you want 'em to. It's a lot of fun!
And especially so if you end up catching a keeper sturgeon or two. I was lucky and caught one keeper. I caught another that I couldn't keep because it was too big! Yep, there's a slot length limit with sturgeon. Back when I caught them, they could only be kept only if they were longer than 42 inches and shorter than 60 inches.
The reason for that is that the larger ones are breeders, and throwing them back ensures that more little ones are hatched out. And by throwing back the small ones, well, that means that the little ones have a chance to grow up.
This fish I'm holding was 61 inches long...too long to keep. Man, that really broke my heart seeing the big fish I struggled to bring in the boat swimming away! To see what a keeper sturgeon looks like, check out this grilled sturgeon recipe.
Sturgeon flesh isn't like fish. It's more like meat. Very white meat.
And it doesn't taste fishy at all, either. Because of that, it doesn't
need a lot of added flavors to make it good. Just a simple brine, and
simple seasoning is all it takes to bring out the best of this fish.
Combine the brine ingredients; water, salt, sugar, onion powder and one teaspoon of the black pepper. Stir until the sugar and salt are complete dissolved. Drop in the sturgeon and brine overnight in the fridge.
Remove the brined sturgeon from the bucket and rinse well. Pat dry and season lightly, both sides, with the remaining teaspoon of black pepper. Place the fillet sections on raised racks to air dry for an hour or two, until the surface becomes slightly dry, and not tacky to the touch.
Sturgeon is best smoked at between 180-200 degrees. If you can, keep it
closer to 180. Use a mild wood for smoke so you don't overpower the mild
flavor of the fish. I prefer alder. Apple would be good, too.
Smoke the sturgeon, using two handfuls of chips or a couple of chunks of your alder or apple. Watch the sturgeon as it smokes. If it starts weeping, blot off the liquid as it forms. A hotter smoker will cause the sturgeon to weep more.
After one hour of smoking, start checking the internal temperature of the sturgeon with a thermometer. When it reaches 150 degrees, remove it and let it air cool. Then store it in tight sealing containers, in the refrigerator. This sturgeon recipe will keep for one week in the fridge, if you can make it last that long!