Snapper (Pagrus auratus) are found in the waters around most of New Zealand’s northern coastline where water temperature and quality is favourable and food items like kina, crabs, shellfish, squid and pilchards can be found in abundance. Snapper are revered for their determined fighting abilities that test tackle components to destruction and angler’s fortitudes alike – common techniques of catching snapper include soft plastics, metal jigs, hard bodied lures and the tried and true method of adding a cut bait to a ledger or staryline rig.
Snapper will happily thrive in just a few meters of water around mangrove and kelp forests and are equally as happy in the deep blue nutrient rich waters out to about 200 meters where pinnacles and upwellings can be found – this makes the species highly accessible for both small vessel and launch fishermen.
Snapper also make for great eating as there is plenty of clean white flesh on even an average sized examples and it can be prepared in many ways from simply dusting fillets with a light coating of flour or coated in a quality panko bread crumb (I recommend FogDog Panko) and flash fried in a skillet with butter to more extravagant meals of whole baked snapper in a tandoor oven with all manner of herbs, spices and curries, but my personal favourite way to prepare snapper for eating is by smoking it in my Bradley Smoker with a hint of maple.
The first part of this recipe involves a planning session with your fishing mates, fishing tackle preflight checks, boat fueling and setting the alarm for a nice crisp getaway to your favorite Snapper-SpotX before the birds are up….now simply catch the required amount of snapper (let the rest go) and make sure any you are taking home to be smoked are iki’d and then put in to a quality chillybin with plenty of salt ice or a saltwater slurry. Six snapper around the 2kg mark are perfect candidates for the 6 rack digital Bradley Smoker but if you are lucky enough to bag a couple of nice ones they work out just fine also, I have smoked plenty of ‘20lbers’ with excellent results to.
So with all that hunting and gathering taken care of lets get smokin’….
1) Gut, gill, remove the head and split the snapper or if you have a few nice ones to smoke simply remove fillets leaving the skin on and cut in to portions approximately the same dimensions as a Bradley rack. I like to smoke the heads and backbones also as there is plenty of tasty meat in around the head and bones and also ensures as little wastage as possible,
2) Sprinkle about two teaspoons of Bradley Maple Cure on to the flesh and gently massage in with fingers to achieve an even covering.
3) Place snapper in to the fridge for between 12 to 48hours
1) Remove snapper from fridge and allow it to obtain to room temperature.
2) Preheat your Bradley Smoker to 88 degrees.
3) Squeeze some Bradleyvmaple syrup on to the fillets and again massage in to flesh.
4) Place racks in to the smoker.
5) Start the smoke generator with Bradley Maple bisquettes for 2 hours and with the oven set at 88 degrees for 3hours.
6) Go clean the boat, take the kids to the park or kick back and let Bradley take care of the rest..
7) At the 3 hour mark shuffle the racks around from top to bottom and bump the oven temperature up to 103 degrees for an hour or so until the surface of the snapper takes on a golden glow.
…and that is it! simple, no fuss and delicious!
Hot smoked maple snapper straight out of the Bradley wrapped in fresh bread rolls is superb but even when cold on crackers with your favourite cheese when entertaining or as the main ingredient in a traditional fish pie it is a real treat.
If you intend to chill or freeze some of your fine product for another day then investing in an Innovation Vac & Seal is highly recommended – these nifty devices quickly remove all the air from and double seal the bags to preserve and extend the life of your smoked fish and meats.