This is to-die-for Delicious! It reminds me of the Short Smoked Salmon served at Sweetwater Tavern. Serve it with roasted garlic mashed potatoes along with a stone ground mustard and mayonnaise sauce and you will be applauded!
3) Make the brine in a large non-reactive pot (stainless, ceramic, porcelain, or glass). You can make it days in advance and keep it chilled if you wish. Add the hot water to a one cup measuring cup. Then pour in salt, any salt, until the water line reaches 3/4 cup. The water will swallow up almost exactly 1/4 pound regardless of whether you use table salt, kosher salt, pickling salt, or sea salt. The volume of these salts may differ, but their water displacement will be the same! Pour the slurry into a very clean non-reactive container large enough to hold the meat and 1/2 gallon of water. Then add the sugar, garlic, and black pepper. Stir until most of the sugar is dissolved. The garlic and pepper will not dissolve much at first. Then add the cold water.
4) Chose your brining container carefully. It needs to be food grade, large enough to hold the meat and the brine with the meat submerged, and it cannot be made of aluminum, copper, or cast iron, all of which can react with the salt. Do not use garbage bags or a garbage can or a bucket from Home Depot. They are not food grade. Do not use a styrofoam cooler. It might give the meat an off flavor and you'll never get the cooler clean when you're done.
Zipper bags work fine. For large cuts get Reynolds Brining Bags, Ziploc XL, and XXL bags. If you brine in a zipper bag, periodically grab the bag and squish things around and flip the meat so the brine can get in from all sides. Place the bag in a roasting pan to catch leaks. You can also use bowls, pots, and Tupperware.
Submerge the fish skin side up in the brine and refrigerate. Make sure the meat part is thoroughly submerged. If you need to, hold it under with a plate with a weight on top. Cover with plastic wrap not aluminum foil. Gently stir the container occasionally to make sure all parts of the fish come into contact with the brine.
5) The length of brining will vary depending on how thick the filets are. Brine 2" thick filets for about 2 hours in the fridge, 1" filets for 1 hour. Drain the fish and discard the brine. Then rinse the fish to remove surface salt, and soak them in clear water for about an hour. This helps get rid of excess salt. Pat dry with paper towels. Some folks like to put the filets in the fridge for an up to 3 hours under the theory that a desirable shiny tacky film or pellicle will form on the surface. It is said to help retain moisture and smoke. I have tried it with and without pellicle and see no quality difference. But a few hours of resting will help the brine to distribute itself evenly through the flesh.
6) Cut pieces of paper bag or plain white paper about the same size as each hunk of fish and place the fish on the paper, skin side down. Don't use foil or parchment paper. We want the fish to stick to the paper to help us remove the skin, and it will not stick to foil or parchment. If you are glazing, sprinkle some brown sugar on top of the fillets or paint them with maple syrup. Place the fish on a rack on your grill or smoker so they are not touching each other. Insert a digital thermometer temperature probe into the thickest part of the thickest fillet.
7) Put the fish into a preheated smoker at about 225°F and place the fillet with the probe in the coolest part of the smoker. Add the wood.
8) As the meat approaches doneness, bubbles of milky liquid will often come to the surface. This is a natural protein liquid from within the muscle fibers and it's fine. It just looks ugly. You can wipe it off or brush it off with a wet brush. Remove the meat when it is at about 140°F internal. No more than 150°F. Total cooking time will be about 60 minutes depending on the actual temperature of your oven and the thickness of the meat.
9) Remove the fillets and let them cool for about 15 minutes, until you can handle them. Then peel off the paper and the skins should come right off with it. While you are looking at the skin side, if there is any dark brown flesh, scrape it off with a serrated steak knife and discard it. It can taste muddy.