Campfire Smoked Fish

There was a time when pike was the preferred eating fish over pickerel (known as walleye for those of you south of the border). At least that was the case for the Finnish community living in the Thunder Bay area. Filleting was unknown to the Finns. They only knew how to scale fish and pike were much easier to scale than pickerel. Then, I’m told, around the 1940s, a woman who worked for a fishery in Port Arthur showed someone how to fillet a pickerel and word spread quickly.

However, I still like to use a traditional technique for cooking up a fresh pike in the campfire. It’s called Pökkökala (firewood fish) or Savukala (smoke fish). This simple recipe requires no filleting or scaling and uses minimal ingredients to produce a delicious, flaky smoked fish.

First, remove the head, gut the fish, and rinse. Then fill the cavity with:
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoon coarse salt

Smoked campfire fish. | KATHY TOIVONEN

Smoked campfire fish. | KATHY TOIVONEN

The recipe is based on a 2-to 3-pound fish, so add more ingredients and a longer cooking time for larger fish. Next, soak six sheets of newspaper in water. Layer the wet newspapers and wrap the fish into a tight package. (Do not use aluminum foil as the moisture cannot escape).

Place the package in a bed of coals. It is best to cover the package with coals as well.

Cook the fish anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the amount of coals there are, how hot the coals are and how you like your fish. You’ll know when it’s done because you will be able to smell the cooked fish. The longer you cook it, the dryer it will become.

Remove the package from the coals and peel it open. The skin will peel off with the paper and the tender meat inside will easily slide off the bones.

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By Kathy Toivonen