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Maple Sugar Smoked Fish

To smoke fish, Native Americans constructed a tepee made of crossed sticks covered with birch bark. Fish were hung, head down, from the top of the tepee over a smoky wood fire built in a bucket or kettle below. Canvas can be substituted for the birch bark.

4 small brook trout or chubs,
    about 1/2 pound each
1/2 cup kosher or sea salt
1 cup maple sugar or brown sugar
1 teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed bay leaf
2 to 3 cups maple, pecan or hickory wood chips

Clean fish and rinse well under cold water; mix salt, maple sugar, pepper and bay leaf. Pat fish dry and rub inside and out with seasoning mixture. Place fish in a cool, dry place for about 1 hour.

Rinse fish and hang from the gills in a cool, dry, breezy place to air-dry for about 30 minutes. Place wood chips in water to soak.

If you do not have a smoker or wish to build the traditional Indian one, build a charcoal fire in a large covered grill with all vents open. While the fire is burning down, loop a piece of kitchen string under the gills of each trout. Bring ends of string through the vent holes of the grill cover and tie together so that fish are suspended from lid and their tails remain at least 6 inches above coals. When coals have burned down and are covered with white ash, sprinkle a third of the damp wood chips over the fire and place lid on grill. Smoke trout for about 1 hour, adding more damp wood chips every 15 to 20 minutes to keep up smoke. Remove fish and serve hot or at room temperature. If refrigerated, the smoked fish will last about one week.

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