To brine salmon before smoking it, mix a brine of fennel, onion, celery, garlic, salt, brown sugar, bay leaves and water, and let the salmon sit in the brine in the refrigerator for one to three days. Dry the salmon on a rack in a cool, breezy location.
- Mix the brine
Place one thinly sliced celery rib, 1/2 cup each of finely chopped fennel and onion, and 2 smashed garlic cloves in a large plastic or glass bowl with a lid. Add 4 cups of water, 1/4 cup each of brown sugar and kosher salt, and 2 bay leaves. Stir well to combine the ingredients.
- Add the salmon
Place your salmon in the brine. Cover the bowl, and turn it over a few times to ensure the salmon is well coated with the brine.
- Chill the salmon in the brine
Place the container in the refrigerator. Wait at least 24 hours, but no longer than three days. Turn the bowl over periodically to redistribute the brine.
- Dry the salmon
Take the salmon out of the brine. Set it on a rack in a cool location with good air circulation. Wait two to three hours for the fish to dry before smoking it. If air circulation is poor, run a fan near the fish at low or medium speed.