Fish candy, sometimes known as “Indian Candy”, is always a popular treat around my house, especially over the holiday season when everyone is craving something delightfully sweet and chewy! There are many different ways for making this mouthwatering native North American delicacy, but my favourite is this Hawaiian-inspired recipe I developed a few years ago to give my fish candy a boost of holiday flair. It calls for a pineapple-based marinade that is sweetened with maple syrup and spiked with cloves, cinnamon and other sweet spices that capture the aroma and flavours of the festive season. The salmon bites are then paired up on “candy sticks” (sturdy wooden toothpicks) with chunks of chewy pineapple that really tickle the taste buds, making this candy a wonderful treat for gift giving. But beware: once you hand over this dish to the fish lovers on your list they’ll be dropping hints for more all year round!
Small cookie tins or little unpainted cedar boxes (you can find these at dollar stores) make the perfect containers for packaging your fish candy. All you have to do is attach a bow to the lid and, to take some of the pressure off demand, tuck the recipe inside on a card so the receiver can make their own batch next time around.
Any member of the salmon family can be made into fish candy, just so long as you can cut it into uniform, bite-sized cubes. If you don’t have enough salmon in the freezer you’ll find that frozen fillets from the fish market work just as well, as they are easy to cut into the desired size.
As for the pineapple, I have tried both canned and candied pineapple chunks, and either works great. Canned pineapple stays softer on the stick, which is preferred by some folks. If you are using canned fruit it can be added to the marinade with the salmon for more infused flavour. For those who like the candy extra chewy, as does most of my gang, the best choice is to go with the dried, candied fruit.
This recipe makes about three smoker trays of candy but you can halve or double the batch, if you wish.
3 lbs salmon, cut into bite-sized cubes (note: fish can be cut more uniformly when it is only partially thawed)
1 tbsp pickling salt
2 or more cups pineapple juice
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tsp cardamom pods
1 tsp whole cloves
3 whole star anise
1/2 stick of cinnamon (coarsely crushed)
1 tbsp crushed red chili flakes
2 to 3 cups canned pineapple or dried candied pineapple chunks
Additional maple syrup for brushing
Put salmon cubes in a glass casserole dish and sprinkle with salt. Mix pineapple juice, syrup and brown sugar, pour over the fish, adding additional juice or water if needed to bring level up to cover fish. Sprinkle whole spices and chili flakes evenly over top. For spicier candy slightly crush all of the whole spices with a pestle and mortar to release more flavours. Cover and refrigerate six to eight hours, or overnight. Remove fish from brine. Thread a cube of salmon and a chunk of pineapple onto a wooden toothpick, as shown in photo, and place on smoker rack. Continue, using all the fish. Allow to stand for about an hour at room temperature until a pellicle if formed. Place in smoker and smoke until desired degree of doneness is reached, brushing several times with additional maple syrup to form a glaze. Smoking times will vary depending on the amount of heat your smoker generates and how dry and leathery you prefer the candy. My kids love it super tough, so the bottom rack is always left in the smoker a little longer and is specially reserved just for them!