Smoked salmon is now a festive favourite, especially if it is home-smoked. Many people are scared of having a go at smoking at home but it is actually far easier that you would imagine.
Mrs B recently bought a whole side of British farmed salmon from Waitrose for the bargain price of £12. Over the course of this weekend it was cured and passed through my homemade moker (a metal bin). The result is, I think, my best attempt at smoked salmon yet. However, best of all it has taken a £12 side of salmon and turned it into a £60 side of smoked salmon ready to accompany cream cheese and MrsB’s home made bagels on Christmas morning.
I have posted about the smoking process before on our blog (here) so will not go into that again but I do recommend that you give it a go! But, if you do want to buy some of the best smoked fish try some that has been smoked using the traditional method.
The roots of traditional fish smoking in the UK stretch back into pre-histrory when it was a method essential to the preservation of fish as much as a means of adding flavour. The oldest smokehouses currently operating in the UK were built over 200 years ago and, thankfully, many now enjoy listed building protection today. Ensuring their continued preservation, if not their operation. Traditional Smoking requires a purpose built building in which sawdust is slowly burnt. The skill in operating a traditional smokehouse is in controlling the temperature, flow of smoke and rate of burn of the sawdust at the bottom of the smokehouse.
The majority of smoked fish you will see in the supermarkets will be mechanically produced. Indeed, there is nothing inherently wrong with this method but some would say that the best smoked fish is still produced the old fashioned way. Mechanical smoking kilns were developed in the early part of the 19th century as a means of producing a more efficient smoke. Mechanical kilns are merely electrically heated and utilises a much smaller amount of smoke in their process. Traditional smokehouses use vast billowing rooms full of smoke and develop a natural tar to the actual walls of the building. This tar will have been been built up over centuries and actually adds to the flavour of the final product. Indeed, I have used my homemade smoker for about 4 years and it too has developed a layer of tar which, I have noticed, has make the intensity of the things I have produced far stronger.
Where to buy Traditional Smoked Fish
Most traditional smokehouses are now located in Grimsby. In fact Grimsby Traditional Smoked Cod and Haddock are now protected by a PGI (Protected Geographical Indicator) meaning only fish cured in the traditional process can be called Grimsby Traditional Smoked Fish.
To find your local Traditional Smokehouse see the maps below: