I found myself walking along the Northumbrian Coast over the weekend. Starting at Craster, near-ish to Alnwick up to the Ship Inn at Low Newton, a beautiful tiny pub that was featured by James May and Oz Clarke on the BBC.
Craster is a small fishing village with a couple of shops, private harbour and the heady, fragrant smell of the local smokehouse. L. Robson and Sons have been smoking fish over four generations in the same 130 year old buildings. Craster Kippers are famous worldwide and are still smoked over oak sawdust to give them their distinctive flavours.
With the sound of the sea in my ears and the unescapable aroma of smoked fish tantalising my taste buds I began to wonder what the process of smoking, not only fish, entailed. Well here we go…
The process of smoking fish is intertwined with human history and so it seems has changed very little over time. In fact perhaps the only deviance in modern eras is the role than salting or brining plays in the smoking method. Traditionally salting was required to help preserve the fish, however the advent of modern refrigeration techniques means that it’s only now required for flavouring.
Smoking occurs in two different forms: either hot or cold. Cold smoking takes place over several days at around thirty degrees Celsius, the smoke doesn’t cook the meat but flavours it instead. Hot smoking cooks the meat at around 80 to 120 degrees Celsius (just less than gas mark 1 for anyone who cares) and takes several hours rather than days as per cold smoking.
As any slice of brown bread or glass of Champagne knows: smoked salmon is possibly the most iconic form of smoked fish. This is partly due to the fact that fattier fish such as salmon and tout absorb more flavour and give a better eating experience than lean fish like tuna for example.
You don’t have to be confined to the prospects of just smoked fish. There are obvious alternatives like bacon and ham or how about trying smoked quails eggs or turkey breast for a Christmas alternative? Christmas! Yup, just 345 days to go.