The story of our special smoked salmon

13 Dec 2019

Christmas is a season when many people enjoy the luxury of some top-quality smoked salmon. If you’ve ever wondered how it’s made, here’s the story behind our award-winning BigFish smoked range.

Fish smoking has been a tradition in our family for decades, but in 2018 we reached a new milestone when we launched our brand-new Grimsby smokehouse.  Its success has already been marked by three awards for our smoked products in 2019 including the UK’s ‘Best Smoked fish’ for our wonderful Signature Smoked Trout at the prestigious Quality Food & Drink Awards.

Although it’s brand new and meets the most stringent food regulations, our smokehouse can rightly be described as ‘traditional’ since it incorporates kilns made by AFOS, a Hull company with a track record of kiln manufacture going back nearly 70 years.  These kilns may be made of shiny stainless steel, but the methods they use would have been recognised by the fish smokers in our family 50 years ago!

The BigFish smokehouse team is led by our founder, Andy Coulbeck, ably assisted by Master Smoker, Juliana Popescu.  We think Juliana is probably one of the only women working in smoked fish in the UK.  She’s a stickler for detail and spends a great deal of time testing new recipes and tweaking the smoking process to produce smoked fish that’s exactly the way we all like it.

The concept of smoking fish began hundreds of years ago, when people realised that the process would mean the fish kept much longer than fresh.  This is still true today, although now we know that - because smoked fish is never actually cooked - it also requires a rigorous food safety regime.  So, our new smokehouse is built to the highest modern specifications and certified to SALSA food safety standards.  Plus, it has been approved by the Organic Food Federation, which means we are just one of a handful of UK smokehouses able to supply Organic products.

We start with the finest Atlantic salmon and trout, sourced from carefully chosen, responsible producers.  This is cut and filleted by hand, before whole sides are covered in natural salt, to which flavourings such as sugar can also be added, depending on the recipe.  The salted sides are then left to cure in a temperature-controlled environment for up to 24 hours, an extremely important process which reduces the water content of the fish, helping to achieve the right texture and extending shelf life.

We then wash the fish sides before slowly smoking them in our traditional AFOS kilns.  Oak sawdust is burnt slowly to create smoke and circulated evenly inside the kiln by fan.  Again, it is possible to vary the product at this stage by burning different woods or perhaps adding flavours such as botanicals and herbs. 

After smoking, we allow a little extra time for the smoked fish to mature before it is sliced by hand.  We always slice our fish very thinly, which helps achieve an almost melt in the mouth quality when you eat it (perhaps with good sour dough toast or on a bagel with cream cheese!).

Everyone at BigFish is so excited by our smokehouse.  It allows us to prepare our smoked fish just the way we like it - slowly and carefully - as well as experimenting with new ideas and flavours.  And because we love smoked salmon so much, we blind taste test ours every month, to check it’s still the best against other big names in the market! 

So, we hope you will enjoy some of our delicious BigFish Traditional Smoked Salmon or award-winning Signature Smoked Sea Trout this festive season.  And we can all look forward to the promise of more wonderful smoked products from BigFish by the time Christmas 2020 rolls around!

Awards this year for our Smoked range include:

Merry Christmas!

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