Smoking Food

As promised, I’m reporting back. The smoked eggs were interesting - never eaten them before but tried @JaneJones suggestion of quartered with avocado (and salad leaves) and they were nice but odd.

Not tried the smoked pollock yet as that’s gone in the freezer for later but the smoked salmon was very nice. We had some as-is and then also on top of scrambled eggs on toast. The flavour was different from the commercial varieties but then it was smoked with a mixture of beech and alder so it would do. Very nice and we’ll definitely do it again. We’ll also experiment with different woods.

I have a question - the commercial smoked salmon is usually oak-smoked but looking on one of the French smoking websites it says that oak should only be used for meat as it’s too strong for fish. That doesn’t add up - does anyone have ideas/experience of this?

My guess is that there are several reasons for the oak smoking: it sounds ‘traditional’, it is easier to control on a commercial bulk scale, a little may go a long(er) way.

Stronger flavours can soften over time too, so what may start off as over the top can smooth out and become more palatable. I’m happy keeping my cheeses and salami for months after smoking, but you will probably want to eat your salmon quite quickly. Commercially produced salmon may well be packaged to last a long time, and the flavours can soften and smooth out.

Just for a guess.

I did wonder whether some of it was down to how it sounds! Interesting that Scottish salmon tends to be described as oak-smoked but a lot of the commercial stuff round here is Norwegian and, as far as I can remember, doesn’t state what it is smoked with :thinking:

I suspect marketing plays as much a role with some foods as the actual flavour - it can be quite hard not to taste with your eyes.

A lot of commercial French smoking is done with beech (hêtre).


Thanks @vero - that makes sense…

Originally the Scottish used oak because the barrels that were used to make Spanish and Portuguese sherry or port were shipped up to Scotland once they started to leak.
They were the split and replaned to make the whiskey barrels, the wood chips and sawdust that were a byproduct of this process, where then used to smoke the different fish rather than just burn them to get rid of them.
My grandfather and my aunt worked in the huge whiskey bonds in Menstrie and Campus and I used to watch him making new barrels, a lorry went north each week with the chips and sawdust.
As an aside, Magnus Pike worked in the Laboratory there and was just as comical but crabbit in real life as on the TV, he used to read us kids a story in the Alloa library every Saturday morning, I had a lot of respect and admiration for him.


I remember MP well - the man talked with his hands.

Fascinating story of the origins of oak smoking too - the use of the barrels previously would have affected the smoke flavour too, and it’s possible to buy smoking dust make from sherry casks even now.


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Norway’s a bit far north for indigenous oak - do they import (wood chips), use birch, or something else?

No idea! Haven’t yet found a packet that says what they smoked it with!

"Salmon sides are hand salted with a little bit of sugar added. The salmon marinate in this brine until ready. Then it is smoked with beech wood for 3-4 hours at a temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The smoke is relatively cool, resulting in a fusion of healthy fish oils, salt, sugar and smoke, creating a unique flavor and texture. "

This is a very general description of Norwegian smoking methods… beech and/or oak are considered the best woods, I believe.

EDIT: Just checked my packets… 2 say “hêtre” (beech) and one says “hêtre et chêne” and they’re always delicious so I’m happy.

Thanks Stella - that makes sense!

As it is a glorious, sunny and (unusually) dry day here today, we are firing up the smoker again, having got some different sawdusts to try. Partner has just finished filletting a pollock, and we have a side of salmon. The plan is to have another smoking with our third variety of sawdust next week as there is supposed to be another sunny spell and then we are having a dégustation of the salmon with some French friends to see which (if any) of them is liked. Must get some other nibbles in to take the taste away if not successful :smiley:

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The last smoking (salmon and pollock) was very successful. We are wondering about trying meat so I have a question for you experienced cold-smokers…

According to the excellent book recommended by @DrMarkH , duck breasts need to be cured and then air dried for around two weeks before smoking. I think someone mentioned smoking duck breasts before but I could be fantasising… Is this what you all do?