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Smoked Salmon...a Christmas staple!

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

My mother’s neighbour Kath has, apparently, been grumbling about the increasing price of the smoked salmon she buys. My personal view is that Kath is far too nice to grumble about anything, but as I would never knowingly go into battle with my mother, who lives in Marlborough, I thought it prudent – in the name of ongoing family peace - to fast track my plan to source smoked salmon, indeed smoked fish generally - on my list of Christmas essentials.

Why smoked fish generally? Well, Marlborough is on one of the great chalk stream rivers in the Kennet, so to stick to the local for local mantra, Smoked Trout fully deserves a bit of airtime, especially as my mother – whose withering eye is already established - considers the taste to be superior. And what is not to love about a bit (or a lot) of smoked mackerel pate..yum.


Smoked fish freezes well and it seems to be a commonly held view that if properly packed, it will last for up to 3 months before the flavour starts to deteriorate. It should also do a good 2 weeks in the fridge, probably longer if properly wrapped, not that I can imagine it surviving that long in the average family fridge – around here, it is demolished in days!


A side of smoked fish is a bit of a Christmas staple in many households, as it is a great foundation to a light meal and also useful if throwing a few canapes together. It’s a popular gift that never disappoints. Of course, you won’t find a live salmon in Wiltshire waters, so there is a choice here, between local smokeries that has brought the salmon down from Scotland, or the Scottish smokeries selling direct to us here.


Wiltshire Smokehouse

Based in Frome, this smokehouse, which is SALSA approved, was started by Jon Symes in 1994. He uses only age-old methods and no artificial additives. Trout is sourced locally, and salmon from Red Tractor approved farms that source from the seas off the west coast of Scotland. The fish is filleted within 24 hours of harvest and dry cured to preserve freshness. It’s then smoked over sustainably sourced Wiltshire oak for up to 16 hours. Jon's smoked trout won a 1* Great Taste award in 2019.

Prices are currently: Trout £6.50 (100g) /£11.00 (200g) / £20 (a side, minimum 500g), or £22 if you want it pre-sliced. Salmon £6.50 (100g) / £12.00 (200g) /£35 (a side, minimum 700g), or £37.50 if you want it pre-sliced. £6 delivery of orders under £50, and then free. Overnight delivery on orders placed before noon Monday to Thursday. All orders are packed to maintain the chilled temperature for up to 48 hours.


There are lots of other products to tempt you from a range of smoked meats, pates and cheese. The smoked fish pates (trout, salmon or mackerel) are all £4.25 for a 150g pot, have a 10-day shelf life and are suitable for home freezing.

https://wilts-smokehouse.co.uk/


JW Fine Foods

Based in Woodborough near Pewsey, JW Fine Foods was set up by former Michelin chef James Howard in 2017. His salmon is sourced from the Wester Ross fishery on the shores of Loch Broom in the Northwest Highlands of Scotland (very Game of Thrones!), where fish are hand reared, hand fed and slowly grown. The fishery is RSPCA freedom food approved and a member of the Friends of the Sea project. Salmon are delivered to James within two days of harvesting.




James prepares and cures the salmon to his own recipe and then smokes them over whisky oak for a minimum of 24 hours, and then hung at 3 degrees c to equalise the smoke and salt to “create the magic”!


Prices for the salmon are currently £6.50 (100g) /£12.50 (200g) /£26 for a half side/£48 (a side of 1Kg), plus £4 if you want it sliced. Delivery costs £6 for next day delivery, or you can collect by prior arrangement. Again, there are lots of other products to tempt you including some lovely flavourings of Gravad Lax, potted salmon, home made relish, and home made chocolate truffles.

Chalkstream Foods

Based in Hampshire, Chalkstream provides trout and smoked stout from the Test (based on my efforts on the angling front, it’s hard to imagine a river has been more appropriately named) and the Itchen. The trout is hand filleted, pin boned and trimmed, before being dry cured in salt and demerara sugar and traditionally kiln smoked for 8-10 hours over sustainably sourced oak chippings. The smoked fillets are then matured for several days in a Himalayan salt chamber to produce an exceptional texture and depth of flavour. You can currently buy 100g of smoked trout for £6.10, 200g for £11.05 and a sliced side (600g minimum) for £27.00. Shipping is £6.95, or free on orders over £50. There are plenty of other goodies to get you to £50, including smoked trout pate (£5 for a 150g pot), fresh fish and a bottle of fizz from a local Eaton Park vineyard.

https://www.chalkstreamfoods.co.uk/

Tobamory Fish Co

For those who like the idea of shopping close to source, the Tobamory Fish Company is worth a look. A family business based on the Isle of Mull. The smaller portion sizes in their range are more expensive (£8.95/ 100g and £14.95/ 200g) but their unsliced side (1.1kg minimum) looks to be good value at £39. Delivery is free for orders over £25. They have a wide range of variants for both trout and salmon, if you are into added flavour – even though I instinctively prefer my smoked fish unadulterated, their whisky salmon has to be tried!


A couple of other local-ish smokehouses came up in my research:


The Back Mountains Smokery in South Wales is another family run business with a great track record of winning Great Taste awards – its smoked salmon doing so in 2015, 2017 and a 2-star in 2020. Its prices are at the expensive end though – you’ll pay £45 for a 750g side (unsliced) and £59.75 for a 900g side (sliced) and delivery is £10 unless your order value is over £150. https://www.smoked-foods.co.uk/


The Chesil Smokery in West Dorest is also family run. It was founded in 2011 when the owners rescued and restored Bridport’s smokery. They also sell fish and shellfish caught buy local fishermen – a relationship that started in Covid and has prospered ever since. Again at the expensive end at £52.50 for a 1kg sliced side. If you collect, they will give you £2 off for packaging (nice). Overnight delivery is a tenner for orders up to 10kg (that would be a serious lunch!) https://chesilsmokery.co.uk/


I’ll be trying smoked salmon from the two local smokeries and from Tobamory (the price is too good to ignore, and I want to see how it turns up – packaging is important over such a large distance). I will also order smoked trout from Chalkstream and get my children involved in a taste off. I can’t wait and will of course report back.

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