From the rolling moors of Caithness to the eel-slithering Lincolnshire fens, we’ve scoured the realm to bring you our selection of Britain’s top smokeries. Anyone for smoked ox tongue?
Smoking is so hot right now. From smoked fish and game, through to smoked cheeses, hams and even butter – if you can eat it you can probably find a smoked version of it. From the many smokeries and smokehouses around the UK, we’ve picked ten that stick to traditional and sustainable methods and make some of the best smoked products going.
This Somerset smokery takes its name from founders Michael Brown and David Forrest, who started out as smoked eel specialists in 1981, applying skills they learned on visits to Germany and Holland. The duo have since retired, but the smokery continues as a family-run affair under husband-and-wife team Jesse and Charlie Pattison. They now smoke salmon, trout, cheese and even garlic on site in small-scale batches in a non-industrial hot and cold smoker. Staying true to the company’s roots, they also follow the German tradition of having a restaurant attached, where you can enjoy freshly smoked produce.
Time is the key factor in smoking, according to the River Farm Smokery. They’ll smoke a Lincolnshire eel, for example, over eight hours – testament to their uncompromising emphasis on quality rather than quantity. They’ve been traditionally curing and smoking meat and game at their smokery in Bottisham, Cambridgeshire, for 25 years now, using hand-fired brick kilns and wood from oak, maple and whisky barrels. They get a mention in Leiths Fish Bible, so they must be good.
Mark Firth had been running his family’s trout farm in Dorset for six years when he got a phone call from a member of the public, asking if he knew anywhere locally that smoked fish. That enquiry three years ago prompted him to take over an old smokery in Bridport, and he hasn’t looked back since. Less than a year after starting, the smokery had five Great Taste Awards under its belt. Its speciality is sustainably sourced salmon, which is cold-smoked and hot-smoked, and cured the old-fashioned way with dill, salt and sugar for gravalax.
Concentrating solely on salmon has earned this small artisan smokehouse in Dunkeld the patronage of royalty: its hot and cold smoked salmon was served at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee lunch at Scone Palace in Perth. The smokehouse was established more than 30 years ago to smoke fish caught by anglers on the River Tay – and on Sundays during the season there is still a steady stream of anglers bringing fish they have caught during the week. As members of the Slow Food Movement, and artisan smokers, they pride themselves on their respect for the fragile marine environment and take care to ensure all their fish is sustainably sourced.
The Smith family have been fishermen in the waters of the Wash and the Humber for many generations. Terry Smith continued the family tradition, trapping his first eels in 1975. It was in the early 1990s, when delivering eels to a Dutch smokehouse, that he saw first-hand the techniques used in smoking – and was inspired to start his own smokehouse in the Lincolnshire fens. Their smoked eels are caught using carefully managed fishing techniques from estuaries and rivers on the east coast; no elvers are taken, helping to sustain stocks.
Streaky bacon, venison and duck are all smoked at the Weald Smokery in East Sussex, as well as smoked salmon, haddock, mussels and, of course, kippers. Weald Smokery takes pride in following the traditional method of oak-log smoking in brick kilns but that doesn’t mean its repertoire is restricted to the traditional: Lancashire cheese, ox tongue and Toulouse sausages are among their more unusual smoked products. This combination of innovation and time-honoured methods has seen the smokery win awards year after year.
The salmon and eels fished from the Severn and Wye rivers were recorded in the Domesday Book, so you could argue that Richard Cook’s smokery has at least a thousand years of heritage behind it. Recently accredited by the Marine Stewardship Council, Severn & Wye is committed to complete accountability for the fish it smokes. It deals directly with local fishermen to maintain the viability of fish stocks, and is in the process of reopening one of the oldest fishing drafts on the Severn Estuary to use traditional seine nets.
Swiss-born Jürg Bleiker trained as a chef before coming to the UK to learn English. Here he met his future wife, and has worked in the food industry in Yorkshire ever since. Having run a restaurant in Ripon for 21 years, he founded Bleiker’s Smokehouse in 1993, and uses curing and smoking processes that combine authentic methods with modern manufacturing technology – and which have kept his products in demand from top chefs around the country. His years as a restaurateur show in his innovative flavours, acknowledged at this year’s Great Taste Awards when Bleiker’s Applewood Smoked Romanov Salmon won a gold award.
John Inglis’s Caithness Smokehouse grew out of a hobby. After sharing his home-smoked fish with friends and neighbours he inadvertently created a demand for his products that’s grown into a proper cottage industry. A wind turbine generates electricity for the operation and Inglis has added smoked mussels, eggs and scallops to his repertoire. The smokehouse is best known, however, for its smoked butter, which featured on menus at last year’s Wimbledon championships and Ashes series, and whose fans include Tom Kerridge of The Hand & Flowers in Marlow.
The Black Mountain Smokery was started almost accidentally, in a slightly topsy-turvy way. Jonathan Carthew was on a fishing trip in Scotland when he heard about a smokery that was up for sale in Wales. Jonathan’s wife, Jo, had grown up in the area and they had spent their honeymoon in the Black Mountains, so their destiny was fixed. The smokery reopened in 1996 and 16 years later it’s a fully family-run affair, giving salmon, poultry and a selection of meats and cheeses a mild smoking to delicately enhance the flavour.
Read this article as it originally appeared on Flavour