The Smoking Process

A time honoured method of food preservation using primarily salt and wood smoke.  Both the salt and the wood smoke have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties but in the past the amounts of both had to be so great the food was nearly inedible without further treatment (soaking in water for 24 hours was most common).  Today we prefer to eat our food without soaking so the salt and smoke levels are reduced appropriately.

The Ingredients

Salt tends to have a sharp taste on the tongue so many recipes include a sweetener, the type used was usually what was easily obtainable and included sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup and even honey dew from aphids.

Many woods have been burnt to produce the smoke, they are usually hard woods not conifers as they have resins which burn with a paraffin-like smell.  One of the most popular woods is oak, which grows in Europe, the Americas, Africa and India. Others include beech, ash, birch, heather and peat.

To start the filleting the belly bones are first cut with a short bladed

To start the smoking process the food is salted in either dry salt or brine and then placed in the smoker. Two main types of smoking are used - hot and cold. Hot smoked foods are cooked in the smoke and are usually ready to eat, for example smoked mackerel. Cold smoked foods are kept in the smoker at cool temperatures and are usually cooked before eating, for example smoked bacon or smoked cod. Some cold smoked foods are eaten raw and the most famous of these are smoked salmon and Parma ham.

To add extra flavour to the foods herbs and spices can also be added. These can be sprinkled on the food, included in the brine and even burnt in the smoke. At the Galloway Smokehouse we use a special mix of flavours, for the sawdust we use specially selected oak. This is American oak chosen for its straight grain and is exported to Spain and Portugal and manufactured into barrels. The barrels are then filled with sherry or port and after sufficient time are exported here. After the sherry and port has been distributed the barrels are split and the joints replaned to give a watertight seal. The barrels are then filled with whisky to give the traditional colour and taste. The shavings from this procedure are carefully collected and used in the smoker.

The Process

To start the smoking process at the Galloway Smokehouse only the best Scottish salmon are selected. These are gutted and kept in ice until they are out of rigor and ready for filleting. The salmon is filleted and the fillets laid on a bed of salt and painted with a mixture of dark syrup and black rum.

Dry salt is then sprinkled on the fillets - a thicker coating at the head and reducing to a mere sprinkle on the tails. When the salt content has reached it optimum level, it is washed off with water. The fillets are then left in cold storage for 12 hours to condition, before being painted again with our unique syrup mixture and placed in the smoker.

Dry salt is then sprinkled on the fillets. A thicker coating at the head and reducing to a mere sprinkle on the tails.

The sides are smoked for anything up to 48 hours in oak smoke. During this time the sides need to loose 15% of their moisture, and obtain the golden hue and traditional texture. The sawdust is only allowed to smoulder, so a layer of ice is placed on the sawdust and as this melts it damps the surface layer of sawdust. This damp layer stops the sawdust from bursting into flames and so cooking the fish. The maximum temperature can only be 30C so it is a difficult process in warm countries.

The sides are then removed from the smoker. After 24 hours of chilling the hard edge of the skin is trimmed with scissors, the belly bones are removed with a sharp knife and the short pin bones are removed with tweezers. The side is now ready for slicing or packing.

Slicing

Smoked salmon is usually available in three forms - whole sides, sliced packs and sliced sides. If whole sides are required no further processing is required, the side is simply vacuum packed, labelled and placed in chill storage. If sliced packs are required, the side is placed on a board and a special scalloped blade is used.

Smoked salmon is usually available in three forms - whole sides, sliced packs and sliced sides. If whole sides are required no further processing is required, the side is simply vacuum packed, labelled and placed in chill storage. If sliced packs are required, the side is placed on a board and a special scalloped blade is used.

Slices are taken all the way to the head of the side but a small chunk is left at the top, this being consigned to pate. The slices are then interleaved with cellophane and laid back in order of slicing. The slices are placed in a bag and vacuum packed, labelled and placed in the cold store.

More slices are taken towards the head still leaving a small hinge on each slice.

The third form in which smoked salmon is sold is sliced on the side or 'sos' for short. This time the first slice is cut but not all the way to the skin, leaving just enough meat to act as a hinge. The slice is turned over still attached to the skin. More slices are taken towards the head still leaving a small hinge on each slice. Each slice is then carefully laid back in place with a small piece of cellophane between. This is to make the separation of the slices easier. The side is now ready for vacuum packing.


  • Smoked salmon