24th December 2011
This was a real treat, a delivery of Arbroath Smokies arrived from Scotland, after grilling the smokies with butter and served with a hunk of home-made cheese and onion bread it was the simplest but delicious supper I have had in ages. A tradition for Christmas Eve, I hope!
What is a smokie? Well, it is rather interesting….“Only haddock can be used to produce an authentic ‘Arbroath Smokie.’ The fish are gutted at sea, washed and boxed ready for auction at the fish market. Once back in the fish house, they are headed and cleaned, or ‘sounded.’ They are then dry salted in tubs for a given period. This helps to draw excess moisture from the fish and toughens the skin in preparation for the smoking process. The length of salting time depends on the size of the fish and how fresh they are (amongst other factors). After salting, they are thoroughly washed off, then tied by the tail in ‘pairs’ and hung on sticks.
The smokie pit is then prepared. A hole is dug in the ground, and a half whisky barrel is set into it. The base of the barrel is lined with slates to protect it, and a hardwood fire of beech and oak is lit inside.
The sticks of fish are then placed over the pit and the hessian cover allows the fire to breathe and maintain the required heat. The number of layers and dampening of the ‘cloots’ depends on the weather, and may be adjusted throughout the smoking to prevent the fish either smoking too quickly and burning, or smoking too slowly and drying out. The cooking time is usually a minimum of 30–40 minutes but only an experienced smokie maker knows exactly when they are ready. The resultant golden brown fish, eaten straight from the barrel is a truly mouth-watering experience that has to be tasted to be believed!