Smoked Salmon Socialists And Others

 

Smoked salmon. Those words used to conjure up images of wealth and epicurean tastes. Different now, when supermarkets carry lines of salmon, smoked, barbecued or even raw and called gravelax. So what is smoked salmon? Weren't our ancestors wise to the benefits of curing or preserving food stuff by smoke? They were, but the process is twofold for salmon. A book (Smoking Food at Home by Maggie Black, David and Charles, London 1985) recently come to hand, explains that it is the salting of the side or fillet of the salmon that prevents its decomposing and causes it to lose water. Then when the side is dry, it is smoked over chips of oak or beech for maybe twelve to eighteen hours. Everything depends on the temperature, for, if it is too hot, the salmon will actually be cooked, and if it is too cool it may not be effective.

Of course all this is now done in large ovens with modern technology, but it was not always so. A friend recalls a fishing trip to a lodge in County Mayo, which had a small shed devoted to the smoking of the catch of salmon or even of the occasional white trout. And smoked salmon can vary a lot, dependent often, of course, on the quality of the fish. In past times, anglers used to smoke salmon caught late in the season, as their eating quality when fresh, declines once they ascend the rivers and lakes. That is probably not such a good practise, since the fresher the fish the better is the smoked product. And that is why, in the 1960s, Irish smoked salmon had such a good name, because the fish were bought from the netsmen who caught the fish at sea when they were silver-bright.

And, by the way, when and by whom was the label "smoked salmon socialists" thought up and first used here? There is a lot more to be said about this subject. Bord Iascaigh Mhara sent a useful pamphlet to which we will return, but in the meantime as a postscript by way of a question - what Nobel Peace prizewinner knows how to smoke salmon? No answers, please. You ought to know. Y