With 2,500km of coastline and an abundance of fresh fish from the sea, lakes and rivers, it’s not surprising that skilful smokehouses dot Ireland’s western seaboard. As seen in our Tastes of the Wild Atlantic Way video, Birgitta Curtin of The Burren Smokehouse, an award-winning traditional establishment, shares her top tips for DIY smoked fish.
Birgitta knows a thing or two about smoking food. Along with her husband Peter, she established one of the great European smokehouses in County Clare, where for over 25 years they’ve been perfecting the craft of smoked fish and cheeses. Birgitta’s expert knowledge and enthusiasm for artisan-produced foods, especially those of the Clare region, means that The Burren Smokehouse stands out as a gourmet’s delight.
Image via Burren Smokehouse TripAdvisor
Smoking is an ancient method of flavouring, cooking and preserving food that results in a very specific – and delicious – infused and oaky taste. Achieving this requires a mix of careful sourcing, preparation and monitoring. “Consistent quality and safe-smoked fish requires temperature control, quality food-handling knowledge and the best food ingredients,” says Birgitta.
As cold smoking is difficult to achieve without specialist equipment, Birgitta recommends trying hot smoked fish at home first.
Birgitta’s Step-by-Step Guide:
1. Firstly, source some well-dried wood shavings. These must be free from the contamination of oil. Look for oak, beech, alder or apple. You need to avoid any resinous trees like pine.
2. Next, choose your fish. You can use any fish for smoking, but the most suitable are oily ones like salmon, trout, mackerel and eel.
3. Before smoking, salt the fish for flavour and to preserve. At this stage you can add other flavours, like herbs such as fennel or dill. You could also opt for sugar or honey.
4. To infuse a smoky flavour on a fully cooked (hot smoked) fish, you need to heat your fillet to 75 degrees Celsius. This is not difficult and can be done in a wok using your wood shavings.
5. Line the inside of the wok with tinfoil and add your wood shavings, both at the bottom of the wok and on top of the tinfoil. Woks often come with a little rack insert, which can create a space between the shavings and the fish.
6. Place the fish on the rack and heat the wok on the stove from underneath, like you would normally.
7. The time it takes to fully cook the product depends on the size of the fish and the amount of heat you apply. The safest way of knowing is to use a probe thermometer to see when 75 degrees Celsius is reached in the fish fillet. A small fillet of trout could take around 15 min.
Image via Burren Smokehouse
8. Serve up however you prefer. For brunch, smoked fish is perfect with eggs. For mains, a dollop of creamy mash is perfection and for parties, in sushi or with brown bread are ideal.
The Burren Smokehouse are always working on new and innovative recipes for smoked specialities, so if following these tips has you salivating, make sure you stop by on your Wild Atlantic Way trip.
Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is full of gems for food lovers. Explore more here or why not time your visit to coincide with one of my many great food festivals? If you’re enjoying our Shaped by the Sea series, continue on to Sounds and Sights.