Curing, smoking and preserving food in Fife
Ru an Fodar, East Pier Smokehouse and Seriously Good Venison focus on more than salmon
Christopher Trotter sets out to find why the ancient arts of curing and smoking food are still relevant today
Smoking, curing and preserving are all part of the Scottish food story, and while the onset of refrigeration and improved transport made a lot of preserving methods redundant, smoking has remained one of the few traditional practices with prominence in today’s food production. Smoked salmon – regarded as a typical Scottish product – and Arbroath smokies are evidence of the wider recognition of the role smoking takes in creating unique local foods.
In Fife there are a number of small businesses who smoke fish, mainly around the east coastal fishing villages. Ru an Fhodar, one of the more traditional smokehouses, is based in St Monans. Along with traditional smoked haddock fillets, they also hot and cold smoke farmed salmon from Shetland, and west coast mussels make an unusual addition.
Also in St Monans is James Robb, who initially began smoking food for his catering operation in Edinburgh. His East Pier Smokehouse sources salmon from RSPCA monitored farms in Loch Duart. ‘It’s the freshness and quality that are important,’ he says, ‘and getting the right balance of salt and smoke.’ He has three styles: a robust three-day smoke, a lighter lox style and one cured imaginatively with beetroot providing a beautiful rich colour.
Inland two businesses have used the preserving style to develop their product in imaginative ways. Seriously Good Venison proprietor Vikki Banks extends her product range by curing haunches of their venison farmed at Fletchers of Auchtermuchty. The meat is cured with salt, sugar and light spices, and thinly sliced. It is delicious served with a little grated Parmesan and olive oil.
At Woodmill near Collessie, Steve Wade is new to the curing scene. As a game dealer Steve became disillusioned with the fact that, compared to European countries, British people didn’t eat much game, and frustrated with the fact that often the pheasants and deer from the estates he manages were not being put to full use. Spurred on by a Spanish holiday, he experimented with making salamis from the two meats using a curing process taking anything from 6 to 10 weeks. He hopes to have the salamis on the market in 2012.