The Smoking Process Smokehouse Ireland

The raw materials used to make Connemara Smokehouse Smoked Seafoods are subjected to meticulous scrutiny, where every step is of the utmost importance in producing a perfect end result. When the fish has reached the ideal weight for smoking, it is harvested from the sea, rapidly cooled, gutted, cleaned, hand filleted and boned.

To add to this assurance of quality, Graham fillets the fish by hand, which allows him to monitor every single fish that passes through our Smokehouse. The whole process is conducted quickly, hygienically and under strict control, in order to retain the fish’s fine taste, freshness and natural colour.

Then salt is sprinkled by hand over the fillets. After 8 to 10 hours it is rinsed off with fresh water and placed to smoke and dry for a further 16 to 20  hours. It is smoked in an aromatic smoke from a slow burning fire of beech wood-shavings.

This adds an exquisite taste, gives the delicate colour and results in a mouth-watering experience. The recipe used, and timing of the process, vary according to the size, desired taste, and fat content of the fish. The Connemara Smokehouse obtains its wild salmon locally. All the fish used in our products are harvested from the pure, rugged Atlantic waters.

Organic salmon from selected organic sites along the Wild Atlantic Way on Ireland’s West Coast.

Filleting

The first step to filleting salmon is to have a very sharp knife. This is achieved by skilfully hand sharpening the blade. The most common size of salmon for smoking is 3-4 kg in weight.

A fish this size is about 3 years old and produces two pieces of smoked salmon about 800 grams – 1100 grams. The salmon are hand filleted by Graham. He fillets about 40-50 fish per hour.

Boning

After the salmon are hand filleted, there are 30 pin bones, which are removed.

The fillets are then washed to remove any loose bones and scales and are placed in the cold room for about one hour for the water to drain off before salting.

Salting

The fish are traditionally salted by sprinkling a dry sea salt onto the fillets. This salt is left on the fish for approximately 8-10 hours depending on the size of the fish. Graham decides when the fish have had enough time in salt by the look and feel of the fish.

This he has learned from his own and his father’s experience. The salt is then washed off using fresh water and the salmon is put back in the cold room overnight to allow the water to drain off. The salmon is now ready for smoking.

Smoking

To make the smoke we burn beech wood. This gives a beautiful flavour to the fish. The smoke is fanned through the fish for about 8-10 hours depending on their size and then there is a further 8-10 hours of drying time. This is also something that is overseen very closely and only through years of experience can Graham decide when the fish is ready to come out of the kiln.

Our kiln was originally made in 1946 (with some tender loving care & recent refurbishment, it is still working today). Because of the age and simplicity of our kiln even the weather conditions from day to day affect the way the fish are cured. After the fish has been smoked it is put into a different cold room for 24 hours before slicing. This is so the natural oil in the fish can re-congeal before slicing.

Slicing

The fish is sliced by hand and also by machine depending on quantities and requirements. As with the filleting, it is very important to have an extremely sharp knife for slicing the smoked salmon. Graham can slice 25-30 sides of smoked salmon per hour and so if there are only a few pieces to slice, it is easier to slice by hand.

Once a skilled slicer like Graham has finished, there is no difference between hand and machine sliced. After slicing, the salmon is vacuum packed and prepared for dispatch. There are approximately 30 slices in a side of salmon.