integrated logistical infrastructure for the efficient transportation of perishables is in place.
In its simplest form smoking fish is similar throughout the world depending on the end product desired.
In Europe during the Middle Ages various heavily smoked and salted foods were relied upon to carry people over the lean times of late winter and into spring. Fresh fish could not be transported any distance from the port of landing unless they were preserved.
The rapid growth of transportation such as railways and steamships, beginning in the 1840s, enabled the transportation of perishables. For the first time in human history it was possble to move large quantities fresh fish from one place to another. This marks the beginning of sea-fishing industrialization. As a result of the widespread availability of fresh fish, the popularity of heavily salted, heavily smoked products a mainstay for hundreds of years began to decline. In the same period (mid 1800's), and the smoked fish products we now regard as traditional came into being. These are mildly smoked and contain minmum salt as condiment. Where the primary reason for smoking fish had been formerly to preserve it, it was now mainly to impart a pleasant mild smoky flavor. Rapid transportation for foodstuffs meant a long shelf-life was no longer so essential.
The market for smoked fish underwent a drastic change in the mid to late nineteenth century. And yet the actual technology of smoking fish remained much the same as it had been for centuries. It was 1939 when the Torry Research Station in Aberdeen, Scotland developed the Torry Kiln and a reliable tool was generally made available to the industry. This mechanical kiln can be relied upon to produce a high-quality, uniform product time after time. The use of a forced-draft greatly enhances drying and smoke application and with the use of a heat source remote to the smoke generator a much reduced smoking time is achieved. This accomplishes two things; first, the fish is exposed to moderate temperatures (prime for bacterial growth) for a shorter period and secondly, the kiln-operator can process more fish in a given time and produce it at a consistently higher quality.
This was the birth of the world famous Scottish smoked salmon industry.In fact, two nations adopted this technology from the start, Scotland and Norway and both are producing the finest of European smoked fish products.
Many companies now produce kilns based on this proven technology of laminar air-flow through the product. The increasing use of micro-processors has added another quality factor that insures consistency and adaptability in processing any smoked seafood product for varying demands in any marketplace (differing salt levels, moisture content requirements, etc.)
Things have gotten even better over the years. One often wonders whether the application of all this technology removes the producers from the actual business of creating a really top-notch product? The answer is both yes and no.
Yes - producers don't have to baby-sit every load of fish and it is controlled much more closely than any human could actually do it.
No - it does not remove the producers from the process because the computer fautlessly carries out what has been programmed into it earlier. The result is a high quality product which is as uniform and consistant as the fish itself allows.
It takes first class fish to make a first class product. A good product cannot be made from bad fish. Some believe that smoking can be a cover-up for other problems with fish. That is a false assumption. Any "unpleasantness" will be readily apparent in very short order.
The smoked fish processors, whether in Scotland, Norway, or the U.S., all have a reputation to protect and maintain - and only the finest of fish make it into their smoking kilns.
Smoked fish products, from kippers to salmon, should all find a place of honor on your dining table.
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