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Hebridean Food: Smokehouse

The Hebridean Smokehouse is in Clachan on the Isle of North Uist, in the Outer Hebrides. Its main product is salmon, though it also does scallops and sea-trout. These are sold worldwide, with orders coming from as far away as North America and Japan. Although most of its business is done by post, its doors are always open to visitors who wish to see how the work is done.

Most of the work is done in two separate sealed rooms.

In the Wet Room the fresh salmon are prepared for smoking. This requires various things to be done.

Firstly, the fish are cleaned and filleted.

A sharp knife is also used to trim the fish.

After filleting and trimming the fish is salted. This reduces the amount of water in the fish and helps to preserve it.

After salting the fish is carefully rinsed and checked for quality.

If it passes it is ready to go for smoking.

Peat has been the natural fuel in Uist for many centuries. Usually it is cut on the moor in the early spring and left to dry for the summer before being brought in.

To smoke the fish it is broken up into small pieces.

It is then packed into the firebox where it burns slowly.

It burns with a very characteristic smell, which helps to flavour the fish.

The temperature varies between 20 and 28 deg C and the fish is smoked for up to 20 hours.

The fish is placed in the kiln through doors that open from the Wet Room side.

After smoking it is removed through doors that open into the Dry Room side. This is where the final stages of the preparation are completed. Everything in the Dry Room has to be completely clean.

The smoked fish is generally hand sliced before packaging.

Depending on requirements slices can be packed in different quantities.

Some fish may be sliced and then put back together as a sliced side.

After vacuum packing the fish is ready for sending off the island to customers elsewhere in the UK and worldwide.

There is also a small shop on the premises.

This does a steady trade with the local community and summer visitors to the island.

So the Smokehouse is an interesting example of an industry that is firmly island-based.

Yet it looks out to the wider world with confidence, knowing it offers ready access to a taste and experience that is uniquely Hebridean.

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