The age-old craft of smoking meat, ham and fish over a wood fire to preserve them is still used today to lend a unique flavour to foods.
There are two methods of smoking: hot smoking – done at high temperature – in which the food is kept in the smoke for long periods of time, and cool smoking which is done at temperatures of 80 °F to 90°F. Hot smoking cooks the food slightly during the process and fish such as trout, eels or Arbroath smokies are most usually smoked in this way. Smoked salmon is produced by the cool method and preparation may take up to one day.
Fish must be salted either in dry salt or in brine before being smoked over different types of wood, and the permutations of these factors give a distinctive flavouring to each variety of smoked fish. When buying smoked fish, look for firm dry flesh and a glossy skin. Cod’s roe is often smoked to give it additional flavour and it is this that is used in making the Greek speciality TARAMASALATA.
Ham is one of the most popular smoked meats and nowadays ham is smoked in large insulated chambers which have smoke pumped into them. Commercially smoked poultry can also be bought. Special home-smoking kits are available if you wish to smoke food yourself.