Smoked salmon tea sandwiches on crustless bread are a standby of crooked pinkie lady teas. One memorable tea LTR recalls included tissue-thin smoked salmon on brioche with a dollop of creme fraiche. Yum! Then there were the less memorable: salty fish slices on stale bread. Yuck.
What most know as smoked salmon is cold smoked: Salmon, usually from Canada (think Nova) is lightly brined in a bath of brown sugar, salt and water, then smoked over aromatic wood chips. You may think it’s been around forever, but really dates from England circa 1900. (More on this below). There is also smoked salmon from Scotland and Norway too. Most of these fish are dry-cured without the brine.
But hot smoked? That’s when the salmon is simultaneously cooked and smoked. While the artistry of cold smoked is keeping the temperature under 80F — think a warm room of 78F — hot smoked doesn’t have that restriction. Sound easy? Think of those packages at the Portland airport or in Alaska. Sorry, it tastes like chunks of watery tuna to LTR with a hint of smoke.
At the San Francisco Fancy Food Fair, British Columbia owners/operators of Flurer Smokery, LTD, changed all that. The Flurers came to the fair with a platter full of chunks of hot-smoked salmon (LTR made a piggie of herself), dreams of finding a distributor, and a product that defines what meaty salmon that is smoked should taste like: Not salty, deeply flavorful, firm fleshed with a hint of crust and juicy in the middle. No watery, fishy taste. Just fish. Salmon. Smoked.
And amazingly priced: The Flurers will Fed Ex a minimum of 10 pounds at $10 a pound to your door (plus the cost of FedEx.) The fish comes in 1 pound bags, keeps for 14 days, and you can freeze the extra. Share it with your friends and you’ll become a culinary savior. Or just a mensch.
Pairings: Try with a full-bodied Assam or a good Earl Grey. Also goes surprisingly well with oxidized Darjeeling. Leave out the bread, crustless or not: Or squirt a little lemon on a bite sized chunk. Healthy — just protein, no carbs — and most important, delicious.
Fun fact: Lox is a takeoff on Yiddish for salmon, Laks, which comes from the German, Lachs. This is the salty, brined salmon that originated in Russia. Cream cheese became the partner to cut the strong, salty taste.
Upper crust fun fact: Forman’s of London, one of the most famed purveyors of smoked salmon, had its roots in Odessa, Russia. The original Forman emigrated to the East End of London in 1902, bringing barrels of brined salmon. Soon discovering that the Scottish salmon was far superior to the Baltic, he began cold smoking the local variety. Today, Forman’s is one of the haute deluxe supplier of smoked salmon.
To learn more about cold smoked salmon, check out the wonderful article by Vogue columnist Jeffrey Steingarten.vogue jeffrey steingarten on smoked salmon.