by Mike Ferraiolo
Smoked salmon has been pleasing palates for thousands of years. Despite its present day position atop the culinary pedestal, it was actually a pretty mundane meal up until the 20th century. In the States, it was very much a staple of the Colonial diet, right along side salted pork and wheat. In fact it was so common, that farmers actually used it to fertilize their cornfields.
Fortunately for us, those days are long behind us. In today’s market, with increased pollution and over-fishing, salmon fisherman are faced with strict regulations, stifling many fresh fishing operations and spawning a host of salmon “farms”. These farms are essentially free floating cages in the middle of the ocean. Over the last 30 years or so, these farms have seen a drastic increase in production, growing from a mere 2,000 metric tons to an astounding 150,000! Proponents for salmon farming argue that farming offers a more consistent product with a greater variety, not to mention less long-term strain on the environment and fresh salmon all year round.
Here at Di Bruno Bros., we are proud to be one of the few retailers in the city to hand slice smoked salmon. Aside from the rational varieties of nova and belly lox, we offer two outstanding salmon from River and Glen…the Scottish and the Norwegian. Twice a week they receive shipments from Scotland and Norway respectively and begin their curing process.
The Scottish, which has the most pronounced smoky flavor, is cured with sugar and sea salt then cold smoked for 12 hours over apple wood and oak from white wine barrels. Cold smoking is done at temperatures below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This provides a pleasant supple texture not unlike that of a well-cured prosciutto. Hot smoking slightly cooks the fish and provides a flakier texture, evidence you’ll see in the other fish in our case like the whitefish, sable and kippered salmon.
The Norwegian, which is cured the same way, is also cold smoked for 12 hours, but over Norwegian beech wood. Slightly less smoky, the Norwegian yields a buttery smooth texture with a milder overall flavor, making it ideal for those venturing into the foray of smoked salmon for the first time.
As always, when you visit us, never hesitate to ask for a sample. You’ll find most of the time that we insist that you not only taste the difference but that you love the one you are going to purchase. When entertaining or for your own consumption, be sure to serve the salmon at room temperature as to achieve full flavor potential and don’t forget to have plenty of bagels and cream cheese readily available at your fingertips.