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Food Heroes

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Smokey Christmas Pleasures by Trish Deseine

Trish Deseine who visited Ummera Smokehouse to see their preparations for the Christmas Season.
Trish Deseine who visited Ummera Smokehouse to see their preparations for the Christmas Season.

No Christmas would be complete without smoked salmon and/or gravlax and we are certainly spoiled for choice in Ireland, with quite a few masterful smokers dotted around the country.

A few weeks ago, I paid a visit to one of the best-loved and oldest established outfits.

Anthony Cresswell from Ummera Smokehouse
Anthony Cresswell from Ummera Smokehouse

Well off the beaten track in West Cork, along the banks of the Argideen river,  nestled amongst trees and lush ferns, lies Anthony Creswell’s Ummera Smokehouse.

Anthony’s father set up the business in the 1970s, when he started smoking the salmon he and his friends caught in local rivers.  His results were so good that the smokery became a great success. 

Anthony, meanwhile, was working all over the world in the wine business. After coming back to help his father in the 80s, he took over the family business and created Ummera Smoked Products in 1998.

In 2000, Ummera moved to a new custom built smokehouse, 1 km upstream from the original site.

In 2002, Ummera was awarded the Organic Trust symbol for sourcing, processing and distribution of Certified Organic Smoked Salmon.

2004 was another landmark year as Ummera made the necessary changes to the smokehouse to allow them to smoke meat and poultry alongside the fish.

A side of smoked salmon
A side of smoked salmon

At first, Ummera was smoking wild Atlantic salmon, but it eventually became obvious to them that over-fishing was having too much impact on wild stock and in 2006 they switched to organically farmed Irish salmon.

Now the smokehouse produces chicken, duck, bacon, gravadlax and salmon using only the most carefully sourced, organic Portuguese salt, Cost Rican sugar and local oakwood chips.

The magnificent organic salmon are expertly boned and their filets brined for gravlax or frozen ahead of smoking (freezing them helps the drying process). All the waste is composted and recycled on site according to state of the art methods.

A peek inside Ummera’s store room reveals chicken crowns, duck breasts, sides of salmon and loins of bacon, slowly curing and waiting to be sliced, packaged and sent off around Ireland and Europe.

 

Trish Deseine’s pasta with Ummera Smoked Chicken

Trish Deseine’s pasta with Ummera Smoked Chicken.
Trish Deseine’s pasta with Ummera Smoked Chicken.

I’ve used these wonderful products quite sparingly in Christmas pasta dishes and canapé recipes.

Their taste and aroma are powerful enough to shine through and transform cooked and cold dishes when you are entertaining in the run-up.

Pick out the best pasta, good fresh cream and a little luxurious trout caviar for chic and easy last minute suppers.

 

Trish Deseine’s pasta with Ummera Gravlax, Glenilen crème fraiche & Goatsbridge trout eggs

Trish Deseine’s pasta with Ummera Gravlax, Glenilen crème fraiche & Goatsbridge trout eggs
Trish Deseine’s pasta with Ummera Gravlax, Glenilen crème fraiche & Goatsbridge trout eggs

But when the ‘big days’ are finally here, let them take centre stage in all their glory!

Some smoked chicken or duck alongside cold cuts of ham or turkey go down a treat.

And Ummera’s smoked salmon or gravlax is perfect simply served with good brown bread and one of Ardkeen’s growing selection of craft butters, such as Abernethy’s dulse or smoked from Co. Down.

Or try it Russian style, served with crème fraiche and ice cold Kalak Vodka shots as you taste. 

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