Smokey Christmas Pleasures by Trish Deseine
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ummera Smoked Products Gradvalax 100g
A filleted side of organic salmon is covered with the gravadlax mix, then the other side placed on top; they are chilled and turned twice a day for five days to allow the flavours of the marinade to seep into the salmon, while the salt extracts the moisture from the sides and cures the salmon.
Sliced thinly or diced, it has a wonderful flavour; some like to enhance it with a mustard and dill sauce, but this can overpower the taste of Ummera’s Organic Gravadlax, so we prefer it as it is!
Ummera Smoked Products Irish Smoked Organic Salmon 100g
The organic salmon are raised off the west coast of Ireland according to strict organic principles, they grown under much less crowded conditions thn normal farmed salmon, and the exposed sites where the currents are strong to give them more natural texture, their diet is close to the species' normal food and is from sustainable; the natural pink colour comes from crustacean shells and phaffia yeast. Their rearing is not dependant on the chemical and anti-biotic inputs normal for other farmed salmon. The pure sea salt, raw cane sugar, and oak used in the smoking process are all approved for organic production.
Ummera Smoked Products Smoked Chicken 400g
Ummera Smoked Products Silver Hill Duck Breast
Ummera Smoked Silverhill Duck Breast is one of those products that has that wow factor! In July 2009 Ummera smoked their first trial batch of duck breasts from Silver Hill Foods in Co. Monaghan. They didn't smoke another batch until just before the Good Wine Show in Cork on November 13/14th 2009. They took some up to the Wine Show to sample and to see what people's reaction might be. It was amazing! Everybody loved it!
Marinated in a brine of sea salt and raw cane sugar, then hot smoked over oak sawdust fires, the flavour and succulence of the duck breast is amazing; serve on a slice of ripe pear and a trace of light vinaigrette sauce – magic! And enjoy it all!
Kalak Vodka 70cl
Home grown malted barley, pure, cold mountain water, and the patience of stone have come together in this bold spirit named for the Celtic queen of Winter, Kalak, (“An Cailleach”). This vodka which is made from 100% Irish Malted Barley & Pure Mountain Water is Four Times Pot Distilled in West Cork.
Kalak is a phonetic spelling of “Cailleach”, the Irish Celtic Goddess. Kalak was the closest thing the Celts had to mother nature. She was the embodiment of the darker, more powerful side of nature.
Kalak vodka is great on it's own and makes the perfect ingredient for cocktails!
Abernethy Butter 125g
Abernethy Butter is made by hand using traditional methods.
The only thing Allison and Will Abernethy add to their butter is a pinch or two of salt.
This butter is wrapped in greaseproof and brown paper for an authentic, rustic look in keeping with the product.
Abernethy Dulse & Seasalt butter 100G
Abernethy Butter is made by hand using traditional methods.
The only thing Allison and Will Abernethy add to this butter is a pinch or two of salt and some dulse (seaweed).
Abernethy Smoked Butter 100G
Abernethy Butter is made by hand using traditional methods. To create their Smoked Butter, they take their famous handmade butter and carefully cold smoke it to give a distinctive flavour. An ideal product to enhance cooked food. An ideal product to enhance cooked food.
Great Taste Winner 2016