The Food and Drink Matters team are incredibly pleased to feature Woodcock Smokery as its Fish Smoking Business of the Month.
The company’s roots date back more than 35 years, which was when the founder, Sally Barnes, first established the enterprise. At the time the up-and-coming entrepreneur was married to an inshore fisherman and because of this, Sally could make a significant income from her home, selling fresh fish that was sourced direct.
In the early days Sally specialised in the supply of wild salmon, which was a very profitable product, particularly during the winter months (because of the increased demand for smoked salmon in the Christmas season). Unfortunately, the many bans put into place regarding commercial fishing for the capture of wild fish caused the businesswoman to encounter difficulty progressing, and the changes incurred resulted in unfortunate employee cuts.
“Despite the problems the bans have caused for Woodcock Smokery, I still work exclusively with wild fish,” Sally divulged. “All the products feature on my own table, and as I was cooking for my own children, naturally I wanted them to eat only the purest cured food, with most of the bones removed during the process.”
The artisanal fish smoking organisation is based in Southern Ireland, near a coastal town situated in West Cork. From here Sally buys sustainably caught, delicious-tasting fish that is devoid of any artificial additives or preservatives and has been carefully processed and handcrafted using the necessary filleting, salting, pin-boning and slicing techniques.
The premium quality produce is cured in a traditional manner using skill and attention to detail. The award-winning range includes wild smoked salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, haddock and pollock; fish that has been processed using both hot and cold smoking practices.
As well as sourcing stock from her local fishermen friends, Sally makes her own smoked fish butters from wild salmon and mackerel (whenever these are available). The salmon is used because it bruises easily during the commercial fishing, and cutting out the damaged areas ensures that the precious meat leftover isn’t wasted.
Sally studied Food Production Systems and Oceanography at the Open University to become more knowledgeable and is well positioned to teach others about the ways of smoking fish: “It is not as simple as people might think,” she disclosed.
“Over-smoked foods are awful! I use a more traditional ‘curing’ smoke, not a ‘cosmetic’ smoke, to help give a good shelf-life, and to ensure the food is safe for consumption. After almost 40 years of experience, I have a skill-set which is incredibly valuable in this market. I hope to start smoking courses here soon for individuals and professional chefs, as they are all smoking in their kitchens these days!”
Sally has met many inspirational people on her journey with Woodcock Smokery and has attended many events in connection with AKTEA (European Women in Fisheries Network). A partnership with Slow Food (namely Slow Fish) resulted in Sally meeting Kamal Mouzawak, with whom she travelled to Lebanon to demonstrate artisanal fish smoking to groups of women (in order to promote female empowerment as well as food safety and fish sustainability).
Mail-order works well for customers from outside Ireland and is delivered very rapidly by UPS. This is an overnight service; orders collected from the Smokery today will generally be delivered next day. Recently, the organisation started working with ‘Sole of Discretion’ in Plymouth in Devon, a brilliant venture created by Caroline Bennett (MoshiMoshi), online sales of the freshest fish, landed by ‘day-boats’ from Devon/ Cornwall, filleted by Caroline’s dedicated team then blast-frozen ready to send directly by mail order to individual clients. It is a revelation to be offered day-boat fish (boats go out each morning, and land back each evening, something of a novelty these days). Sally is delighted to be working with Caroline, adding to the range of products listed with her business.
To find out more about Sally, her business venture and her prospective projects please contact Woodcock Smokery today.