EATING FOR BRITAIN: RIVER FARM, SMOKIN'
Ah, the joys of being on Twitter.
Well for me, not for poor old Dan Woodford whose unwise decision to follow me on said social networking site and to give a link to the website of the smokery where he was working led to an interchange of mails and an invitation for me to come up and spend a morning at The River Farm Smokery a short distance from Cambridge.
Dan was in his last few weeks of work at the smokery before moving to Italy, lucky bugger, but still seemed terribly enthusiastic as he showed me around the buildings that had been converted from old RAF sheds. The company has been going for nearly twenty-five years and for the last five, co-owner Chris Swailes has been building up an enviable business for their smoked fish and meat with clients including The Ivy and The Harwood Arms.
Dan has been there for three years and watching him at work, it is little wonder that the product is developing such a great reputation. He was working on smoked mackerel when I arrived and soon had me helping him with the gutting and cleaning of the beautifully fresh fish before he brined them for six hours before taking them to the kiln.
In the smoke room itself, things were already well under way for the day with trout, eel, duck breasts, plump cod’s roe and salmon sitting in the smoke of the smoldering ashes from German oak and dripping glistening oils down to the floor.
Because of other commitments, my stay was a short one. But, before I left, I watched Dan prepare the raw ingredients for their biggest seller, smoked salmon as he layered large fillets of superb looking farmed salmon from Scotland in a tray between layers of salt to draw the moisture out and add to the final flavour. He was extraordinarily passionate about his work and I suspect he will be a hard man to replace.
Before I left, of course, I had to taste the end result and nicked a few tastes as a fillet was being sliced and packed in the processing room. Unlike many smoked salmon I have tasted, that at The River Farm has a definite tinge of salt. Dan explained that some people found that a little too pronounced, but I have to say, I am a fan and the slight taste complimented the fattiness of the fish perfectly.
From their small on-site shop, I bought a selection of other smoked goodies to try including bacon, chicken and of course more of that salmon. It is well worth ordering some from their website, er so here it is www.riverfarmsmokery.co.uk