Food often evokes memories of family celebrations and none more so than Smoked Scottish Salmon
Growing up it was always served as part of our family and community gatherings, whether on bagels or mini bridge rolls (with or without cream cheese) alongside such delicacies as chopped herring and egg salad. It was a symbol that effort had been put into preparing something luxurious for everyone to enjoy
Today, Smoked Salmon (whether Scottish or other origin) has become a staple on the brunch menus of diners, cafes and restaurants in New York, London and beyond and is very easy to find in supermarkets
However, not all Smoked Salmon is born equal
The fact it has become such a common product means the art of creating a high quality, hand made, naturally preserved product has become lost, as mass production in large scale factory processes with artificial enhancements and additives have been introduced in the race to supply it to the expanding marketplace
In search of the origins of Smoked Salmon, we recently had the opportunity to visit H Forman & Son to meet with Lance Forman, the head of this famous London based Smoked Salmon dynasty. Early one overcast London morning, we arrived at his family’s modern factory on the rather aptly named ‘Fish Island’ which boasts fantastic views of the 2012 Olympic Stadium and skyline
Lance is the 4th generation of his family business, which is now the only company preparing the style of smoked Salmon known as the ‘London Cure’ in East London In recognition of it’s uniqueness of production and region, in July 2017, H Forman & Son became the first London food company to be awarded European PGI (Protected status of Origin) for their London Cure Smoked Salmon. This is the same status as that held by luxury products like Champagne
According to Lance, the original business was set up by his great grandfather, Harry, in Stepney, East London in 1905 to provide traditional preserved salmon to Jewish refugees who had fled the pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th Century
At first, Harry followed the original Jewish method of preserving salmon by salting it and transporting it in wooden barrels shipped from the Baltic but then he made a discovery in Billingsgate Fish Market that would change everything. What he found was a fantastic quality salmon from a source much closer to home, i.e. Scotland. The taste was far superior to the imported salmon and the famous London cure Scottish Smoked salmon was born. The new product’s popularity grew and eventually led to Smoked Salmon becoming the global hit we are familiar with today
Lance takes great pride in his family tradition of producing the finest Smoked Scottish salmon and he gave us a fascinating explanation of the London cure process, as he took us on a tour of his factory:
The first step in the process involves the fish being inspected. It is then cut in half and nicks are expertly cut to help draw out the moisture as part of the dry curing process. The sides are then laid on a bed of rock salt for a set period of time. They are then skewered and roped up to hang in the kiln for the cold smoking process.
Lance showed us the whole oak logs that are friction burned with accurate precision ensuring a consistently high quality method of providing smoke. Lance explained that other brands of ‘heavily smoked salmon’ are often brine injected and use the smoking process to mask the inferior quality of the salmon used. At H Forman & Son, the London cure and mild smoke just enhances the delicate taste and texture of the fish. Once cold smoking is finished the team remove the pin bones and expertly carve the product ready for packing
None of the fish goes to waste. ‘Off cuts’ are used to make pâté and the more heavily smoked outer layer or pellicle is used to make smoked salmon jerky
Whilst on site, we had the opportunity to watch a team of chefs at work at Forman & Field (the sister business) make a huge range of fish, seafood and meat premium foods and prepared dishes, perfect for entertaining and supplying food service, retail and online. These included a diverse range from pates and terrines to salmon coulibiac, dressed lobster and specialty cheeses to Beef Wellington
At the conclusion of our tour, Lance laid on a fantastic platter to showcase Formans wide range of cured salmon product. We tasted the Grade 1 standard Smoked Salmon product, wild Smoked Salmon (sourced by rod and line fishing from just one river in Scotland), gin & tonic cured salmon, gravadlax with dill, the royal filet ‘sashimi cut’ and last but not least, some salmon jerky. Our taste2taste favorite was the wild Smoked Salmon with its subtle flavor and amazing velvety texture that just ‘melted in the mouth’- simply delicious. Perhaps a tad expensive but we think well worth every penny!
The superb Smoked Salmon we sampled are all available online from the Forman & Field website (http://www.formanandfield.com) and in store at good supermarkets in the UK. The London cure smoked salmon is also available for online order in the USA at http://www.formansusa.com/ and for the information of our Jewish readers worldwide, it is a Kosher product, under the supervision of the London Beth Din
We had a great time meeting Lance and hearing about his family heritage of quality Smoked Salmon curing in East London and cannot wait to sample more of that wonderful London Cure at our future family and community celebrations as well as for brunch both in London and New York!