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Fish For Complements

Versatile and delicious, John Ross Jr.’s traditional Scottish smoked salmon is the Christmas treat for one and all. 

When faced with the annual challenge of delivering special seasonal meals while the fussiest of kids and the pickiest of grandparents are all seated around the same dining tables – who hasn’t reached for the smoked salmon to create dishes guaranteed to please everyone? 

In commercial kitchens and domestic homes alike, smoked salmon has become the way to begin the day at the champagne breakfast, save the starter at Christmas Dinner, and ace the canapes at the evening drinks party. 

With this in mind, it’s fair to say that in recent years smoked salmon has become something of a victim of its own success. Over the decades, a delicacy that was once the preserve of the elite has become a supermarket staple, available for under a fiver yet sadly now devoid of its former luxury and glamour. 

Casting out for quality 

In our modern, convenience-driven world its easy to forget the a world of difference that lies between mass-produced salmon and the finest quality, traditionally smoked fish. 

True smoked salmon is the antithesis of the slimy orange, over-salted offering most often found on high-street shelves, it’s a palate-freshening delicacy forged from meticulously executed processes designed to imbue this majestic fish with layers of subtle, balanced flavour. 

Salmon treated thus way remains a genuine luxury, perfect for the festive season, and with this in mind, Maws are thrilled to source our salmon from one of the highest regarded smokeries in Scotland. 

Supplied by appointment to Her Majesty The Queen, John Ross Jr. ethically source their salmon from the clean, clear waters of the North West Scottish coast before traditionally preparing them in their 19th century smokehouse, where experts employ time-honoured techniques to carefully optimise both the flavour and texture. 

Know the difference 

Affiliating smoked salmon with Scotland has become something of a modern-day marketing tool, an ambiguous inference of superior quality, and sadly this is often used with deliberate levels of commercial cynicism. Many packs of smoked salmon proudly bear the word ‘Scottish’ on the front, yet explain in much smaller print on the back that the fish itself is Norwegian and only smoked in Scotland. 

Although there is nothing substandard about salmon from Norway, the issue lies in how long the fish has taken to arrive in the UK. During this extra time in transit the Norwegian fish will have lost some of its freshness - however the mechanised factories mass-producing smoked salmon are entirely untroubled by this time lag as their machines are only able to cut the salmon several days after being caught, once rigour mortis has subsided.

In Scotland’s smaller, traditional smokeries, where the entire process is still undertaken by hand, fish can be caught fresh and filleted within hours, relying on nothing more than years of expertise and a large sharp knife. 

Unsavoury practice 

In a traditional smoker the next stage is to extract moisture from the salmon by scattering plentiful sea salt over them on trays, this vital part of the curing process reduces the weight of each fish by at least 10%. 

For mass-producers with narrow margins, this loss in volume is unacceptable loss, so it’s at this point they often take the alternative step of increasing the weight of their fish by injecting them with brine. Sugar then has to be added to counteract the excessively salty effect of the brine. 

Worse yet, the factory-produced fish is then given the equivalent of a ‘spray tan’ using liquid smoke - a product made by collecting gases released from smouldering wood and condensing them until they become a fluid. 

Nothing better than the real thing 

Meanwhile John Ross Jr.’s award-winning cold smoked salmon is smoked gently over oak and beech chippings in red brick kilns dating from 1857. Maws offer this exquisite delicacy in classic D-cut fillets, preferred for delivering even flavour and texture through every slice, not to mention the traditional taste of a very merry Christmas.