In the UK our taste for smoked food tends to differ from that in the US. Across the pond they go in for smoking in a BIG way! It is serious business over there. Guys turn up with what look like Stevensons Rocket on the back of a trailer, armed with huge joints of meat, racks of ribs, whole pigs and more. They have their secret recipes for brines and rubs and they are all there for – a BBQ competition.
In the states they look at you as though you are mad if you talk about BBQing over charcoal. BBQing over there is nearly always what we would call smoking. Food is cooked over woods – such as hickory and mesquite; covered with rich sweet and tangy sauces and cooked long and slow at a low temperature. Strong smokey flavours and aromas, often salty and nearly always sweet. – Delicious!
Here on our side of the pond we tend to go for a milder smoke and slightly more subtle flavours. We tend to use less salt, use more brines and less rubs; brine our food for less time and cook it for a shorter time – particularly in England.
Scotland is slightly different again – with a number of artisan smokehouses still smoking over peat. This produces darker food with a much stronger and more distinctive taste. Peat smoked food can be an acquired taste but once into it – nothing else will do!
When we ran The Old Smokehouse we would send our smoked salmon down to Fortnum and Masons and some people in London may have found it a bit on the smokey side. Send the same salmon up to House of Bruar in Scotland and I expect they may have found it quite mild.
The great thing about smoking your own food at home is that you can create it to your exact requirements. Create your own recipe brines, experiment with brining strengths and brining times; and then cold and hot smoke to your own taste. This guarantees that whatever you smoke will be as good as – if not better – than anything you will buy in a shop.