This article appeared recently in The Cumberland News – written by Sarah Newstead, we think it really captures the spirit of Smoky Jo’s! The text is underneath, if it’s a bit scratchy to read in the picture.
Blink and you’d miss the
turning for the Shap
base of Smoky Jo’s.
Buried deep in the Cumbrian
Perkins and Jo Hampson operate
their acclaimed smoked food
courses from an H E Bates style
setting, complete with hens
scratching in the yard and cats
stretching in the sun.
Both former police officers in
the Thames Valley area, the move
to this bucolic spot amid the
Cumbrian fells in 2001 was a
radical change in direction.
Jo says: “Georgina was a
Detective Inspector in homicide
and I was a Chief Superintendent
area commander. On a whim,
Georgina asked me if I knew the
smokehouse in Penrith was up for
sale. We bought it and that was
The pair knew little about
artisan food and even less about
“Having been shift workers, our
food knowledge wasn’t Fortnum
and Mason,” laughs Georgina. “It
was more kebabs and canteens.”
Dry, witty and seemingly
delightfully kamikaze in their
approach, Jo and Georgina are
good company. You get the
impression they’d give anything a
bash, and if it didn’t work, they’d
chalk it up and move onto the next
challenge. It’s refreshing in a time
of general prudence and
Though it’s all underpinned by
sharp business acumen – after
buying the Old Smokehouse, a
crash course in smoking, a lot of
experimenting and a firm
commitment to the slow food
principle, Georgina and Jo
increased its turnover by around
350 per cent in under three years.
They were supplying the likes of
Fortnum and Mason, Harvey
Nichols and the Prince of Wales.
“I knew how to run a business,”
says Jo. “I’d had £12m to run the
police force. We didn’t take any
shortcuts and everything was done
how it should be done if you are
smoking in an artisan way. No
injecting brine, or artificial smoke.
We did it right.”
An increased public interest in
artisan foods and a deli revolution
helped the business along.
Georgina says: “Most people
knew about smoked salmon and
smoky bacon crisps. Well, I’m
exaggerating, but now people know
more about smoked foods.”
In 2004, the pair were made an
offer they “couldn’t refuse” and
sold the Old Smokehouse.
Several years passed. But then
the smoking bug bit again.
Jo says: “I was cleaning out my
filing cabinet and I had police
papers in there that were
confidential. I didn’t have a
shredder and I thought I’d just
have a bonfire. I just thought to
myself ‘ well if I have a bonfire in
the bottom drawer of the filing
cabinet, I can put a side of salmon
in the top drawer and smoke it’.
That’s how it started.”
Georgina adds: “Yes, well, we’d
also run out of smoked duck!”
Smoky Jo’s smoking courses
were set up in 2008, initially
welcoming guests to their Shap
home and smoking in the barns.
There’s very little that can’t be
smoked. “We’ve been wildly
experimental,” says Georgina.
“This year it’s all about fruit and
vegetables,” adds Jo. “We’ve
smoked minced Quorn for tacos.
We do mushrooms, eggs, olives.
We’ve smoked bananas then
barbequed them with brown sugar
“Oranges were interesting…”
After a couple of years, Jo and
Georgina struck up a partnership
with the Wild Boar at Crook, near
Windermere. It’s here that they
hold their courses now, teaching
people to build their own smokers
and use hot and cold smoking
methods for a host of foods. It all
culminates in a grand feast of
smoked treats too.
“The Wild Boar had their own
smokehouse,” explains Georgina.
“It’s a boost for them in the quieter
months and draws people in offseason.
And we don’t have to do
the washing up!”
There’s also a commitment to
sourcing local foods including fish
from Kirkby Stephen trout farm,
Bessie Beck, for their courses.
They must be doing something
right at Smoky Jo’s – their courses
were recently named one of the top
nine best weekend courses in
Europe by Lonely Planet, featured
as one of the top 10 food courses in
the UK by The Telegraph and as
one of the top 10 days out for men
by The Times.
Before I leave, Jo shows me round
the barns where the pair have
taught people on their courses to
smoke food using hardwood. Jo
shows me a huge sack of shavings.
“These are Cumbrian Oak,” she
says. “You’ll like this – the wood
they came from was used to make
new dining room tables for
She fondly pats a tallboy she
picked up at Penrith Auction.
“That’s my new half smoker,” she
says. Then I’m introduced to
Frederick III. It’s a blackened filing
cabinet where fires are lit in the
bottom and salmon is smoked in
the top drawer. But there’s a
Frederick IV waiting in the wings
for the demise of its predecessor –
filing cabinet smokers don’t last
forever. There’s also various other
contraptions scattered about, all
with their own roles in the battery
of smoking equipment lurking in
the Smoky Jo’s barns. A quick
peek at their Facebook site reveals
photos of the own homemade
smoking machines people from
past courses have made and
proudly emailed in.
Though there’s no need to get
too technical about it. “You can
smoke in a cardboard box, if you
have a biscuit tin creating a bit of
heat and can pipe the smoke into
it,” assures Jo.
Smoky Jo’s shares three recipes
with Me readers using smoked
food for BBQ days. You can smoke
your own produce to use in the
recipes, but many delis now offer
Georgina says: “Smoked food on
the BBQ is a great alternative and
offers a range of different flavours.
For a quick smoky flavour you can
use commercially available wood
chips which work best if you have
a BBQ with a lid.
“Real smoked food takes a little
longer – almost any meat or fish
can be brined and cold smoked and
then char grilled on the BBQ. High
quality sausages are wonderful
“Previously smoked food can be
reheated on a BBQ – but care must
be taken not to dry it out. The best
way of avoiding this is by putting it
in a foil parcel with a little wine to
keep it moist.
“If you like steak on your BBQ it
is always worth lightly salting both
sides first for 10 minutes or so.
Adding smoked paprika to the
sprinkling of salt enhances the
natural flavours of the beef and
introduces a subtle smokiness.”
BBQ Kebabs – Pork
and Smoked Peppers
Ingredients: Pork fillet, smoked
pepper, onion, cherry tomatoes,
green leaf salad.
For the marinade – honey, mustard
powder, white wine, soy sauce
Method: Marinade pork fillet in the
honey, mustard, white wine and soy
sauce and put in a fridge overnight.
Then cut it into 2cm square chunks.
Cut smoked peppers into 2cm
pieces. Cut onions into pieces too.
Thread alternatively onto skewers
and char grill on BBQ.
Serve with green leaf salad tossed
in fruit vinaigrette. You can also add
smoked mushrooms to the kebabs for
another flavour dimension.
Ingredients: One chicken fillet per
person, smoked sausage, apricots
Method: Slice the chicken fillets to
make envelopes. Stuff with very thin
slices of smoked sausage and
apricot slices. Secure the sides with
cocktail sticks to prevent opening.
Char grill on BBQ ensuring the
chicken is cooked right through.
Serve with apricot and ginger
Smoked Garlic Bread
Method: Hot smoked garlic is
delicious squeezed out of the skin
and spread onto fresh crusty bread,
then drizzled with olive oil. Wrap in
tin foil and warm on the BBQ.
Alternatively, cold smoked garlic
makes a wonderful bruschetta. Using
a very hot grill or griddle, toast the
bread about a minute each side, rub
in smoked garlic, drizzle with olive oil
and add chopped tomato, seasoning
■ For more information about
one day and weekend smoking
courses visit www.smokyjos.co.uk