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Monday, July 6, 2009

Dept. of Roll It and Smoke It

Smoked food, now a luxury, was once a necessity. By curing meat or fish with smoke, our ancestors preserved gluts for lean times. The Sumerians smoked fish as early as 3500BC, and it can’t have escaped the notice of early gourmets that this mode of preservation also imparts flavour. The ancient Greeks and Romans relished smoked food, including cheese and tuna. According to the food scientist Harold McGee, among the tastes supplied by smouldering wood are “spice flavours: vanilla’s vanillin, for example, and clove’s eugenol”. Other aromas in wood smoke are likened to apple, peach, coconut, flowers and sausages.

Applied to foods from beef fillet to bananas, smoking has a near-global appeal. It is an important part of cuisine in Ghana, where smoked shad fish—known as “bonga”—is produced in oil-drum ovens; also in the Baltic, where herrings are hot-smoked (at 82-93ºC) to make buckling. The British preference for cold-smoking (at around 26ºC) achieved its fragrant apogee in the kipper, invented around 1843 in Northumberland. The tradition of smoking split herrings continues in the north-east: since 1872, the town of Whitby, in Yorkshire, has been perfumed with smoke from Fortune’s kipper shed. Much of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, published in 1892 and partially set in Whitby, would have taken place in an atmosphere tinged with kippers. Sadly, the Transylvanian count was not converted from fresh haemoglobin to smoked herring.

link: WAKE UP AND SMELL THE OCTOPUS | More Intelligent Life


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