Traditional Dishes | Arbroath Smokie
The Arbroath Smokie originally came from the small fishing village of Auchmithie, three miles north-east of Arbroath. Local legend has it that a store caught fire one night, destroying barrels of Haddock preserved in salt. The following morning, the people of Auchmithie came to clean up the ruin and found some of the barrels had caught fire, cooking the Haddock inside. Further inspections revealed the Haddock was edible and quite tasty.
In reality, it's much more likely that the villagers at Auchmithie are of Scandinavian descent as the 'Smokie making' process is similar to methods of smoking which are still carried out today in areas of Scandinavia.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the fishing industry in Arbroath was in terminal decline, this prompted Arbroath Town Council to offer the fisherfolk from Auchmithie land in an area of the town known as the fit o' the toon, they also offered the fisherfolk use of the modern harbour, this together with the better prospects on offer in Arbroath saw much of the Auchmithie population relocate to Arbroath, bringing the recipe for the Arbroath Smokie with them. Today, there are around 15 businesses producing Arbroath Smokies in the town, making them widely available through major supermarkets in the UK, and via the internet worldwide.
In 2004 the European Commission registered the designation "Arbroath Smokies" as a Protected Geographical Indication under the EU's Protected Food Name Scheme, acknowledging its unique status.
Arbroath Smokies are prepared using traditional methods dating back to the late 1800s.
The fish are first salted overnight to preserve them, they are then tied in pairs using hemp twine and left overnight to dry. Once the Smokies have been tied and dried, they are hung over a triangular shaped length of wood to. This kiln stick fits in the middle of the pair of Smokies, one fish either side. These kiln sticks are then used to hang the dried fish in a special barrel containing a hardwood fire.
When the fish are hung over the fire, the top of the barrel is covered with a lid and sealed around the edges with wet jute sacks (the water prevents the jute sacks catching fire). All of this serves to create a very hot and humid smoky fire which is devoid of flames. The intense heat and presence of thick smoke is essential if the fish are to be cooked, not burned, and to have the strong smoky taste and smell people expect from Arbroath Smokies. It normally takes less than an hour of smoking, before the fish are ready to eat.