Feasting is our column dedicated to cooking, grilling, eating and discovering what’s on the menu across America and the world.
Just west of mainland Scotland lie the Outer Hebrides, a string of more than 100 small islands that are inhabited by a population of only 26,000 people. There, situated on the Isle of South Uist, you’ll find Salar Smokehouse, which has been producing small batch, premium smoked salmon for 30 years. Heritage, tradition and quality reign supreme at this family-run operation, so we decided to take a look inside the smokehouse doors to see what makes this place truly special.
Salmon farming is a key part of Scotland’s economy and accounts for 40 percent of the country’s food exports. Salar has relationships with the very best producers and only sources their salmon from the most reputable suppliers. They produce an excellent traditional cold smoked salmon that’s massaged with their signature cure then slowly roasted over oak for a minimum of 36 hours. But the real star of Salar is their flaky smoked salmon, which is lightly cured then roasted over wood smoke to produce a dark outer glaze and succulent, flaky texture that’s downright addicting. The smokehouse only employs about six local people, with a handful more joining the team around the holidays, so their smoked salmon is truly a small batch, artisan product.
We connected with Iain MacRury—who purchased the smokehouse in 2015—to learn more about Salar’s signature flaky salmon, the company’s sustainability practices and what’s next for the brand.
First things first, why flaky smoked salmon?
We have a unique recipe—which is produced in top-secret, locally-designed and built kilns—that’s different from every other hot smoked salmon on the market. It retains all of its natural juices and does not dry out, and the salmon is also extremely high in omega 3 oils. There was a strong following of the brand and its products and a need for this leading superior quality salmon to remain available to our loyal customers, some of which have been purchasing it for 30 years.
In 2008, a company that produces farmed salmon purchased Salar, and you bought it in 2015 with plans to relaunch the brand with a back-to-basics approach. What did you change about the company when you took the helm?
We went back to the recipe and brand that had been so successful for the original owner, which was a key decision that was important to our customers. It is now a family run business once again with the owners at the heart of every process, who add the love that our products deserve. Each portion has that personal touch, and once again it is a household name. We now have five family members involved in the process.
How do you source your salmon? Does sustainability play a part in your decisions?
Our salmon is sourced from Scottish farmed salmon producers, and we will only source fish reared in the fresh clean waters off the west coast of Scotland. We only buy superior fillets and our three main suppliers provide the best quality.
You’re dedicated to experimenting with new types of products. Is there a project you’ve been working on lately that you’re particularly excited about?
Currently, we are developing a new smoked scallop range using traditional methods. We’re testing various wood chips for a sweet yet smoky depth of flavour, and it’s something we hope to launch in the next couple of months. We are also looking at producing Haddock smokies (whole smoked haddock) with our own unique recipe.
You have some fantastic recipes that utilize the Salar’s smoked salmon. What are some of your favorite ways to enjoy your product?
The only way, in my mind, to enjoy the product is as is—no frills—with just a simple dressed salad and wonderful flaky smoked salmon, perhaps with a little brown bread to complement it.
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