The old smokehouse

by admin on 04/06/2014


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Being a rather new company, The old smokehouse (Det gamle røgeri), was founded in 2012, I first got to know about this back-to-the-roots-company at a food and wine fair in Oslo. Having tasted their delicious servings of meat and fish, they agreed to an interview at their premises.

Their philosophy is to preserve food as our ancestors did, doing everything manually and spending whatever time is required in order to obtain food of the utmost quality using only naturally occurring preservatives and taking no shortcuts. This is obtained by using the following ancient techniques:

Brining – meat or poultry is soaked in brine where the salt in the brine enters the food leading to that bacteria are killed.

Fermenting – a preservation method which was probably discovered because the cost of salt was high in the past. It is used for conserving fish by turning it acid, preventing the formation of bacteria. A recent discovery in Sweden of 9000-year old fish bones provides earliest evidence of fermentation for food preservation anywhere in the world.

Lye – used to make a dish called lutefisk by preventing bacteria from growing.

Marination – meat is laid in a bath containing e.g. vinegar. The acid will break down the tissue, allowing more moisture to be absorbed and resulting in a juicier end product.

Salting – the food to be conserved is lain in dry salt for a certain time.

Smoking – the food to be preserved is hung up in a chamber into which smoke from burning wood chips is allowed to enter, covering the surface of the food with a thin layer, making it more difficult for bacteria to enter.

Anyway, the philosophy of this company is not only to preserve food, but to improve it. That is, to improve, in particular, the consistency of the food, but also its taste. This has been proved time and again when they have attended food fairs and children, who tend to be very fastidious with food, can’t get enough of their products. Besides, I was told that their methods are able to “sweat out” any unwanted substances resulting from what domestic animals have been fed.

Their main activity consists of buying high quality fish and meat and preserving it with the methods described above. For instance, they buy whale meat and turn it into a delicacy, a big, but pleasant surprise for those who have bad experiences from poorly prepared whale meat.

They also make bacon with lots of fat like our ancestors used to eat. Odd-Kåre Aalberg, a man with more than 25 years experience with preserving food, showed me a pig’s head from Fjellgris, a company with which they are cooperating, and pork lying in brine taken from another pig’s head.

In fact, fish, crustaceans, meat, fowl, game, and whale are preserved here, using the methods described above, but always adapting them to the product being preserved. Hunters and fishermen are welcome to bring their quarry to this company where they can discuss with Odd-Kåre how to obtain the best result.

Restaurants, catering firms, and other companies working with food can cooperate with Odd-Kåre, using their own recipes in order to make their own products. In fact, he told me that he wants to cooperate with cooks who intend to make their own, special dishes.

This work requires, of course, a trained craftsman who knows how to handle food. However, I got the impression that those craftsmen are available, but it also requires someone who knows when the food is ready, requiring a combination of sight, smell, taste, and feel. Besides, this work also requires someone who is willing to work when it is required, which can mean working both early and late, and working when almost everyone else is having a day off. The last requirement makes the search for someone to make this company go on producing their excellent products quite difficult. Having resurrected tried and true techniques, it would be a real pity if they shouldn’t succeed.


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