When I discovered Oven Head Salmon Smokers in Bethel on the Passamaquoddy Bay in New Brunswick, I was over the moon happy. This is a small but hugely successful mom and pop operation owned by Debbie and Joseph Thorn. As I’m nuts about cold smoked salmon (as opposed to hot smoked salmon), the moment I had a taste all I could do was gush, grin and ask for more.
Hot vs. cold smoked salmon
In case you are wondering, the difference between cold and hot smoked salmon is mainly the length of time for the smoking process and the amount of heat that’s involved. Cold smoked salmon is really cured rather than cooked as the temperature in the oven never goes above 20 C.
After about 36-40 hours in the smoke ovens, the result is a salmon that looks raw but can be thinly sliced and melts in your mouth.
In contrast, hot smoked salmon uses a higher temperature (more like baking the fish), takes much less time and the result is drier and flaky; still yummy, but cold smoked is simply exquisite—when done by a master smoker.
The Magic of Maple Chips
Joseph uses high quality maple sawdust/chips for the smoking process. But it’s important that the chips never catch on fire so it has to be dampened down at the right time and chips added at the right time. This means that he doesn’t get much sleep for those 40-hour smoking sessions.
Debbie also has her own forté. She’s created a salmon pâté that is winning rave reviews. She’s also perfected their salmon jerky recipe which is marinated in a special Teriyaki sauce before the fish is smoked and dehydrated. But that’s not all.
The Kosher Challenge…and Success
The actual certification process was rigorous, but they pulled it off. A rabbi now visits on a regular basis and all their products are certified kosher.
The biggest challenge is to keep up with the demand. By the way, you don’t have to travel as I did to enjoy these salmon delicacies; mail order is a big part of their business.
PS: Remember to send long your own favourite smoked salmon recipes. Some day I may do a Life As A Human cookbook!
Oven Head’s Smoked Salmon Pâté
In food processor, puree:
1 small onion or chives
½ lb. smoked Atlantic salmon
8 oz. cream cheese
2 tsp. horseradish
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
¼ C Miracle Whip
few sprigs of parsley
Blend together on high speed until mixed well.
Oven Head’s No-Crust Smoked Salmon Quiche
4 eggs, beaten
½ C melted butter
½ C buttermilk baking mix
1 ½ C milk
½ C sharp cheddar cheese, grated
½ C Swiss cheese, grated
¾ C smoked salmon flaked or chopped
Beat the eggs, butter, baking mix and milk together with a wire whisk. Butter a large pie pan or quiche pan. Pour in the egg mixture. Dot the mixture with the cheese and salmon, pressing into the egg mixture if necessary to submerge the cheese and salmon. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
Quick Salmon Appetizers
Cut some pumpernickel bread into small squares. Spread cream cheese. Put slices of smoked salmon over the cheese then top with fresh dill or with capers and thin slices of sweet onion.
Sandra’s Smoked Salmon Pasta Supreme
Make a medium white sauce with herbs. Method: Melt 4 tbsp. of butter, add 4 tbsp. of flour and mix well for a couple of minutes. Then add 2 C of milk and whisk until thickened. Add some salt, pepper and a handful of fresh herbs like chopped dill or oregano. Keep warm until ready to use it.
Cook enough pasta for four people. When pasta is ready, drain, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and mix. Then add 6-8 oz. of smoked salmon (sliced in ½ inch strips) along with a small Spanish onion thinly sliced. Toss. Add the white sauce and toss again.
“Joseph Thorn removes smoked salmon from the ovens” © Sandra Phinney
“Maple wood chips/sawdust used to smoke the salmon” © Sandra Phinney
“Appetizer made with smoked salmon” © Sandra Phinney