The skill is in the process, says Calais smoked fish specialist

The skill is in the process, says Calais smoked fish specialist Salmon fillets are allowed to rest after hand salting

Calais producer Fournier Fils is one of the longest-established smoked fish producers in a region where smoking fish has a long tradition. This year the company is introducing new products, including a unique beer-marinaded smoked salmon, produced using a local Calais brew.

The Grizzly Beard smoked salmon is just one of its latest products, and although the list of ingredients is very short, the skill lies in the production of the company’s mainly cold-smoked products.

“The ingredients are salt and beer, then it’s hung on a length of twine and cold smoked. It’s made using Scottish salmon, and the Grizzly Beard is a locally-brewed Calais beer,” Fournier Fils’ Virginie Dupuis said. “It’s all in the process. The taste is distinct with a traditionally smoked product that has been slowly marinaded in brine, stronger and softer, and then smoked over beechwood, which is a very skilled process to get the best results. So we’ll be taking the opportunity to have our traditionally smoked herring and the Grizzly Beard salmon on display at Brussels this year.”

Still in the ownership of the same family that started the business, the company has a more than a century of heritage and expertise behind it and today Fournier Fils is able to use the prestigious Label Rouge that is a testament to the high quality of its production. Although its origins are as a small affair producing herring, the variety of products grew and continues to grow as it handles herring, haddock, saithe, cod, halibut, salmon and a few other specialist products.

“We also smoke some shark, imported from the USA, but there is a fairly limited demand for this, and we produce smoked eel, sourced from Holland. Today we have a staff of 25, of whom four are based at our shipping department in Boulogne, and we produce a thousand tonnes a year, a large volume for a family company like this one,” she said.

“We have a very wide range of products. Most of our production begins with frozen fish, mainly from the north Atlantic, that we by in from importers in Boulogne, and we sell to the whole of France,” she said. “Smoked salmon is in demand everywhere, but smoked halibut is something that is specific to northern France. Then we also have a summer range, but the summer is quieter for us as smoked fish is traditionally a winter dish. We produce smoked haddock, both with the dye that gives it the familiar yellow colour, but the trend is increasingly for white smoked haddock without the colour.”
“We haven’t exported a great deal,” she added. “We work with a company in Israel, but supply them here in France. We are looking at Italy and we have a lot of contacts in Belgium and we used to supply buyers there in the past.”

Fournier Fils has seen its markets change, and Virginie Dupuis said that they are increasingly supplying supermarkets with pre-packed goods for the self-service market.

“People are looking for more for food items that can go straight onto a plate. So the demand for pre-packed slices and small bites is growing.”

A further change in the market is that hypermarkets are looking to smoke fish on site, so Fournier Fils has met this by supplying a range of marinaded fish products that are ready to smoke, complete with the spiced required to go with each product.

“This is herring, mackerel and halibut, as well as some salmon. They smoke this in-store and sell it over their fish counters as their own smoked fish.”

As well as the changing demand for products, consumers are also increasingly looking for responsibly sourced and labelled products, and Fournier Fils has responded to the demand for more MSC certified products, and also sources its beech wood and sawdust from sustainably managed forests in Germany.

“We produce skin-packed products, made using organically produced spices, and this is what the customers are asking for. Organic and transparent production are important. We take our corporate social responsibilities seriously. All of our packaging is recyclable now, and we even use food-grade inks for labelling.”

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