Phil Hartshorne - Keeping traditions alive

Nestled behind The White Horse and overlooking the tranquil salt marshes at Brancaster, Staithe Smokehouse uses traditional smoking techniques to bring out the best in flavour and texture…

“I first took up food-smoking as a hobby at home about 16 years ago and it just grew from there. I trained with Simon Letzer, the original owner of the smokehouse, for about 3 months before turning my hobby into a full time career. You need that dedication and passion – I’ve laboured over smoked salmon for sometimes 30 hours.

“I learnt how to control temperature by working with cheese first and then moving onto fish. We salt, wash, then hang the fish, which helps it to absorb the smoke. Hanging helps with the texture which is what sets apart our seafood from supermarket-bought fish. The sea air and weather changes the flavour of the fish, as it draws and pulls air through the smokehouse. It’s an incredible art.

“Today we sell everything from salmon to haddock, mackerel and kippers. We head out to markets too, to sell crab and mussels. Local fishermen, Cyril and Ben Sutherland, deliver directly to our door, so they are fresh as can be.

“The White Horse and other restaurants in the area use my produce in their dishes, so we see many people coming down to purchase ingredients after first having a taste for themselves.

“I love seeing people converted to seafood after trying different cuts of fish. Textures and oil content can vary so much, and I can help advise on what you might like and dislike based on your preferences.

“If you want to learn, come to your small artisan sellers. We can share the story of seafood in Norfolk with you, and give you recommendations on points of interest and places to try other fresh local seafood along the coast road.”

Pop by the Smokehouse to see Phil in person or, if you’re flying by, contact him for a postal order delivered straight to your cottage door. Find out more here.