Photo by foodistablog/Flickr CC
We've been buying salmon from the folks at Stonington for many years now, and it's a fish I can highly recommend from almost every angle.
Stonington Seafood is, not surprisingly, located in the town of the same name, about half way up the Maine coast, almost due south of Bangor. Like so many of our suppliers, they're very committed to their community and have done some great things for their town. The mission of the company and its vision is centered around creating good, year-round jobs with benefits and helping revitalize the fish business in Stonington, where the economy hasn't exactly been great the last few decades. Their generosity has been attested to by the steady flow of folks from Maine who pass through Ann Arbor.
No smoked fish is ever any better than the fresh fish from which it starts.
Richard Penfold, the man who started the firm, loves his fish. Lynn Jebbia, who works for Stonington, said, "We call him a 'fish head'...He just gets so excited about fish." In terms of smoking, Richard, who is British by birth, learned from a lot of the old smoke masters in the Shetlands and really studied the traditional smoking techniques. Stonington is still very much small-scale salmon smoking. While so many of the name brands in smoked fish have been bought out by big companies, Stonington is still really small.
No smoked fish is ever any better than the fresh fish from which it starts. The Stonington salmon is farmed in the Bay of Fundy off Grand Manan Island. Most farmed salmon comes from warmer waters further south which means that the fish aren't as hearty and don't have to swim as hard (generally meaning that the flavor isn't as big and that the texture of the fish can be a bit mushier.)
In terms of the cure and the smoke, the Stonington folks have agreed to make this particular recipe just for us--freshly filleted salmon sides are rubbed with sea salt and then a bunch of Demerara sugar. Smoking--primarily over hickory but they also use a bit of cherry wood as well--goes for about 15 to 18 hours in a custom-built (in Scotland) kiln.