I’ll admit, it may seem a little… unorthodox, to send a vegetarian to meet with a smokehouse.
To most, a smokehouse evokes thoughts of juicy pork or tender smoked salmon; but what about rich and smoky humous, fire-roasted Baba Ganoush, or even vegan caviar?
Stroud Smokehouse is ran by Ian Jones, who fell in love with food smoking during his time as chef. He had trained in London, before a career at multiple esteemed establishments in Bristol, but 4 years ago he moved to Stroud and decided to stop being a chef to spend more time with his young children. So, he took his passion for smoked food and started Stroud Smokehouse!
Stroud Smokehouse has quickly become the talk of the town markets, appearing with their produce at Gloucester Farmers Market on Fridays and Stroud on Saturdays. They have built up a great following for their range, going on to be voted into the Top 10 Producers in 2018, so Ian invited us along to the stall to sample some of their fantastic produce for ourselves!
A lot of English smoked food is traditionally made using oak wood, which gives a classic deep flavour, but Ian believes that there could be something more interesting to use. The mantra for Stroud Smokehouse is smoking the produce with complimentary wood, suiting the product and not just for ease of use.
He works closely with his wood supplier to source interesting woods that work with his produce. Olive wood is used for the smoked olives, maple wood used for some items to give a natural sweetness, orange and lemon wood to help cut through the flavours.
Their range of products is continuously evolving and changing; for example, their classic Ham Hock Terrine, which is tweaked for each season – apricots and Leeks feature in the summer months, but smoked wild mushrooms give their Autumn addition that seasonal Autumnal earthy taste.
The Smoked Humous was incredible. As a lover of humous anyway, I was super excited to get my hands on a tub of this. The depth of smoky flavour took it to another level, and much as it shames me to admit… I finished it all in one sitting. It would be great with a BBQ, but just as good simply served with pitta and carrots in front of the TV (tried and trusted).
The smoked olives would make a seriously great accompaniment to any cheese board or charcuterie platter, as would the delectable Vegan “Caviar” - made from mustard seeds that are pickled in a mix of smoked vinegar, sugar and salt.
There are plenty of other veggie options in the Smokehouse range, including the classic Smoked Garlic, and lots of great ingredients and accompaniments – from Smoked Harissa Paste, to Chilli Oil that uses 7 types of fresh, double-smoked chilli (with herbs, onion and garlic); as well as a deeply rich Baba Ganoush, made using aubergines that Ian literally sets on fire for a truly unique smoky taste and aroma… think Game of Thrones without the murder.
Obviously, vegetarian options aside, smoked meat and fish are a key part of any smokehouse’s repertoire. So, I called in the only people qualified to help me try some of the meat options - Izaac and his friends.
According to The Boys™, the Molasses Cured Salmon had a subtle sweetness and depth created by both the cure and the maple & hickory wood smoke, whilst managing to retain fresh salmon flavours due to the cold smoking technique. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there were deeply rich and smoky Miso Cured Pork Cheeks, that stay incredibly soft and delicate after roasting, but pack a big punch flavour-wise.
The biggest hit was the Smoked Pork Belly. Made with local meat and smoked for 8 hours over juniper wood – you can serve it straight from the packet, but is best roasted in the oven until crispy (Izaac thinks this would be great sliced and served on top of ramen!)
If you like smoked food, or just want to learn more about smoked food, you owe it to yourself to visit the stall - there are even smoked chocolate truffles!
At the end of the day: Support local. Support farmers (and their markets). Support Smoked Food!