This Christmas why not try to source as much of your food and drink as possible from the UK? You can buy top quality British trout from supermarkets and online which supports our rural economies. British trout is in plentiful supply and it’s one of the healthiest and most sustainable fish you can buy so a win-win.
Smoked trout in particular is a festive favourite. Serve on blinis as a canape or with a lemony sauce for a light starter; it also makes a luxurious breakfast on Christmas or Boxing Day morning. A pack of British smoked trout would also make a thoughtful gift for a foodie friend.
We caught up with artisan producer Charles Meyrick of Charlie’s Trout Ltd and Charlie’ Smokehouse in Petworth, Sussex to find out what makes their smoked trout so special.
How did you get into smoking trout, Charlie?
I worked in the City for many years, and was keen to breakaway and find a career in the countryside where I was born and raised. I joined a start up company supplying fresh trout to the catering trade and left after a year to chase my own dream.
Where are you based and where do you source your trout from?
I have an office and a small unit just outside Petworth in West Sussex, it acts as a useful stepping stone from my smokehouse in Wiltshire to the London markets. We have been working with Trafalgar Fisheries on the Longford Estate in Wiltshire for the past 5 years. With the chalk waters of the Wiltshire Avon running through the heart of the estate they are in the perfect position to rear the most exceptional rainbow trout which they have been doing since the 1970’s.
How do you smoke your trout – what techniques?
The short answer to that question is that we take our time. The fish are prepared at Charlie’s Smokehouse which I set up earlier this year, we have our own skilled filleters so everything is done by hand. The fish are salted and put onto racks and wheeled into one of two traditional kilns. We use a mix of beech and oak for the smoking process which typically takes around 12 hours. Once the smoking process is complete and the fish have been through the blast chiller they are left to sit on racks in the chiller for 48 hours, this allows for the salt to penetrate evenly through the whole fillet, which allows for a consistently in taste from the top slice to the bottom.
What makes your smoked trout so special?
To end up with the best product you have to start with the fish, we avoid the temptation to chase high yields by growing the fish too large which results in prominent fat lines in smoked fish. We use a fish of 2.2 -2.5kgs which we find is the optimum size. We only use fresh fish and with the smokery located less than 2 miles from the smokehouse we are able to harvest fish as and when we need them. We have resisted the temptation to churn out tonnes of smoked fish for the mass market and prefer to work with the very best suppliers and supply our products into the top end of the market where quality is paramount.
Do you supply any chefs/restaurants?
We supply a number of chefs and restaurants, we have recently started working with Kenny Tutt who won Masterchef and is a great advocate of high quality fish products.
“Charlie’s trout is a prime example of a local producer that invests time, love and years of expertise to make something that has bags of quality. I was instantly impressed with the bright, clean tasting firm flesh and delicate oily smokiness of this fish. It really is a beautiful, delicious product.”
Kenny Tutt – Masterchef winner 2018
Has Charlie’s Trout achieved any foodie awards?
We have won a number of Great Taste awards for both our cold smoked trout and our handmade trout pate.
What smoked trout recipe do you recommend for Christmas?
Keep it simple, the wonderful texture and delicate taste of our smoked trout requires few additions. Blinis always prove popular with a few trout caviar eggs on the top.
Do you sell Christmas gift packs? And what is the latest you will take orders?
Yes we do, pairing our smoked trout with Ambriel, one of England’s premier producers of Sparkling Wine has always proved to be a very popular present at Christmas, the pate is also a surefire winner! We also produce a very popular line of trout fishcakes which always prove popular when you’ve tired of turkey. With the farm just down the road we will be smoking and packing right up until the courier companies turn the lights off but I would recommend getting orders in early this year as I fear that the supply and logistical problems the country is experiencing at the moment may well be exacerbated in December.
Where can you buy Charlie’s Trout?
We work with a number of farm shops, delicatessens and independent retailers but the easiest way is online at www.charliessmokehouse.co.uk