North Coast Smokehouse Salt and Pepper
Smoke is pretty important to us here in Campfire Kitchen, and when we heard about North Coast Smokehouse, a local company using smoke to add more depth and flavour to some pretty basic ingredients, we thought we should go investigate. I recently saw this blog post by Indie Fude, an artisan food shop in Comber and it drew my attention to a company based in Ballycastle. North Coast Smokehouse is a very exciting enterprise that I had to check out.
I sent a few emails and checked the weather forecasts. It was all set for this weekend, we would hopefully get to check out this Smokehouse in Ballycastle and then have a swim and a BBQ on the beach.
Myself and three friends hit the road early, Ballycastle was around an hour’s drive away but we were taking the scenic, coastal route. Primarily, to avoid traffic heading to the motorbike races (the North West 200 was this weekend) but also because it’s a much more enjoyable drive.
When we reached Ballycastle, our first stop was McKay’s Family Butchers, a well-stocked shop which I had heard sold North Coast Smokehouse products. Right enough, the first thing I saw when I walked in, in pride of place on top of the cabinets, were these little test tubes of salt, pepper and dulse. The latter being a dried seaweed eaten in Ireland as a salty snack or used as seasoning. I opted for a tube each of the North Coast Salt and Pepper. I had a recipe planned for these. We had prearranged with Ruairidh to visit his premises this morning and I managed to get him on the phone when I was leaving McKay’s. He would see us at the smokehouse in 10 minutes.
Ruairidh, originally from Scotland, learned his trade working in salmon farms in Scotland and New Zealand. He moved to Ballycastle a few years ago to raise his family there and to set up his own business. Ruairidh was so kind with his time, he showed us around his tiny little smokehouse, answered all our questions and talked us through his processes. I originally came asking questions about the smoked salt and pepper, but the hot smoked salmon sounded incredible. I had to try some!
Ruairidh smokes his condiments using beechwood, he explained that there was no set rule for how long, that he leaves it going overnight and gauges by colour when it’s done. He has two medium sized smokers that he uses for cold smoking. He lit up one of them using a small blowtorch thing and an aquarium pump. Smoke started filling the box which had some salt on the go inside. It was all so interesting to watch and it smelt great!
As well as a big bag of beech woodchips, there was also another bag of apple woodchips and a smaller mystery bag. The apple woodchips, Ruairidh explained were going to be used to cold smoke some cheese (amazing). The mystery bag though was actually shredded Bushmills Whiskey barrels. Ruairidh attends a whiskey festival at the distillery and produces special Bushmills Whiskey hot smoked salmon for the occasion! Now that is a date for the calendar.
I honestly couldn’t get over how nice Ruairidh was in showing us around his workspace. It’s incredible what people are doing with food in Ireland and they always seem to do it so humbly. Ruairidh’s commitment to local ingredients also shone through, using salmon from Glenarm, the Bushmills Whiskey barrels, for example.
When I got my hands on this salt and pepper, I couldn’t think of any better way to show it off than with a thick cut Pepper Crusted Sirloin Steak cooked on the BBQ.