The creation of Andrew’s Smokehouse is your quintessential lockdown success story. With little else besides passion, some extra time, and a bit of DIY know-how, Andrew Woodhouse turned his love of fish – alongside a firm belief in quality product – into a flourishing business.
A chance meeting with Heimat head honcho Christian led to a friendship based on a shared appreciation for well-made things. We recently caught up with Andrew to ask him a few questions about his work.
By Nathan Sharp
Like a lot of people, I first started fly fishing alongside my dad as a youngster. Quickly though, my own enthusiasm (and free time) eclipsed his, and I was obsessed. The adrenaline that courses through you as you approach wary and skittish trout, trying to drop a fly on the water over their noses is an amazing feeling. There’s a complexity to it as well. You need to not only be skilled in casting a fly rod – something that takes a while to perfect – but you also need to be able to choose the imitation fly based on a plethora of factors including time of year, type of water (river or lake), observable insect hatches, and
fish behaviour. As the saying goes – you’ve got to match the hatch!
Yes. I often describe it this way to the uninitiated. Processing all of the information around you while remaining stealthy and alert to the splosh of a feeding trout, or the flash of its jaws under the surface, means your mind is totally occupied all of the time. But in reality, this is almost all subconscious thinking, and really you are thinking about nothing at all, you are just focussed. Sort of like meditating, I think – taking yourself away from any external
thoughts and worries, and perhaps, in between casts, realising none of them matter that much.
Through trial and error of different fish species, curing ingredients, types of wood to derive smoke from, and the length of each stage of the process, I have arrived at a beautiful product that I can be thoroughly proud of.
The difference in method is like a lot of good things really. On a small scale you can pay the necessary time to the fish to reach a proper end product that has depth not only of flavour, but of provenance and the care that has gone in. Mass production was inevitable with something as popular as smoked trout and salmon, but the reality is fish fillets injected with water (like cheap bacon) and sprayed with smoke flavouring out of a can. Don’t buy it! Some artisanal scale smokers – all of whom started like me – have been tempted to use machine-based smokers once they have reached the point that they move to a commercial unit. I haven’t reached this point yet, but that temptation is something I am keen to avoid if possible and stick to traditional methods.
To start with, trout is delicately flavoured compared with other oily fish. And this is principally, I feel, due to the fact that it holds less oil in the flesh. This also results in a less slimy and mushy texture and a contrasting ‘bite’ to it – almost like when pasta is cooked al dente. This makes it much more interesting because not only does it respond excellently to curing and smoking, it has a gratifying texture to be enjoyed as well.
The founder, Christian, was gifted some of my smoked fish and when I came to deliver it, we got chatting and became friends. Christian described his business and its underlying principles of authenticity and a sense of home and place – both things that have always been focal to my attachments to anything.
When something has had time taken over it, and you have paid for that care and process, there is no sense doing much alter it, especially when it is ready to eat without cooking. Just get some really nice sourdough bread, toast it and slather it in butter. Slice off a piece of smoked trout, twist the pepper mill once. Eat it greedily before the toast gets even one degree cooler.