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Smoke gets in your eyes – Food Safari – Pinney’s Smokehouse

On Saturday I was with a friend in a party enjoying a Food Safari to Pinney’s of Orford and the Butley Oysterage.  The Food Safari concept is to experience food from production to consumption within a day. This was a great day out, so if you have the time to, read on; if you have Spotify here is a playlist to go with this post.

We started with Paddy and Scott’s coffee, accompanied by some of Polly Robinson’s (the founder of Food Safari) flapjacks at Pinney’s shop near the quay in Orford.  This was an opportunity to meet the others who would be taking part in the day.  We then set out by car and taxi to Butley Creek.  Harvey from Pinney’s has enthusiasm and knowledge that can only be gained by working hands on with a product for several years.  His insight into the highs and lows of the Pinney’s history as the founder’s entrepreneurship blossomed, failed and blossomed again with the changing economic climate in the second half of the 20th century was absorbing.  From dispatching the rabbits that were once abundant near the creek to the current oyster growing and harvesting old Pinney tried his hands at many things.

A day like this really comes into its own in the opportunity to actually be in the place where the food is grown, experience the freshness of the air, the emptiness of the landscape, the sight of the boats in the water and the scattering of empty shells on the side of the creek.

We then went into the shed where the dredged oysters are cleaned and made ready for sale.  The oysters are huge and surprisingly heavy; learning about the relative merits of the oysters here at Butley over their native cousins harvested over the border in Essex was fascinating.

For me the next stage was the most intriguing of all; the smoking.  The time taken to cold smoke the brined sides of Wester Ross salmon varies according the wind direction, moisture in the air, the amount the doors are opened or closed.  All judged by experience and adjustments made by regular visits.  This is not a highly industrialised process.  Before long we were passing around a cold yet smoking piece of green oak to smell the vapours rising.

Back at the oysterage restaurant we had a delicious plate of oysters, trout, mackerel, prawns, sprats and salmon with their lovely sweet mustard sauce all served with local Staverton wine, followed by warm cake deserts.

The between course entertainment was a demonstration and then a chance to carve smoked salmon and to shuck oysters.  If you have the chance do take part, there is nothing like giving it a go for yourself.

Huge thanks to Harvey and his team for their enthusiasm and knowledge and to Polly for putting the day together.

And if you need a little poem to finish the post….. go here

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