All torrents of the Pyrenees rejoin in the river Gave and pass through the town of Peyrehorade in France’s Southwest. It was here, in the surroundings of France´s main salmon-river that a rich culinary tradition emerged. But even though this region of France is famous for it’s preserved foodstuffs, salmon was not touched by this tradition and has always been consumed fresh – thus boiled or fried.
When the passionate fisherman Mr. Barthouil decided to add to his local delicatessen a commerce in fresh salmon in 1939, he learned about the practice of smoking salmon, which was commonly used in northern cuisines but not in France. After the war, he sent the head of his production team to Denmark, from where he returned with the old-standing technique of suspended smoking, as well as plans to build traditional Danish smokehouses. In line with this tradition, Maison J. Barthouil fired away these smokehouses and has ever since been loyal to these smoking methods and techniques.
One key element of the smoking process is the wood used to smoke the hanging fish. At J. Barthouil, this is done exclusively with alder wood, which adds a distinctive mild and sweeter note to the salmon. Alder can be found everywhere around Europe’s rivers and is used by a local shoemaker, from where J. Barthouil receives its wood chips since 1948.
Today the smoking of salmon throughout France is undertaken by larger, usually industrial sized smokehouses where the smoking process is fast and efficient. Happily there are still places where smoking is considered an art, one that is savored through the extraordinary variety of notes and flavors that a properly smoked salmon delivers.