THE old and the new have come together in the most unlikely of places, an old smoke house in Seahouses. The kippers are smoked in the traditional 19th-century way without any dyes – and the mussels are purified in one of only three modern licensed purifying tanks in the country.
For the past six months after years of lying idle the old fish-smoking kiln at South Street, Seahouses, has been put back into action and John Swallow, fish merchant, is now one of the dying breed who prefer smoking the traditional way rather than the faster process involving dyes.
Traditional kipper curing takes between 18 and 20 hours in the old kiln whereas modern methods involving dyes only take eight hours. However as John points out more and more people are conscious of what they are eating and are happy to pay a few pence more for something with no preservatives in it.
Swallow Fish Ltd has no shortage of customers in the Northumberland area they serve for their traditional oak-smoked kippers.
Although this is the main area of distribution for the company, it has been known for their kippers to find their way to South Africa.
Ironically, with very little herring at Seahouses now, John Swallow has to rely on frozen Icelandic fish to smoke or fish from the west coast.
After years of experience as a fisherman, then a fish merchant, John can see when there is a gap in the market and knows what his customers are wanting. It did not take him long to get the old kiln working again and the company has never looked back since.