By Jo Cooksey
Did you know there is a smoke house in Manchester, that has been producing top notch smoked salmon for over 100 years? Neither did I until a couple of weeks ago. I bumped into owner, Richard Hyman, whilst picking up my order from the Ancoat’s Food Assembly. We had a chat and the story behind his family company is just too good not to share.
Richard’s great-grandad and his family had escaped the Russian Revolution on a ship, supposedly bound for America. The family eventually arrived in port and the crew waved them off the ship saying welcome to New York. They were actually in Glasgow. Apparently, this happened a lot back then. Still determined to make it to America, Joseph Hyman made his family comfortable in Scotland and set off to Liverpool to catch another ship. His passage was booked on the Titanic.
On the night of 15th April 1912, Joseph couldn’t sleep and so went up on deck for some fresh air. Fortunately for him, this is where he was when the ship struck the iceberg and began to sink. He was told to get in collapsible lifeboat C and start rowing once the boat hit the water. He did as he was asked and he and his fellow survivors, including Bruce Ismay, Managing Director of the White Star Line, were picked up by the Carpathia and borne to New York.
Joseph had family in New York and whilst he recovered from his ordeal he became fascinated by the local delis, who were producing their own smoked salmon. Despite being a furrier by trade, he thought this may be a new career direction for him. However, because of the tragedy of the Titanic, his family refused to sail out to meet him and understandably Joseph did not want to make the trip home. There was only one thing for it, his American family decided. They booked his passage back to Liverpool without telling him, got him blind drunk and deposited him on the ship. He woke up somewhere on the Atlantic. After disembarking he headed straight to Manchester, where he was reunited with his family, established a small deli and smoke house in 1913 and the rest as they say, is history. Richard is the fourth generation Hyman family fish smoker.
I went along to the smoke house in Manchester, to see the process first hand. The whole Scottish salmon come in to the factory early in the morning. The Manchester Smoke House use only the finest salmon, from producers with excellent sustainability and welfare records. The fish are filleted by hand and then cured in their specially sourced salt, before being loaded into the smoker. They are cold smoked overnight using pure oak chips. Because the product is kosher the smoker can only be opened the following day by a rabbi. The sides are then boned, including all the pin bones, sliced very thinly to order and dispatched to customers and stockists. The trimmings are sold to a chap that turns them into pâté, the heads are sold on at the fish market for chefs to use for stock and Richard turns the skin into dog treats. Nothing is wasted here.
To date, The Manchester Smokehouse has supplied delis, caterers and restaurants all over the UK but now you can order directly from them by using their online shop. They often do the food markets around Manchester and details of their next appearance can be found on their Facebook page and if you are anywhere near Lulu’s Kitchen in Cheadle, you’ll find Manchester Smoke House salmon stocked there too. Richard kindly gave me some to take home and try. It is a mild smoke that does not overpower the luxurious taste and texture of the fish, which I loved. We will be ordering some for Christmas and as always, our opinions are our own and unbiased.