Saturday, November 22, 2008

Our Adventures in Smoking

Smoking meat, fowl and fish that is.

For several years, we owned and operated a deli that specialized in smoked foods. Our specialty was a hot smoked trout and the name of our little establishment was Rainbow's End. Every other week we would go directly to the hatchery, about 20 minutes away, and obtain hundreds of pounds of trout that were all about 1 1/2 pounds. The hatchery could sort them by size with a screen. The fish were then transported alive in tanks of water to the "fish shop". You can't get product any fresher than that!!

My poor husband was the "gut and cut" part of the operation and processed the fish by gutting and filleting the fish. We figured he was the best man for that operation since he is a plumber and used to ick. LOL. Guts and fish remainders were sold to a local ranch that used them as a fertilizer source. The next step was to season the fillets with our own secret special recipe and marinate them in our cold room until ready for the smokers that we had designed specially for the fish. They were cooled and vacuum sealed in packages of one to two fillets.

Everyone loved the fish and we actually won first prize in Seattle for the hot smoked category. We sold many to a local restaurant who also loved the fish because they could reheat them and serve as an entree. The fish could be served as appetizers or processed into a tasty trout pate. Andronico's in the Bay Area carried our products.

We then branched out into hickory smoked hot wings (very very popular with the resorts in our area for their bar snack menu), brine smoked turkey, deep fried turkey, smoked whole and half chickens. Commercial vacuum tumblers and commercial smokers were used for the meat and chickens to get the brine and marinades deep into the meat to create a juicy and flavorful product.

Hooking up with a local buffalo rancher, we soon started serving smoked buffalo tri tip type roasts, barbequed buffalo burgers, and smoked pork ribs in sauce every Friday. The staff would prepare various side dishes (corn bread, cole slaw, potato salad, beans) and a dessert (giant cookies, sheet cake cut into individual serving squares) People would order ahead and pick up an entire meal to take home Friday after work or just stop in and have an early dinner.

We sold the business after 5 years. Why did we stop?? Oh my God, were we ever tired!!! Not only were we doing the deli, I was operating a full time financial planning office and my husband was still operating his plumbing/pump/water system business. Operating a restaurant, overseeing employees, marketing product is a full time occupation and anyone who plans to go into business needs to be able to devote their full attention to it and be prepared to NOT make any money for the first couple of years.

Every now and then I miss the business, and then come to my senses. I do miss the product. Loved the hickory smoked wings and occaisonally we make a small batch for ourselves. This year for Thanksgiving, I'm making a smoked and brined turkey that was very popular in our brief deli career.

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