July 22 – Last night we were swimming in Pickering cove and the cove filled up with sardines so I am trying to figure out how to get a pan full... think my boys might be the key to that one with a pole and a very small hook.!
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Richard’s fish-smoking knowledge began in the 1980s when he went to work his summers in Shetland. His first job was tentering kippers at Ice Atlantic Seafoods, an old world fish factory located beneath the Scalloway Castle on the Blacksness fish pier. Richard was a Fisheries Science undergraduate and had arrived in the Northern Isles to gain some real fish-processing experience. Fortunately for Richard, two of Shetland’s legendary 70-year-old Smoke Masters, Tom Burgess and John Moncrieff, were still running Ice Atlantic’s mechanized herring splitter and Torry smoking kiln to produce kippers and Finnan Haddie for export all over the world.
Years later, during a four-year adventure spent as a Fisheries Extension Officer in the South Pacific on the remote island archipelago of Vanuatu, Richard met Mary, an American Peace Corps volunteer, and his future wife. Richard returned to Shetland to take the position of Lecturer of Seafood Processing at the North Atlantic Fisheries College in Scalloway. During this time Richard assembled a seafood preserving, curing and processing library and used a Torry kiln to teach students how to prepare many of Shetland’s traditional smoked products such as red herring, kippers, Finnan Haddie and cold-smoked salmon.
Richard and Mary moved to Stonington, Maine in 1997, where he helped to form, and then became the Smoke Master of, one of Maine’s top award-winning smokehouses, Stonington Sea Products, Inc.
During the period up until 2010, when it was sold, Stonington Sea Products established a reputation for consistent quality and a growing reputation as one of the foremost artisanal smokehouses following authentic Scottish smoking traditions in USA. Richard’s Finnan Haddie was noticed by the late Johnny Apple of the New York Times, and his cold-smoked salmon was hailed as one of the 25 best-ever products tasted by food extraordinaire David Rosengarten in his Report.
The Smoke Master
Richard is now dedicated to his new venture at Stonington Seafood. His mission is to make top-quality Finnan Haddie widely available again and to keep this cherished food tradition alive for future generations.
The historic kiln used by Richard to smoke his Finnan Haddie was shipped from Scotland to Stonington in 2001 – it is virtually an exact replica of the first mechanized kiln ever built, known as the Torry kiln. The first one was built in Aberdeen at the Torry Research Center in 1939.
To prepare Finnan Haddie for smoking Richard uses an original brass brinometer, which is an antique instrument that came from the historic Scottish company -Aberdeen Fish Curers and Merchant’s. It is used to measure the brine strength and ensures exact authenticity, and a perfectly balanced salt content, of his Shetland style… but made in Maine Finnan Haddie!