Sunday, April 17, 2016


T.R. Durham of Durham's Tracklements and Smokery giving a talk, April 17, 2016.
A recipe from Julia Child's cookbook and a visit with an experienced fish-smoker in Scotland provided a starting point for T. R. Durham's early efforts at curing and smoking fish, he told the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor (CHAA). After years working on his craft, he eventually moved to Ann Arbor, where he now owns and runs Durham's Tracklements and Smokery in Kerrytown. Durham's informal talk continued with a description of the artisan processes followed in his shop. After the talk and the Q & A, attendees were treated to a selection of treats showcasing the products of the shop. We enjoyed not only smoked fish and duck, but also smoked cheese, bread-and-butter pickles, and flavored mustards made there.

Smoked duck breast with apricot mustard
Curing the salmon, other fish, or duck breast is the critical first step, contributing flavor beyond just smoke, says Durham. Curing involves either a dry-rub process or an infusion process. Combining the natural flavors of high-quality salmon with the salt, sugar and spice infusion is an important step before either hot-smoking or cold-smoking the product. Curing requires a long time: 48 to 72 hours to infuse the flavor into the salmon.

Two flavors of smoked salmon. Tracklements uses farm-raised fish
from the Faroe Islands and the bay of Fundy.
While dill is the traditional spice in cold-smoked salmon, Durham has experimented and created several other flavor combinations such as fennel-garlic; Thai spices including lemongrass; and Santa Fe flavors of ancho chile and tequila. He constantly tries out new seasonings, asking trusted customers: "Is this a winner? Or a dog?"

Controlling the exact quantity of salt in the cured flesh is critical to food safety, and laboratory tests ensure that government safety requirements are followed. Durham's explanation of the entire process was detailed and fascinating. When he began producing smoked products, there was little or no FDA or USDA regulation; he welcomed the coherent instructions that would allow him to adopt good practice and avoid contamination during the curing, smoking, and shipping of his products.

Hand-cutting with great care for quality is the final step.
I saw Jaime, who works at Tracklements, slicing this salmon just before it was served.
Double-smoked cheddar with pickles and mustard: all from Tracklements.


Jeanie said...

This is -- as your posts often are -- fascinating! I do love my smoked salmon. It's nice to know a little of the back story. And isn't it fun that Julia played a role? How she influences us!

Geri Saucier said...

Sounds like a facinating presentation. The smoked cheese sounded wonderful.