Where does fish smoking originate from?
For as long as history can record, people all over the world from all cultures have relied on the smoke-curing of fish and meat products for long-term storage solutions.
Nowadays, smoking for preservation is common in less developed countries where transportation is limited and climate extremes impact upon food life cycles. In more developed countries where transportation is increasingly efficient, smoking remains popular for texture and flavour.
In Europe during the middle ages, various heavily smoked and salted foods helped people maintain subsistence over late winter and into spring. Fresh fish could not be transported any distance from the port of landing unless they were preserved.
Fish, used initially in the home markets, were widely exported to the West Indies in the infamous Triangle Trade between Britain, its northern colonies and the West Indian plantations with the introduction of smoking for preservation. While not smoked, salt cod supported the expansion of trade routes throughout the world.
The rapid growth of logistical infrastructure beginning in the 1840s, enabled the transportation of perishables. For the first time in human history it was possible to move large quantities fresh fish from one place to another.
As a result, heavily salted, heavily smoked products began to dwindle and were no longer commonplace. Soon, the smoked fish products became a tradition, with the smoking kept for increased flavour and texture, while containing minimum salt as condiment.
The kipper itself was a result of this changing trend, invented by John Woodger at Seahouses in Northumberland in about 1843 after considerable experimentation. Within a few years it had become very popular and remains so today, especially in the Isle of Man which can be said to be the spiritual home of kippers since 1884 when Moore's Traditional Curers starting producing Isle of Man Kippers.
Where the primary reason for smoking fish had been formerly to preserve it, it has now used mainly to impart a pleasant mild smoky flavour.
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